Uber makes LTFRB an offer

RIDE-SHARING app Uber System Inc. on Thursday proposed to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to let it pay a P10-million fine instead of being suspended for one month.

“Uber has filed a second pleading urging the LTFRB to accept a fine rather than suspension to reduce the burden on the Filipino rider and driver community,” Uber said.

“We are also offering financial assistance to driver partners as we work to urgently resolve this matter and hope to be able to serve the Philippines again as soon as possible.”

The LTFRB on Monday suspended Uber for a month after it violated its order on July 26 to stop accepting new driver applications.

The LTFRB last year imposed a moratorium on the processing of new applications for ride-sharing services such as Uber and its Southeast Asian rival Grab as it studied how to regulate a growing industry. 

Regulators said while Grab eventually followed the directive, Uber “openly defied” it even after the government issued a new order last month. Other transport groups accused Uber of acting “above the law.” 

“Uber was defiant, challenging the regulatory powers of the government and for which they must be accountable for,” agency head Martin Delgra said. 

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 inquiry: “We cannot impose 1900s regulations on today’s technological innovations”. 

Uber on Tuesday initially defied the suspension order after lodging an appeal with the LTFRB.

But it quickly reversed its stance and obeyed the order after government officials immediately rejected the appeal and warned that Uber drivers still on the road could be arrested.

Uber’s regional manager, Michael Brown, then struck a conciliatory tone in a meeting with regulators in Manila on Wednesday. 

“If there has been a misunderstanding in the past, that’s on us and I apologize for that,” Brown told the transport agency chief in front of reporters. 

Uber’s suspension prompted an online backlash in social media-obsessed Philippines, with commuters venting their fury at having a trusted and reliable form of transport taken away. 

The capital of Manila, which author Dan Brown once described as “the gates of hell,” has notoriously bad traffic, public transport services and shady taxi drivers. 

Politicians also voiced anger with Senator Grace Poe, who heads a congressional public services committee, describing Uber’s suspension as “cruel” for those who depended on the service. 

The decision also affects 66,000 Uber drivers, including the nation’s migrant workers, who have invested savings in driving for Uber. 

Uber’s suspension sparked a surge in demand for Grab and the emergence of alternative apps. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, Uber said it was ready to pay a fine and compensate its drivers―an offer senators described as “generous.” 

Uber also said it would file another appeal, which could prompt a shortened suspension pending a government hearing next week. 

Uber’s accreditation is set to expire this month. With AFP

Topics: Uber , LTFRB
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