LTFRB accredits TNCs Hirna, Hype

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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

By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo, Reporter

THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Wednesday said it has accredited two transport network companies (TNCs), namely Hirna, a taxi-hailing app, and Hype Transport Systems, Inc, a ride-sharing app.

Hirna, a play on the phrase “here now,” is an app that started operations in Davao City last year.

Hirna founder and managing partner Coco Mauncio said in a text message that Hirna plans to operate in key cities outside Metro Manila, namely Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Baguio, and Pampanga.

The accreditation and entry of new TNCs in Metro Manila is expected to provide much — needed competition after Uber Philippines’ exit.

Meanwhile, Grab Philippines (MyTaxi.Ph, Inc.) defended its P2-per-minute waiting time charge, saying it is not illegal and is allowed under rules set by the Department of Transportation (DoTr).

“We’re not charging any illegal fares. Grab can set fares on our own as per Department Order 2015-11,” Miguel Aguila, legal counsel of Grab, said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Under Department Order 2015-011 issued by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC), “fares are set by the TNC and is subject to oversight by the LTFRB in cases of abnormal disruptions from the market.”

Grab said they communicated the P2-per minute charge to the LTFRB via e-mail last August. The LTFRB said in a hearing on April 17 that the company did not inform them of the said waiting time charge.

Grab country head Brian Cu said that 80% of the P2-per minute fare goes directly to drivers as part of their earnings, while 20% goes to Grab as commission. This 20% is spent as driver incentives and passenger promos.

Mr. Cu admitted that the fare increase was not communicated to riders.

“There was no communication to the riders inside the app. In the information card, we’ve updated that, but when we raised the P2 per minute, we did not include that. So ’di namin nailagay,” Mr. Cu said.

The final fare however, was still reflected in the app when a rider tries to book a ride, he said.

Grab Philippines said it filed a motion for reconsideration with the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Monday regarding the interim measures the watchdog imposed while it is conducting a review of the Grab-Uber deal.

Mr. Aguila did not divulge details, only saying they cannot keep operating independently from Uber Philippines (Uber Systems, Inc.) due to the cease-and-desist order of the LTFRB.

The PCC asked for an explanation why Grab and Uber have failed to continue operating the latter’s platform. Under the PCC’s interim measures order, Uber is supposed to continue operating the app for the entire duration of the motu proprio review, while Grab and Uber have to maintain independence of operations.

The antitrust body had previously said Grab’s acquisition of Uber Philippines leads to a “virtual monopolization” of the ride-sharing market.