IT is a fact that businesses are affected by the availability of transport vehicles to take people from one place to another. The majority of the workers in businesses take the public transport, since, in most offices, only officers and executives can afford private vehicles. It is also a known concern about the lack of taxis in Metro Manila and the scary experiences others have when riding our taxis.
When I go to work every day in Makati City before and heard that this is still prevalent even in other places, on those days when my car is color-coded for the day and nobody is there to pick me up, it is always a problem getting a taxi on the way home. The usual excuse when taxi drivers know that my destination is outside of Makati City is to say they are scheduled to pick up somebody within the area. Others are blatant enough to say they do not drive outside of Makati City because of the traffic. I found out I am not alone in these bad experiences with our local taxis. It is also difficult to get an on-call taxi, because most of them are either not within the vicinity or are not available.
The scary experience others have with taxi drivers are real and, in fact, are shared by people we know. I once rode in a taxi where the driver was even proud to tell me he skipped prison in the province where I also come from and told me he had an altercation once and was ready to hit another driver with a steel pipe he carries with him always. I almost jump out of my seat, but we were in the middle of Edsa.
When my friends and I heard about the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board permitted Uber to operate in the Philippines, we were ecstatic. Being in the outsourcing industry where the need for taxis is very important, particularly for those in the graveyard shift, the entry of Uber gave us hope of improved services in our transport industry. At least, we now have alternatives and more choices. But, a House panel in Congress recently pushed for the suspension of Uber, GrabCar and others for providing transport services to the public. They may have their reasons, but I hope this will not go through the old bureaucratic practice here in the Philippines, where the decision to suspend services takes a long time.
The existing taxi franchises may be affected by the entry of Uber, but I say free enterprise was meant to encourage competition and, hopefully, this results to a better service for the riding public. The commuters are the ones suffering, even more than the financial impact the suspension has on taxi operators. With the advent of technology, it is time that other taxi operators look for new ways to compete in this business. As long as the security of the public is not compromised and they pay the correct tax, I don’t see why we should not legalize Uber in the Philippines.
For decades now, Filipinos, particularly in Metro Manila, have been at the mercy of predatory taxi drivers. It is time we are given relief from the commuting problems our people have endured for the longest time. Self-interest and business profits should be secondary to bringing about a solution to decades-old problems in our transport industry. This should not be about politics anymore or self-aggrandizement but about the welfare of the majority.
Wilma Miranda is the chairman of the Media Affairs Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines; managing partner of Inventor, Miranda & Associates–CPAs; and treasurer of KPS Outsourcing Inc. The opinions expressed herein are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of these institutions.