Grab drivers seek gov’t amnesty as rival Uber supports move

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LOCAL drivers of Singapore-based Grab have sought government amnesty, almost a year after authorities stopped accepting applications for permits to run and operate ride-hailing services.

Drivers’ groups whose members have signed up on ride-hailing platforms appealed to the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), saying that they have always wanted to comply with regulations, a statement from Grab released on Friday said.

“However, their applications were either not processed judiciously by the previous administration or did not make it to the cut-off as a result of the suspension,” the statement said, citing Bobby Coronel, the founder of TopSpeed, a drivers’ group on Grab.

Giving drivers amnesty would allow them the opportunity to start anew and set things straight, Coronel said in the same statement, which was released four days after Grab’s accreditation expired on July 3.

The appeal by Grab drivers was supported by rival Uber, saying that it will “benefit the industry as a whole,” a company spokesperson said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Ever since the government stopped accepting transport network vehicle service (TNVS) applications, requests for trips on Uber have grown by 150 percent, Catherine Avelino, Uber Philippines’ Communications Head said in an interview.

“If you match that with the supply [of cars] which is constrained, passengers may have to wait longer and pay more for their rides,” said the spokesperson for Uber, whose accreditation is up for renewal in August.

Since July 2016, the number of drivers on Uber have remained flat at 7,000. As of December last year, Grab drivers are at 10,000.

Meanwhile, the head of a group of taxicab companies sought penalties for both Grab and Uber but stopped short of asking government to apprehend their drivers.

“It’s not their drivers’ fault,” said Jesus Manuel “Bong” C. Suntay, who heads the Philippine National Taxicab Operators Association (PNTOA), a group of cab companies that manage fleets of 40 vehicles or more. “I have nothing against Uber and Grab vehicles which have franchises. But penalties should be imposed on both Grab and Uber because it’s their responsibility — if it weren’t for their apps, drivers wouldn’t be able to pick up passengers.”

Taxis without permits that pick up passengers face fines of P120,000 per vehicle, he added. — Robert JA Basilio Jr.