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Gatchalian pushes bill to legitimize and regulate Grab, Uber

MANDALUYONG, Philippines – EDSA glows red during the evening rush hour in Mandaluyong City, 31 March 2017. With growing commuter demand for better-quality public transport services in the country, Senator Gatchalian said that the government should fast track its work on legitimizing and regulating the transportation network vehicle services (TNVS) sector to protect public safety and promote commuter convenience. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Sen. Win Gatchalian is calling for immediate Senate discussions on pending measures related to transportation network vehicle services (TNVS) in the country, as he stressed the need for legislative action to end the worsening blame-game between the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and ride-hailing companies and operators.

Gatchalian has filed proposed Senate Bill No. 1001, or the Transportation Network Services Act, which lays down the operational guidelines for the  development and regulation of the TNVS sector. The bill has been pending with the Senate Committee on Public Services since it was filed and referred as early as August 2016.

SBN 1001 seeks to, among others, define the nature of transportation network companies (TNC) and transportation network vehicles (TNV) and their classification as common carriers. It likewise provides standards for the accreditation of TNS providers, mandates the qualifications of their drivers, regulates their pricing schemes, and provides penalties and sanctions for erring TNC operators and drivers.

The senator said the ongoing squabble between the LTFRB and ride-hailing companies Uber and Grab over the continued services of TNVS operators and drivers sans the necessary government permits could have been prevented if regulatory mechanisms, as proposed under SBN 1001, had already been in place.

“The proposal has long been awaiting committee action, but nothing has been done. Now, the Senate should fast-track action to address the concerns that have been highlighted by the LTFRB-TNVS rift,” Gatchalian said.

He cited recent developments, which see LTFRB officials and Uber and Grab operators and drivers resorting to traditional and social media networks for their ‘don’t-blame-us-blame-them’ squabble.

In relation to this, Gatchalian has filed Senate Resolution No. 436 seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the backlog in TNVS franchise applications at the LTFRB.

Gatchalian stressed it is important for the Senate to look into the accreditation and regulatory mechanisms of the TNVS sector to “pave over the potholes in the system and uphold the welfare of commuters who rely on Grab, Uber, and other ride-sharing operations.”

“The government should work to legitimize and regulate the TNVS sector in a way that protects public safety and promotes commuter convenience. The mechanisms should be adjusted to respond to growing commuter demand for better-quality public transport services in the country,” he also said.

The LTFRB had threatened to suspend operations and arrest and fine TNVS operators and drivers who continue to do business even without the necessary permits.

In response, Uber and Grab drivers have ridden a public outcry against the LTFRB decision and have resorted to the social media strategy to pressure government regulators to extend the deadline. Currently, the decision is pending appeal before the LTFRB.

LTFRB records show that as of February 2017, only more than 3,700 application-based drivers had been authorized to operate. From a total of 27,062 applications received, 4,808 of these were Grab franchise applications (5,727 units/cars); while 22,126 were Uber applications (23,293 units/cars), and 128 U-Hop applicants (131 units). Representatives from Uber and Grab concede that about 80% of their drivers do not have the franchise or the provisional authority to operate.

Gatchalian said: “To accommodate potential supply of the TNVS in the streets of Metro Manila vis-à-vis growing demand for the said service, the government thru the LTFRB must ensure the riding public of the standard of protection that the TNC and the TNVS must provide, and resolve issues that are germane to the grant of these franchises.”