A partylist representative made sense in calling for a congressional inquiry into the operations of colorum “taxicabs” using the Uber online application.
Unfortunately, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon’s resolution has been ignored by the inept House committee on transportation.
Deceptively disguised as “ride-sharing,” Uber taxi services was uncovered when some legitimate taxi operators complained to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) a few weeks back.
Acting on the complaint, the LTFRB mounted operations against “Uber partners” plying Metro Manila routes.
But not long after the anti-Uber drive took off, the LTFRB officials were unceremoniously summoned to Malacañang, only to find out that the local Uber outfit have well-placed connections in the Palace.
Uber has become a popular taxicab service in the US, particularly in San Francisco, LA and New York cities, and other major cities abroad.
It is gaining a fast-increasing patronage in Metro Manila, as well, due to the convenience it offers to commuters.
One only needs to place, using smartphone or handy computer, an online request for a ride with Uber which dispatches the nearest Uber unit available to pick up the passenger.
So, one does not have to go down the street and wait to chance upon a passing taxicab.
Another come-on with Uber service is the fact that this clandestine public transport uses private cars, usually black sedans, or sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
It comes more like a chauffeur service which naturally gives the passenger the VIP treatment.
But, remember this is an illegal transport service which entails serious pitfalls, aside from being unfair to legitimate taxicab operators.
Many of us know these legitimate operators shell out unbelievable amount of money just to secure a taxi or jeepney franchise.
Well, one important issue about colorum public transport is the matter of liability.
We’ve seen all too often the involvement of colorum buses in tragic road accidents.
The trouble with illegal public transport vehicles is always the likelihood that these units have not passed the necessary tests for road worthiness.
No matter how “cool” the Uber cars may be, there is no assurance that every one of them is in a condition suited for public transport.
Now, there’s also the question of integrity and accountability on the part of the “Uber partner” who gives the passenger the ride.
Note that a Uber partner-driver can be any motorist who does not have any kind of accreditation and accountability as a taxicab driver.
The LTFRB now requires all Metro Manila operators to register their authorized drivers.
Unlike legitimate cabbies, motorists using Uber to solicit passengers do not even have any operator-issued IDs displayed in their car.
Meanwhile, Uber taxicab operations have been banned in India after one unregistered Uber taxi driver was arrested for having sexually assaulted a lady executive engaged in tax consultancy business in New Delhi recently.
In Thailand, Uber taxicab services have also been banned last week.
But, such has not happened in this country despite the mounting complaints of legitimate taxicab drivers and operators.
Local Uber company representatives, along with their colorum partners, were hailed at Malacañang Palace like VIPs.
Some Palace bigwigs and transport summoned communications Secretary Jun Abaya and LTFRB officials and were made to “dialog” with the Uber people and Uber partners.
Uber representatives readily absolved themselves by pointing out that the company only provide an online “request tool for ride-sharing.”
Now Uber charges the passenger’s credit card for the ride, for a minimum base pay of P90 and additional P12.10 per minute or P12.92 per kilometer.
Passengers who cancel their bookings are obliged to pay P100.
Passengers in Manila are said to have the option to book a Mitsubishi Montero, a Ford Everest or a Toyota Fortuner, depending on their availability at the time of booking.
To cut the story short, the colorum public transport operators prevailed.
LTFRB and Land Transportation Office (LTO) officials came out of the meeting scratching their heads.
These lawyers were told to “change or modify the LTFRB rules and regulations” to accommodate the Uber public transport service and, just like that, they get the permit to ply the Metro Manila routes as vehicles “for hire.”
Abaya, of course, abided by the Malacañang order, saying the use of modern technology like the Uber app must be encouraged in the transport sector.
And pending clear LTFRB authorization, the illegal Uber taxicab operations continue, thanks to the Uber’s Malacañang backers.
Apparently, LTFRB’s shortlived Uber crackdown has crashed into one tough Palace wall.
And, I doubt if the inutile Congress would do anything about it.