Friday, March 17, 2017

AKB Partylist solon seeks to regulate ride-sharing platforms
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA)-- AKO Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe has filed House Bill 4891 or the “Transportation Network Service Act” that classifies ride-sharing platforms like Grab and Uber as public utilities that should be regulated by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Batocabe, in a statement sent to PNA, said the measure, if it would be passed into law will standardize the regulation of riding platforms such as Grab and Uber.

HB 4891 has defined the “online-enabled transportation services” as “transport network vehicles” which could be deemed as public utilities that should be regulated by LTFRB.

Batocabe said passage of this law would set strict guidelines to ensure the safety of passengers.

“With the emergence of online-enabled transportation services that connect transportation mediums and passengers, the government should take action to make sure that the safety of the riders and drivers is guaranteed at all times,” he said.

Batocabe explained that the additional modes being made available for public transportation would also compel existing taxi operators to improve their services.

He added the legislative measure would decongest roads by encouraging car owners to leave their vehicles at home and use a Grab or Uber instead and at the same time improve the people’s mobility.

“It (HB 4891) also aims to diminish the presence of vehicles in roads by promoting car-pooling or ride-sharing,” said Batocabe.

Citing a study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA, Batocabe said there is a big need to decrease land traffic as it contributes PHP2.4 billion in economic losses each day for the country.

“Transport network companies could not just waive liability when there is a breach on the contract of carriage,” he said.

He added that transport network service operators should approach rider and driver safety with “due diligence.”

HB 4891 would prohibit the transport network firms from evading liability and escaping accountability when issues arise between riders and passengers.

The measure also requires the transport network companies to keep records of electronic receipts issued by the drivers.

“This shall be the basis for the taxes to be imposed upon operators to be collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue,” as stipulated in the measure.

According to Batocabe, the proposed bill would also address the gaps in policies of Department Order (DO) 2015-11 released by the Department of Transportation in 2015.

He said that even as DO 2015-011 had provided the rules for accreditation of transport network services, many taxi operators were frustrated because ride sharing platforms do not undergo the same “austere regulation imposed on taxis.”

Under HB 4891, transport network companies should apply for accreditation to be able to operate, which will be subject for renewal every two years.

Drivers would also have to comply with prescribed requirements before being allowed to operate their vehicles and cater to the riders.

Batocabe said transport network companies will be mandated to make available the computation of fares for the information of the riders.

He said this means these companies would be prompted into explaining their “surge pricing” policy that has resulted into extremely high fares for the riding public.

Batocabe said during the last holiday season many ride-sharing users had protested the surge pricing policy of the ride-sharing platforms.

“This can be attributed to the lack of information as to how these rates were computed,” he said.

Batocabe added that HB 4891 would also inhibit drivers from discriminating riders due to their disabilities.

“No additional charges should be imposed on people with disabilities,” he said.

He added that riders should also have the option to request for vehicles that can accommodate equipment such as wheelchairs.

Over the last three years, Uber and Grab became popular, particularly in Metro Manila, with the advent of the android phone that has allowed cellphone users the option of getting a ride home simply by downloading the Uber and Grab app and transacting online.

Despite the legal and regulatory challenges that they have been facing, Uber and Grab continue to enjoy the patronage of the riding public because commuters find ease in getting their services.

Private car owners who operate under Uber and Grab also offer brand new vehicles that afford great comfort to riders weary of navigating through traffic for a long period of time each day they go to work. (PNA) FPV/GVR/CBD