MANILA - Sen. Grace Poe on Thursday assured the public that ride-hailing services Grab and Uber are here to stay.
Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said this after she led a hearing on ride-sharing services Thursday, which sought "to work on policies that will embrace innovation in the public transportation sector."
"The public must be given more choices when it comes to transportation in the absence of improvements in the sector. Magbabalangkas na kami ng batas kung saan mas magiging patas ang pagtrato. 'Yung mga taxi, pwede mong tawagin kahit sa tabi-tabi, fixed rate iyung flag down rate nila,” Poe told reporters after the hearing.
"Ngayon, kung magkakaroon sila ng isa pang app (mobile phone application) na puwede mo silang i-kontrata, doon pwedeng magkaroon ng price competition. Kapag tinawag mo sila ahead of time, parang 'yung app ng Grab and Uber, makakabuti ito sa mas nakararami. Kailangan natin itong suportahan. Kailangan mag-adapt din tayo pero balansehin nang tama at maging patas ang gobyerno," she added.
Poe called on transport franchise holders to improve their services and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to tighten the noose on abusive public transport drivers who overcharge, refuse riders, or operate "colorum" or unregistered units, among others.
She said she would work towards crafting a policy that will govern Uber and Grab, keeping in mind public welfare and the common good.
Poe also called on the LTFRB to act by September on pending applications of Uber and Grab units with complete documents and reach a decision on fare hike applications of regular taxis, which have been put on hold for eight years despite inflation and cost of living adjustments.
"Habang wala pa ang batas, marami naman silang puwedeng gawin. Sila na rin ang nagsabi, kulang ang mga nagpo-provide ng service sa mga pasahero, eh 'di i-accredit na nila lahat kung wala namang problema sa accreditation papers nila,” she said.
“Ano pa ang puwede nilang gawin? Dinggin na nila ang hinaing ng ating mga taxi drivers. Bigyan naman ninyo ng kaunting allowance ang kanilang pamasahe kasi walong taon nang hindi tinataas iyan, so siguro namang dapat ma-review at madesisyunan na nila kaagad," she added.
BILL ON RIDE-SHARING SERVICES
Poe said her committee would call for technical working group discussions and work towards crafting legislation that would spell out the status or "identity" of transport network vehicle services (TNVS), including the allowable and reasonable number of registered cars for an owner, and the extent of their tax liability.
She said app-based transport firms should not accredit new applications pending the resolution of issues surrounding TNVS.
Poe cited Article 1732 of the Civil Code, which defines common carriers as "persons, corporations, firms or associations engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers or goods or both, by land, water, or air for compensation, offering their services to the public."
She added that the absence of a franchise is not a requisite for the incurring liability under Civil Code provisions governing common carriers.
"If we want to move forward and craft legislation that is fair to all, then we should be forthright, respectful of the process and respectful to each other. Let's respect each other, but we will be watching," Poe said.
LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada said the main issue was the issuance of franchise to TNVS units.
Had Uber and Grab done their own policing in allowing units with franchises or provisional authority to operate, the LTFRB would not have tightened their grip on TNVS, and the public would not have had a hard time booking their services, she said.
The Philippines, in 2015, was considered the first country in the world to recognize ride-hailing services when the government issued nationwide regulations for companies such as Uber and Grab.
This was, however, overturned by the LTFRB when it issued a moratorium on the acceptance of new partner drivers last year.
A total of 66,890 units were accredited by Uber and 52,393 by Grab, but not even half of the total were given the authority to operate by the LTFRB.