Uber cars are back on the road in Manila in defiance of an August 14 suspension order from the Philippines’ Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
The ride-hailing company had issued a notice to its riders that it was halting operations to comply with the LTFRB beginning 6am of August 15, but flip-flopped on its decision just five hours later.
It instead filed a motion for reconsideration with the agency, and announced it would keep picking up passengers until the motion is resolved.
“Over the course of this morning, tens of thousands of riders were left stranded, causing needless inconvenience, while drivers were unable to access the earning opportunities they rely on,” Uber’s Philippines unit said on its Facebook page.
“We are looking forward to urgently resolving this matter with LTFRB in the interest of everyone who depends on Uber every day.”
The LTFRB slapped Uber with a one-month suspension after the company supposedly disregarded its July 26 order not to accept and activate new drivers onto its platform.
The agency insists the suspension “stands” and told traffic officers to apprehend Uber drivers.
The suspension and possible apprehension add to the penalties Uber faces in Manila. The company, along with rival Grab, was earlier fined PHP 5 million (US$99,500) for allowing some drivers to operate without permits. The LTFRB has stopped issuing new driver permits since July 2016. Further regulatory threats are on the horizon as lawmakers look into how “ride-sharing” should be defined in Philippine law.
Uber is caught between a rock and a hard place – complying with the order, plus the recommendation to compensate its drivers, could impact its revenue and efforts to grow market share, while doing otherwise further sours its fragile relations with authorities. Uber is reported to have around 66,000 vehicles in its Manila network, against Grab’s more than 52,300.
If Uber is taken off the road, albeit temporarily, Filipino commuters would be down a transportation option, which means competitors like Grab could see a spike in demand, forcing fares to rise.
(Update on August 15: Added new developments to the story.)