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The Failings of Public Transportation In The Philippines

Image via Wired

Traffic stands congested in Manila, the Philippines, on Monday, March 24, 2014. Manila's commuters are victims of a decade of neglect that President Benigno Aquino is trying to reverse with the capital's biggest transport upgrade since the 1990s. Photographer: Jes Aznar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recently, it was announced by the Land Transportation & Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) of the Philippines that by July 26, 2017, they will put a halt to the operations of Grab and UBER. This is after allegations made by the LTFRB that both ride-sharing companies failed to follow the terms of the permits issued to them.

For those who are new to the issue, as of July 15, 2017, the LTFRB only allowed 3,700 out of the 56,000 Grab and UBER units to operate nationwide. Do note that Grab and UBER do not just operate in Metro Manila, the two ride-sharing services also have a presence in major Philippine cities such as Davao and Cebu.

This crackdown of Grab and UBER units would affect the thousands of drivers who are working under the two services, as well as commuters in major Philippine cities. On the side of the drivers, Grab and UBER has become a reliable source of livelihood to them, where they can still earn enough to feed their families without having to overcharge passengers. On the other hand, commuters find safety in Grab and UBER as both services do not overcharge their passengers + any misconduct done by drivers is dealt with swiftly by the services that they work for.

Commuters and family members of Grab and UBER drivers took it to social media to express their grievances against the LTFRB’s crackdown, using the hashtag #WeWantGrabUber.

In fact, one netizen proposed that commuters should stage a strike against public transportation (meaning, commuters will not go to work so that public transportation would not have any customers for a day):

(Translation: I hope we do a strike against public transportation)

Now, why do people root for UBER and Grab’s operations to continue in the Philippines?

  • For one, until the Department of Transportation (DOT) sorts out the jeepney modernization program, you cannot deprive jeepney drivers of their right to organize transport strikes – hence, UBER and Grab are very much needed to fill in their gap while they exercise their right to protest. Once you remove UBER and Grab, it will be easier for the authorities to force these jeepney drivers to stop protesting against a program that jeopardizes their livelihood, the authorities of course, using the guise of “there is an overwhelming lack of public transportation” (with UBER and Grab, that wouldn’t happen during transport strikes by jeepney drivers).
  • Until the LTFRB or private taxi companies can come up with a reliable system that makes it easier for passengers to report any misconduct done by taxi drivers (sorry, putting the LTFRB’s cellphone number on every taxi doesn’t suffice), best to keep UBER and Grab, whose system of reporting drivers committing misconduct is reliable.
  • Unfortunately, not all taxi drivers are like Alejandro Ignacio. Most taxi drivers still use misconduct to earn easy money. Whether the misconduct is overcharging passengers, sexually assaulting them, or merely allowing lawless elements to harm the passenger/s they’re supposed to be protecting for the duration of the trip.
  • And to the people saying these taxi drivers are the most oppressed in the transportation sector: They are not. They are in fact, almost as privileged Grab and UBER drivers, to the point that they do not need to organize unions, or transport strikes, to ensure that the sector they are in gives them fair treatment. The only difference is, Grab and UBER drivers never overcharge their passengers, even though their passengers tend to be wealthier than they are.

Moving on, here are a few solutions that might fix the public transportation problem of the Philippines:

  • The LTFRB should develop a system to hold all transportation providers accountable for any misconduct, instead of banning certain transportation services.
  • The LTFRB should take into consideration the effects of their decision to phase out jeepneys. Sure, they will be replacing the jeepneys with solar powered ones, but do note that these are produced abroad and not in the country (unlike the current jeepneys we have) so it would be much more expensive for jeepney drivers to trade in their jeepneys for the solar powered jeepneys (even if the government claims that they will subsidize). Perhaps, our government should entrust the manufacturing of solar powered jeepneys for use in our country to local companies such as Sarao.
  • The 2019 elections are in two years, maybe it’s time for someone in the transportation sector to be in the legislature. Yes, I am looking at you, Mr. Alejandro Ignacio. You’ve established your identity through Facebook, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, and recently when you attempted to run for President last year. All you need is a reliable campaign team and you will be good to go.

Public Transportation is one of the most important issues for Filipinos. Not all Filipinos own their own vehicles, and some who do have their own vehicles, only use their vehicles for long distance trips and rely on public transportation to get around within their cities and towns. Not to mention that there are cities in the Philippines that utilize the number-coding scheme, and hence, public transportation still plays an important role in the lives of Filipinos, even those who own cars.

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Written by Anne Falar

19 year old college student from the Republic of the Philippines. I write for fun and when I'm not studying or writing for fun, I'm fangirling on Camila Cabello.

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