[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Grab and Uber in medieval times

A disservice to all. 

This is what the government, through the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), is doing in its wish to impose its authority and medieval mindset on Grab and Uber. Its pronouncements on the app-based riding services have confused more than clarify, raised questions more than answer them, and agitated more than serve thousands of already harried urban commuters.

The mess began when the LTFRB threatened to apprehend all Grab and Uber drivers by July 26, 2017, if they remained without permits or provisional authorities. It also ordered the two companies to pay the fine of P5 million each, which they eventually did.

This came a year after the agency did the correct thing, which was to suspend the issuance of such permits after these transport network vehicle services (TNVs) deployed drivers beyond the number they were allowed. The LTFRB promised at the time to draft new regulations, which it has so far failed to do. Worse, it lost the companies’ accreditation papers. Now it's saying perhaps these drivers should have minimum working hours. Or that government should tax them

The revived crackdown smacks of bad faith on one hand – are well-entrenched taxi operators in control of LTFRB? – and incompetence on the other, given the agency’s short-sighted and wish-washy approach to a modern-world management problem. (READ: What's the fuss about the Grab, Uber regulation issue?)

To be sure, app-enabled transport services are not beyond criticism or abuse. In America, Europe, and Asia, governments and established taxi operators have risen up in arms over the way technology has allowed public-interest companies to escape regulation and basic standards. 

The disruption at some point prompted some governments to recommend banning Uber, an idea that’s akin to controlling news distribution online. 

Yet, it cannot be denied that Uber and Grab serve commuter needs; they're efficient and can be tracked – both in how much they're paid or where they travel. In the Philippines, they fill a void left by a perennially weak mass transport system.

So why fix what isn't broken?

Technology should serve to motivate us to do things better.

Taxi operators, for example, can band together for their own app or 3rd-party channels. Instead of spanking tech-savvy drivers, the LTFRB should help drivers and companies upgrade skills and use technology to improve services, strengthen safety for commuters, and connect with each other to discuss welfare issues, such as better pay and insurance.

The data collected over the years by Grab and Uber can also help government better understand consumer behavior – as well as the unaddressed weaknesses of the transport industry. Singapore has started doing this.

As what we learn every day in this new world, it is best to ride and confront change, not resist it. – Rappler.com