• LTFRB’s latest idea is Premium Idiocy

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    FOR today’s column I had intended to discuss the latest monetary policy decision (or non-decision, as the case may be) of the BSP, but late Thursday afternoon I learned about a new program being proposed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) that left me so aghast at its sheer stupidity that more sober topics must be temporarily set aside.

    The LTFRB, as its name suggests, is supposed to be the regulating agency of land-based public transportation in the Philippines: Buses, taxis, jeepneys, tricycles, and commuter vans, and even—although no one really knows why—commercial vehicles like delivery trucks. Supposedly, the LTFRB is mandated to ensure that public conveyances are operated safely by competent drivers, are properly registered and insured, and are mechanically sound so that they do not pose undue safety or pollution risks.

    The results of the work of the LTFRB, especially in the past two years under Atty. Winston Ginez, are evident in the appalling traffic congestion plaguing the Philippines’ population centers and the frighteningly decrepit condition of the vast majority of public vehicles causing it.

    Ginez, who according to the bizarre personnel standards applied by President BS Aquino 3rd, was qualified for the post because he was one of the private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, has been the LTFRB head since April 2013.

    Under Ginez’ watch, the LTFRB has clumsily transformed itself into a revenue-generating agency, with actual regulation being reduced to a “show blood” standard: When a bus flies off the Skyway or smashes into a utility pole, or when someone gets robbed in a taxi, the LTFRB will regulate the living daylights out of the situation, but otherwise conserves its energy for devising new ways to milk franchise and licensing fees out of transport operators.

    A perfect example is the LTFRB’s proposed answer to the rapidly growing Uber and GrabCar services, a completely unnecessary and thoroughly inappropriate for the local market idea called “Premium Taxi,” the guidelines for which were introduced earlier this week.

    The objective of the Premium Taxi service, according to the LTFRB, is “to provide alternative taxi transport to more discerning and higher-end taxi passengers who are willing and ready to pay a higher fare for a better service.”

    The guidelines for would-be operators are strict, and probably guarantee that no one in his right mind would want to go anywhere near this business: Premium Taxi providers must have a fleet of no fewer than 20 new vehicles, which must be cars (no SUVs, AUVs, or vans allowed) of no less than 2.0 liters engine displacement—the agency suggested cars like the 2.0 liter Toyota Altis, Camry, or any Mercedes Benz model would be suitable—and the age of any Premium Taxi vehicle (assuming the program would even last that long) would be limited to seven years.

    It is not unreasonable for the government, since it is one of its responsibilities, to take steps to ensure that public transportation services like Uber and GrabCar, are properly registered and operated in a safe manner. What the LTFRB has failed to recognize, however, is that the existence, as well as growing popularity of these services, is almost entirely due to the board’s utter failure to regulate the existing public transportation sector in any meaningful way.

    Rather than take steps to improve existing transportation—obvious steps such as actually conducting safety and emissions inspections before multiple lives are lost in a horrific traffic accident, making sure drivers actually know how to drive their vehicles in a safe manner, enforcing meter use by taxi drivers, and doing away with the “boundary system” that encourages overloading and general recklessness by reducing drivers and bus crewmen to little better than indentured servants—the LTFRB instead presents an idiotic idea that no one asked for, needs, or wants, and that will only serve to put even more vehicles on the nation’s already overcrowded roads. Provided, of course, any would-be entrepreneurs actually think investing upwards of P40 million on 20 new Camrys and having them painted black is in any way a good idea.

    By not doing its job, the LTFRB is committing economic sabotage; billions are lost daily due to lost productivity, not only from the hours wasted in appalling traffic congestion, but also from the physical stress the average commuter suffers from being treated like stackable cargo. Employers rather like their workers to arrive fresh, rested, and motivated instead of feeling like they survived some kind of panicked evacuation on a daily basis, because service and performance is a reflection of people’s well-being.

    If the new “Premium Taxi” service actually attracts any operators, which is doubtful, I will refuse to use it, and I invite everyone to join me. Not because we’re not “discerning” commuters, but because what we discern is that the LTFRB ought to actually do its job for change. No one is asking for “premium” anything—all we want is something that feels at least a little better than taking the train to Auschwitz. We could have that, if Winston Ginez and his agency spent more time on the “regulatory” aspect of their mandate, rather than dreaming up new ways to collect fees.

    ben.kritz@manilatimes.net

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    11 Comments

    1. renato s. irlanda on

      have you seen a chicken whose head has been suddenly cut off? if not , take a hard look at the LTFRB head Ginez and you will see a chicken without a head personified!

    2. Why focus on a way for jobless to have jobs and for an alternative income generation for the family coffer, LTFRB? Grab and UBER are regulating their operators better than you.

      Why not come out with a solution on solving the MRT woes, the erring bus lines, the unruly jeepneys, the regulated taxi that will not give us our change, the truly illegal tricycles in National Highways, etc…?

    3. so what’s new with the idiots running our government agencies? everyone one of them seems bent on making money from the citizenry.

    4. That’s what happens when you get a lawyer to run a govt entity like the LTFRB, it’s like a square peg in a round hole. Ginez is like most of abnoy’s KKK they are creating more red tapes and bureaucracy and stupid one at that.How many types of taxis do we really need, we only want clean, reliable and safe taxis.

    5. The new car plates and driver’s licenses alone are worth billions, now its the Uber and Grab taxi that they are trying to milk, next year its the insurance companies which LTFRB is planning to be their next milking cow. This Ginez guy should be awarded for the best in raising funds for this administration.

      • victor m. hernandez on

        This proposed Premium Taxi is really stupido primero. Completely unnecessary; it will be superfluous once they approve Uber and Grab because both are already include such vehicles in their transport networks.
        What I wish to see on EDSA are doudle decker buses with a preset mechanically controlled speed at max of 40 kph. Anyway, at peak hours you can only go at a speed of 15 kph.

    6. NakakaINEZ na nga itong Atty Inez na ito eh. Plaka at stickers at Drivers license bayad ka na wala pa. Me bagong isyu pa ng GPS para sa mga bus. Hay kaloko talaga . It’s more fun in the Philippines.

    7. The ‘Premium Taxi’ is a truly ‘idiot’ idea on the assumption that newer and more ‘uppity’ is better, not to mention all the terrible traffic, red tape and corrupt practices in that office. If the more basic operations cannot even be improved, how could the board cope up with the more complicated operations of the Premium Taxi service? Or, perhaps, Atty. Ginez, who got his job for payback, got the idea from other countries to make himself appear ‘modern’ and up with the times. In short, the head of the board, just like many political appointees who are not up to par with their positions, is ‘incompetent’; just don’t grasp the basic ends the LTFRB is supposed to accomplish. Modern is not necessarily better. Onli in da Pilipins!

    8. Amnata Pundit on

      Like I have said before, people in government are not stupid. They know exactly what they are doing. When you see them doing something stupid, they are actually trying to make money, the more stupid it is, the more money. And you are right, the boundary system is the root of all evil in the public transportation business. Somebody ought to file a bill outlawing it.