With October already upon us, more and more people are excited to partake in the month’s festivities. Attendance in Halloween costume parties, trick-or-treating around neighborhoods, binge watching scary movies, and last but not least, exchanging horror stories. Last month, however, Filipinos were unfortunately greeted by a rather early horror story: They had awoken to the news of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) suspending operations of the commuter favorite app, Uber. Not only was it a distressing circumstance for commuters everywhere, but those who prefer to take an Uber instead of driving their private car only to get stuck in traffic took a serious hit as well.
Laying down the law
The LTFRB has long been cooking up a plan to control Uber’s decision of allowing their cars to be on the road. To justify the cause, heavy traffic and justice for taxi drivers who are considered crumbs compared to the public’s favorite commuting app were at the forefront of newspapers.
Uproar from the masses quickly followed. Many Uber users began posting their memorable Uber ride stories, their sad homepage that shows the absence of ride-sharing cars, and even the melancholic e-mails Uber automatically sends all of its users regarding their temporary suspension. The aftermath of the suspension doesn’t end on the plight of the commuters, but of the Uber drivers themselves, too. Just as hundreds of Uber drivers were naturally picking up and dropping off numerous passengers throughout the day, news of the suspension surprised them just as much as it surprised us.
Behind the wheel
Martin* was once your typical nine-to-five employee before giving up his white-collar job to get in on the action of the transport vehicles industry. It sparked something in him that led to a new line of work. “[…] may time freedom ka, parang ikaw yung boss ng sarili mo, tapos yung income, mas malaki compared sa isang [regular] employee,” he shares. (You have time freedom, you are your own boss, and the income is better compared to a regular employee.)
Having been an Uber driver for roughly five months, when news broke out regarding Uber’s suspension, it didn’t get under Martin’s skin, as he is also a Grab driver on the side and can easily switch between the two companies. As a Grab and Uber driver, in came in handy when money stopped rolling from Uber. “Meron ka dapat option, may alternative,” he expressed. The same can be said for Manuel*, who is also a driver for both ride-sharing apps. (You should have the option, there should be an alternative.) He shares, “Nung nagka-issue lang si Uber doon ako naging driver para sa Grab, kasi nagbigay ng mandatory ang LTFRB sa Grab na i-accept kaming mga Uber driver.” (When Uber had an issue, that’s when I became a driver for Grab because the LTFRB gave a mandatory that Grab should accept us Uber drivers.)
Amidst the suspension, Martin* confided that Uber gave its employees financial compensation, but on the question of how much, he couldn’t confirm. He theorized that maybe the number of trips you make in a month is the basis for how much they would give you. “Hindi naman kami katulad ng ibang mga transport groups,” he confessed. (We’re not like the other transport groups.) “Concept nito sa ibang bansa is that you’re sharing your car with others (The concept of these [kinds of transport network groups] in other countries is that you’re sharing your car with others).”
When asked if the government should be in control of Transport Network Vehicles Services (TNVS), Manuel* agreed without hesitation, and said, “Oo naman, dapat lang eh sobra talaga ang dami ng sasakyan. Hindi talaga makakaya ng kalsada yung volume ng sasakyan pag di nila na-control yan (Yes of course, they really should due to too many vehicles. If the government does not take control, the streets would not be able to take the high volume of vehicles).” For Martin* on the other hand, he expressed his opposition on the government wanting to regulate the operations of Uber drivers. “Kung isang unit per owner, hindi na kailangan i-control ng government ‘yun.” he explained, followed by hinting how taxi franchises are the reason for traffic build-up, as one person can own more than one taxi at a time. (If there’s only one [car] unit per owner, the government doesn’t need to control that.)
Back in business
After quite some time, the LTFRB eventually lifted the suspension, and Uber was back in business. In light of this, there have been talks among the people at LTFRB about a proposal to increase taxi fares in order for taxis to compete against Grab and Uber. According to an article from GMA News Online, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III was quoted saying, “Ang gagawin, we will try to make it at par with TNVS or more particularly with the Uber system kasi nade-dehado daw mga taxi drivers ngayon.” (What we will do is we will try to make it at par with TNVS or more particularly with the Uber system because taxi drivers nowadays are at a disadvantage.) Despite the lack of a final decision, Martin* and Manuel* disapprove and are appalled at the sky high taxi fares, compared to Grab and Uber’s fixed rates.
In the meantime, with no decision from the LTFRB just yet and the Filipinos’ obvious preference of ride-sharing application, the bottom line is that Uber is back on the road and in full effect; commuters need not to worry about competing against each other for the limited number of Grab cars and taxis available, and for settling for what many believe are “prejudiced and fraudulent taxis” just to get home.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.