FINALLY: LTFRB asks UBER to pay discounted ₱190 Million to lift the remaining 2 weeks Suspension

UBER System Inc., Philippines
Drivers and operators of UBER System Inc., gather and meet outside its main office in Mandaluyong City, August 15 2017, a day after the Land Transportation and Franchising and Regulatory Board suspended its accreditation and operation. Photo: Manila Bulletin 

The LTFRB late Friday night (25th August 2017) announced granting Uber’s appeal to lift the one-month suspension and pay instead a fine to make up for repeatedly violating the regulatory body’s order not to accept new drivers.

Rejecting the suggestion of the Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon (KAPIT) chairman Vigor Mendoza II that UBER should pay ₱6 Billion pesos, LTFRB finally decided a discounted amount that UBER should pay to lift the remaining 2 weeks of suspension.

“The Board thus rule to grant the prayer of respondent (Uber) to lift the suspension imposed in its order of 14 August 2017; in lieu thereof, imposes a fine of ₱190 million Philippine pesos,” the order, signed August 25, 2017, read.

In addition to the fine, Uber was told to remit ₱20 million as assistance to its 36,367 transport vehicle network service (TNVS) operators who were active in the last 28 days before the suspension order was issued. The ride-sharing company should show the LTFRB a certification from its depository bank as proof of its compliance.

 “The lifting of suspension will depend on the payment of fine and remittance of financial assistance,” LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada told reporters in a text message..

Lizada said the ₱190 million fines was based on the average ₱7-10 million Uber earns from its 150,000 ridership per day, multiplied by the remaining days of suspension which was supposed to be effective until  September 14, 2017.

After facing off with LTFRB officials in a dialogue at the Senate, Uber on August 17, 2017 filed an appeal to the LTFRB to revoke its suspension, proposing that it pays a fine of greater amount than the ₱5 million earlier imposed on it for continuing to accept and activate TNVS operators under its platform despite the July 26, 2016 moratorium.

The regulator halted Uber’s operations for a month from Aug. 14, 2017 for disregarding a directive to stop accepting new driver applications.

Uber, which said it did not process those applications, later told the LTFRB it could pay a fine of ₱10 million Philippine pesos to get the suspension lifted.

The Uber freeze has attracted public attention because many Philippine commuters regard the ride hailing app as more reliable and competitive than mainstream transport services (TAXIs).

Grab, Uber and U-hop Philippines Group

Uber recently said it had nearly 67,000 Philippine drivers.

The dispute with the Philippine regulator is the latest setback this year to Uber (USA based firm), a firm valued at more than $60 billion US Dollars.

Its Philippines suspension caused a spike in demand for rival Grab, and long queues near offices and malls and some disgruntlement about reverting to using regular taxis.

Philippine Senator Grace Poe, a prominent advocate for improving transport services, tried to bring Uber and LTFRB officials together to work out a compromise. An executive of Uber apologized for its "misunderstanding".

Poe on Friday said the hefty fine should "make Uber rethink its actions and re-evaluate its strategy in testing the extent of government regulations."

The LTFRB last year suspended applications for ride-share operators, to work out how best to regulate the industry. It said Uber was "irresponsible" for challenging that order.

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UBER Asked to pay LTFRB ₱6 Billion to avoid 1-month suspension: Too much

Uber Philippines asked to pay ₱6 Billion to avoid 1-month suspension
Uber Philippines asked to pay ₱6 Billion to avoid 1-month suspension. Photo: Tech Wire Asia

A transport group leader on Wednesday claimed that Transport Network Company (TNC) Uber Systems Inc. should pay a fine of P6 billion—and not ₱10 million as ordered by the government—in place of its one-month suspension.

Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon (KAPIT) chairman Vigor Mendoza II made the suggestion in a hearing before the board members of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Mendoza noted that under the rules, drivers without a 45-day provisional authority (PA), which allows them to accept fares until they are issued a franchise, will have to pay a fine of up to ₱120,000 each if caught.

The lawyer said since Uber has sround 50,000 "colorum" vehicles, or those operating illegally, the company should then pay the government ₱6 billion.

"A ₱ 10-million fine would only mean that Uber is operating 84 colorum vehicles," Mendoza said.

Grab, Uber and U-hop Philippines Group

'Too much'

However, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada said that it would be "too much" for the board to impose a ₱6-billion fine.

"I believe that is too much. I believe billions would be too much. We do listen, reasonable naman tayo," Lizada told reporters.

She added that Uber's appeal to convert the one-month suspension into a fine will be resolved as soon as possible.

"On the part ng board, considering 'yung urgency ng matter, we will do out best to resolve this the soonest as possible time, para we put to rest already itong issue na ito and we will be able to meet our deadline for September namin na technical working group, what we promised Congress and Senate," she said.

"We will be crafting and revising MCs (Memorandum Circulars) and we will be coming for the number of both TNCs if we see na we will be able to renew the respective accreditation," she added.

Uber, on August 17, asked the LTFRB if it could just pay a ₱10-million fine instead of serving its one-month suspension.

The LTFRB suspended the accreditation of Uber after it continued to accept new drivers into their platform. — MDM/BM, GMA News

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Duterte signed “Free Tuition Fee law” for all State Universities and Colleges- ₱100 billion Budget

“Free Tuition Fee law”  in the Philippines
[Free Tertiary Education] Free Tuition fee law in the Philippines

Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law for bottom 20% poor but deserving Filipino students

- Free tuition fee for all state colleges and universities
- Free Library access
- Free  ID
- Free laboratory access

President Duterte has signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act which grants free tuition to all state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country.

This despite the suggestion of a veto by Budget Secretary Ben Diokno as the government cannot afford to shoulder its cost estimated to be around ₱100 billion.

During the Mindanao Hour press briefing Friday morning, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the President signed the bill Thursday night.

“The enrolled bill came to the Office of the President nearly 30 days ago and during that period, there had been a lot of discussions and study about the bill because of its heavy budgetary implication” he explained.

Guevarra said that free tertiary education in SUCs is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of Duterte’s social development policy and that the President was still trying to figure out the best possible solution regarding the bill.

“So we weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well-developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any short-term budgetary challenges,” he said.

The Palace official also said that whether or not economic managers are for the passing of the bill, the more important thing now is to find the budgetary allocation for the program.

“Everyone, including the economic managers, will have to focus their attention on funding for this program because this will have to be implemented soon,” Guevarra said, adding that the SUC law will be implemented on the next school year.

Since the government has already submitted the proposed 2018 national budget to Congress, Guevarra said that certain adjustments can still be made so allocation for the law can be made.

“That is really the principal responsibility of Congress when they deliberate on the budget. Right now, I have nothing very specific to say about which projects or which programs or which agency’s proposed budget might be affected,” he said.

“If Congress is really serious in finding the appropriate funding for this free tuition program, they will have to find the necessary sources for this particular program,” he added.

Guevarra also addressed the estimate of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that ₱ 100 billion would be needed to implement the SUC law.

“The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) thinks otherwise. The ₱ 100-billion estimate of the DBM seems to be on the very high side because that is on the basis on the assumption that all aspects of the free tuition bill will be implemented all at the same time,” he said.

The CHED estimated that ₱ 34.1 billion would be needed for the implementation of the law.

According to Guevarra, the government would only have to spend on the mandatory provisions of the bill which includes tuition and miscellaneous fees which would need around ₱ 16 billion.

Education System in the Philippines
Diagram of educational system in the Philippines - wes.org

The related educational expenses like books and boarding would be shouldered for “deserving 20 percent” by the CHED’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) program.

“As far as I know those are the only mandatory provisions of the bill for now – the free tuition and other fees. Other fees would refer to something like library fees, ID fees, laboratory fees, and stuff like that,” Guevarra explained.

“Now as to the subsidy for related educational expenses, that is something to be processed by the UniFAST board which is supposed to have a system of priority,” he said, adding that the fund and system under the UniFAST are yet to be established.

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Grade scaling for the educational system in the Philippines vs USA Education System - wes.org

“In other words, ‘yung mga talagang nangangailangan, the bottom 20 percent, will be prioritized in terms of subsidy for educational-related expenses,” he added.

The UniFAST rationalizes the allocation, utilization and client-targeting of government resources and improves access to quality higher and technical education for those who need it.

It also serves as the ultimate national human resource development mechanism and strategy that will direct beneficiaries to priority courses needed for economic growth and development. - By Argyll Cyrus Geducos from Manila Bulletin

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