Solon asks LTFRB to expedite approval of 4 TNCs’ application to replace Uber

A MEMBER of the House Committee on Transportation has urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to speed up processing of new transport-network companies (TNCs) after Uber officially shut down its ride-sharing application in the Philippines on Monday.

Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. of the Second District of  Camarines Sur said the government should expedite the processing of applications of at least four TNCs that plan to rival the ride-hailing services of Grab Philippines to encourage competition and prevent a monopolistic pricing scheme in this sector.

“The LTFRB should speed up processing of new TNCs to prevent Grab’s monopoly of ride-hailing service. The LTFRB should also work double time in introducing new TNCs in the market after Grab was reported as having applied for a fare hike to help its driver-partners cope with the increase in fuel prices,” he said.

According to reports, four new TNCs—Lag Go, Owto, Hype and Pira—have applied for accreditation before the LTFRB.

Villafuerte cited the announcement of Grab on January for a 5-percent fare increase, due to the impending impact of the hike in petroleum products following the TRAIN’s enactment.

“In the future, even without the impact of a fuel-price hike or any other aggravating factor, Grab may, on its own, come up with ways to raise its fares even without LTFRB approval, leaving riders with no choice but to cope with such increases because it is the only ride-hailing service available in the market. We need to encourage competition in this sector to prevent a single company from dictating prices,” Villafuerte said.

The lawmaker added the buyout by Grab of its biggest rival Uber in the business has led to a monopoly in the ride-hailing business in the country.

Grab announced last month that it had acquired Uber’s operations in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia.  Under the share-swap agreement, Uber would be getting a 27.5-percent stake in Grab.

Meanwhile, Villafuerte also called anew for a long-overdue overhaul of regulations governing ride-hailing services and the transfer of their supervision to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the benefit of the riding public in the wake of the recent acquisition by Grab Philippines of the Southeast Asian operations of its main rival Uber.

The lawmaker said revamping the existing regulations for transport network-vehicle services (TNVS) attached to TNCs like Grab and transferring control over these providers from the LTFRB to the DOTr would make the government more responsive to the needs of the riding public.​

Villafuerte said the LTFRB has been coming up with ill-conceived guidelines for TNVS  because of its misguided interpretation on the role of these service providers.

“The LTFRB treats TNVS as common carriers like taxicabs and passenger buses when the nature of the service they provide clearly shows that they are not. This is probably the reason it is having a hard time coming up with the guidelines,” Villafuerte said.

He added that, to provide a permanent solution to this issue, Congress should swiftly tackle and approve his proposal of coming up with a  separate regulatory framework for TNVS and TNCs like Grab.

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Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013. Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives. She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008. At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).