Uber said on Saturday it expects to resume operations in the Philippines “soon” after regulators agreed to lift a ban slapped against the American ride-sharing giant in exchange for a fine.
The government meted Uber a one-month suspension on August 14 following a tussle over driver permits, sparking public outrage as some 66,000 vehicles were forced off the streets.
Hundreds of thousands of Manila commuters find Uber and its ride-sharing rivals welcome alternatives to the country’s notoriously poor and overcrowded buses and trains, run-down taxis and irascible cab drivers.
But late on Friday, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it would lift the ban following an Uber appeal. It ordered the US firm to pay a fine of P190 million and give its drivers financial aid for lost earnings.
“The online ride-sharing services of the respondent USI [Uber] will be restored when it has paid the amount of fine and the said financial assistance remitted,” an LTFRB resolution said.
Uber said it would comply with the ruling, which also requires it to pay about $391,000 (about P20.07 million) a day in financial assistance – split between its Philippine drivers – until the company restores its operations.
“We’re working hard to meet the conditions for the lifting of the suspension and hope to resume operations as soon as possible,” it said in a statement that did not give a timetable.
The LTFRB last year imposed a moratorium on the processing of new applications for ride-sharing services as it studied how to regulate a growing industry.
Officials said while Southeast Asian rival Grab eventually followed the directive, Uber defied it, while other transport groups accused Uber of acting above the law.
Uber said this month it was accepting new applications for vehicles but was not processing them pending its discussions with regulators.
It also urged the government to simplify the accreditation process, with a representative telling a congressional enquiry: “We cannot impose 1900s regulations on today’s technological innovations.”
Poe supports LTFRB fine on Uber
Sen. Grace Poe on Saturday said the “hefty” P190 million fine imposed on Uber before it can resume operation should serve as a lesson to the ride-sharing firm to follow government regulations.
She said the payment of the penalty as a pre-condition before it can resume operations “should be enough to make Uber rethink its actions and reevaluate its strategy in testing the extent of government regulations.”
Poe supports the decision of the LTFRB to penalize Uber with a fine instead of having it serve the remainder of its 30-day suspension.
The LTFRB said it arrived at the amount “by taking into consideration the number of days that respondent should be suspended in relation to the daily average income.”
The board suspended Uber for violating its directive not to accept new drivers into its system. Uber later appealed the suspension order and asked to be fined instead. Uber was suspended since August15 and has its suspension has 19 remaining days.
Uber reportedly earns around P10 million daily. The LTFRB multiplied this amount to the 19 remaining days or suspension period and arrived at P190 million. The money goes to the National Treasury.
“Likewise, I welcome the P20 million financial assistance Uber has to pay its drivers daily, which also serves as a form of penalty,” she said.
However, she deplored that the LTFRB issued the decision late on Friday afternoon, “effectively taking out any opportunity for Uber to pay the penalties.”
“It is frustrating to think that we have a long weekend ahead of us and people will have to suffer the inconvenience of having limited transportation choices in going around the Metro with their families,” she said.
“How will Uber be able to immediately comply with the LTFRB decision given that banks are closed during the weekend?” said Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services.