By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered ride-sharing company Grab to disclose and present to them when they exactly started to impose the P2 per minute travel time rate as the hearing on the issue was reset next month.
Transport network company Grab was asked by the LTFRB to submit a timeline of when they have started imposing the P2 per minute travel time as well the numbers of booked trips on a monthly basis from the time they started the additional charge.
The hearing was set after PBA Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles exposed last week Grab’s alleged “illegal” P2 per minute rate charged on their passengers on top of the fare structure approved by the LTFRB.
With this, the lawmaker said that the TNC amassed a P1.8 billion from their riders for illegal charging which they should return.
Nograles, who was present during the hearing at the LTFRB Office in Quezon City Tuesday as the complainant, said he seeks that “Grab explain to us, to the Board, to the general public how they came up with the P2 per minute, how they will justify this, with any piece of paper with a signature that will justify these charges.”
He added another complaint about the at least P80 charge of Grab despite similar pick-up and drop-off points.
During the hearing, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III backtracked on how and when TNCs started to operate which created a denomination of transport network vehicle services (TNVS).
Delgra cited the Department Order created in 2015 which allows TNCs to mandate their fares but “subject to oversight from the Board.”
“There was a stark difference in Grab and Uber’s fare structure. At least at the time during the en banc hearing in December 2016 says that you charge a base fare of P40 and per kilometer charge of P12 to P16. There was no mention of any travel time rate,” Delgra said.
Delgra also questioned the fare range set by Grab which charges its passengers a P40 base fare and P10-P14 per kilometer rate.
Grab Philippines Country head Brian Cu, with their legal counsels, lawyers John Paul Nabua and Miguel Aguila explained the app’s algorithm which assumed that a trip was made even the pick-up point and destination is similar.
Cu also wrote down different prices for every kilometer range such as P12 for 0 to 2 kilometer, P10 for third to sixth kilometers, and P13 for seventh kilometer and above.
The Grab Philippines head also explained how surge pricing works and said that they are not charging surge on their base fare as per the order.
However, explanations of Grab PH did not fully satisfied Nograles and said that the company’s algorithm does not follow the order of the Board.
Grab was further put on hot water as LTFRB asked when and why the TNC charged additional fares without the approval of the Board.
One of Grab’s legal counsel said that they have informed the board during a Technical Working Group meeting in July 2017 about the P2 per minute charge they implemented on June last year.
The LTFRB chief, on the other hand, denied that the ride-sharing company mentioned about the additional per minute rate, but rather about their application for extension of franchise.
He added that both parties needed to be transparent about the issue and that other denominations are already clamoring as its fares are “regulated, predictable, and accurate.”
Explaining on why they imposed the additional per minute rate, Cu said that it was needed to “normalize the income of their partner-drivers.”
Delgra also asked why Grab filed for a petition for fare hike of they have the ability to “unilaterally determine the fare.”
“I like to understand you where you are how, when, and from whom authority you get when you set your fare structure,” Delgra said.
Due to many issues to be discussed, Delgra decided to continue the hearing on a different day and reset it on May 29, the same day of the date of their fare hike petition hearing.
In a separate interview, Delgra said that he is not fully satisfied with Grab’s statements and there are still questions that needed to be answered that’s why the hearing was reset.
LTFRB Chairman Delgra told Grab that before Nograles’ allegations on the overcharging, they are already receiving reports of the unusual increased by the fare in one or two weeks.
“I don’t want to make reference to the merger but there are complaints,” he added.
TNVS-riders took to social media their complaints about Grab’s overcharging right after its acquisition on rival Uber’s operations in the Southeast Asia.
In the middle of the statement of Nograles, a heckler was escorted out of the hearing room after he booed the lawmaker, accusing him that he wanted to lose their jobs.
The man, Vince Fernandez, who was a Grab partner-driver for more than a year, booed Nograles thrice.
In an interview after the public hearing, Fernandez defended Grab adding that it has given them livelihood to feed for their families.
“Grab ang nagbibigay ng trabaho sa amin, itong si Nograles parang gusto kaming tanggalan ng trabaho (Grab has given us livelihood [but] it seems that Nograles wanted us to lose our jobs,” Fernandez exclaimed answering Nograles’ statement that the TNC put them at risk.
“Sino naglagay sa kanila [TNVS drivers] sa alanganin? Ako ba o ‘yung Grab dahil yung Grab ang hindi sumunod sa batas at dahil hindi sila sumunod sa batas damay-damay na mga nakadepende sa kanila (Who put the TNVS drivers at risk? Is it me or Grab who does not comply with the law, and because they do not follow the rules, all those depended on them were also affected),” Nograles told reporters right after the hearing.