Back in the late 1980s, taxi cabs came in three flavors and two sizes. The “flavors” were the three, maybe four, companies that put almost all of the cabs on the road, including Golden Taxi, which has disappeared into the dust of history. The “sizes” were “aircon” and “non-aircon”. There was a great price differential between the two and taxies were cheap. I mean really cheap.
You could go from United Nations Avenue in Manila to Makati for less than P40.
Sometimes, the taxi’s back seat was not attached and bounced around but you could smoke. Taxi meters were not exactly regulated. I remember one time when the car had a floor-mounted stick shift. Every time the driver’s hand got near the meter, his little finger flipped the switch. You were charged not by the kilometer but by every time he shifted in first or second gear.
Over the years, all taxis became air-conditioned and a rule forced them to be painted predominately white. Rates have increased and the back seats seem to be attached, but customer complaints of overcharging and refusing to go to a particular destination has not changed.
But that is not unique to Manila as there must be an unwritten and secret code among the world’s taxi drivers that can do almost anything they want. In Papua New Guinea, if the taxi gets into an accident, it is the passenger’s fault and financial liability. If you had not hired the cab and told it where to go, the accident would not have happened.
There is no doubt that Grab and Uber have changed the global taxi game. However, in almost every country where Uber operates, there has been controversy, legal challenges, taxi cab strikes and protests and Uber has been shut down.
Public transportation probably does need laws and rules and all participants should obey those rules. Normal taxis are required by law to take the passenger where he or she wants to go. Uber drivers can refuse a destination by simply not responding. Is that fair? Taxi fares are fixed but Uber has “rush hour prices”. Also fair?
Now don’t get me wrong, if Uber had a “frequent flyer” program, I would be on top of that list. I never go from the south to Makati during the week in anything else but Uber. I love it. But then again, I was quoted an official P1,000 fare from Bonifacio Global City to SMBF one time.
The current “shut down” of Uber and Grab by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is being framed as government going against the interests of the people in favor of the taxi monopoly. Also, it is supposedly a case of government not adapting to 21st-century technology. Some are calling it a battle between good and evil, as if Jesus would have taken Uber instead of a donkey on his ride to the Last Supper.
But the reality of what is happening came from Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade. “What we are saying is, follow the process. After that, pay the taxes”.
Granted, the LTFRB has not gotten its act together for almost two years on that “process”, but the key to the deal is “pay the taxes”. Ultimately, with the government, it always comes down to “If you want to play, you have to pay”. All the other arguments are nonsense.
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