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Davao taxi operators launch own ride-hailing app

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Hirna MOU
Hirna, a new taxi-hailing application similar to that of Grab and Uber, was launched in Davao City on Dec. 19, as part of a comprehensive transportation master plan that will be developed by the city government and the Department of Transportation (DoTr).— PHOTO: CARMENCITA A. CARILLO

DAVAO CITY — The Metro Davao Taxi Operators Association (MeDaTOA) has started installing the ride-hailing application Hirna among its members and a launch of the smartphone-based service is planned by February.

MeDaTOA President Rogelio G. Largo said the group is targeting to have up to 5,000 taxi units in Davao City covered by Hirna, a collaboration with Avis Global and Avis Philippines, and Smart Telecommunications, Inc. as network partner.

“We will be targeting about 90% of taxis to avail of this hailing app,” Mr. Largo told the media.

“We will have a public launch by February. We want to launch at a time with so many units already having Hirna, because it is difficult to launch at this time when we have very few because if you book, then not many drivers will be able to serve the passengers,” he added.

Mr. Largo also explained they picked Smart, the wireless unit of PLDT, Inc., as telecommunications partner after initial discussions with Globe Telecom, Inc. did not work out.

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“Because of the need to launch this app, we had to look for another partner… I cannot say that Globe declined, they simply cannot agree to what we want,” he said.

Mr. Largo also said Hirna, a play on “here now,” would not totally ease out Grab, the only ride-hailing app currently operating in Davao.

He pointed out that Grab has a direct partnership with taxi drivers, while MeDaTOA, covering about 90% of the approximately 5,600 taxis in the city, will be using Hirna.

“The operators commit that (their) units will be provided with phones and with Hirna app,” he said.

Among Hirna’s features are a feedback mechanism for commuters and a link to the Davao City government’s emergency services under the 911 program.

Mr. Largo said the ride-hailing app is also expected to help decongest the city’s streets as taxi drivers no longer have to constantly move around looking for clients. Instead, they can just park in strategic areas while waiting for a booking.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Maya M. Padillo

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