By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
Ride-sharing company Grab Philippines said it will file an appeal to lift the P10 million fine imposed on them by transport regulators for overcharging their riders through its “P2 per minute travel time.
“There is no basis for the fine being imposed by LTFRB. We disagree with the Board’s decision and we will file an appeal to protect the ride-sharing industry in the country,” Leo Gonzales, Grab Philippines Public Affairs Head said in a statement.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) released an order asking Grab to “pay the penalty of P10 million” citing that its imposition of the travel fare rate is “invalid and without authority from the Board, for which the Respondent is to suffer its consequences.”
The Board also directed Grab to reimburse the riders who were charged with P2 per minute fare from June 5, 2017 to April 19, 2018 through rebates.
This order came after PBA Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles accused Grab of amassing at least P3.2 billion from its riders for “illegally” imposing the P2 extra travel time charge on top of its government-approved fares resulting to a series of hearings and the cancellation of the per minute rate.
However, the transport network company maintained that its travel time component is legal as stated on Department Order 2015-011 which authorized TNCs to set their own fare.
Gonzales also said that the per minute fare was part of the presentation and discussions during their technical working group meeting with the LTFRB in July, 2017, and was also communicated to the Chairman through e-mail in August 2017.
“This DO is binding when Grab implemented the P2 per minute component last June 2017,” Gonzales said.
“This DO is valid despite the position of the LTFRB to the contrary. LTFRB has no authority to declare DOTr order invalid. Only the courts, not LTFRB, can rule on the validity of an order especially one issued by DOTr, which has direct supervision and control over the LTFRB,” he added.
This was also what LTFRB member Atty. Aileen Lizada pointed out as she disagrees with the Board’s decision of slapping Grab with a P10 million fine.
Based on Lizada’s dissenting opinion, the P2 travel time charge on top of Grab’s P40 base fare and P10 to P14 per kilometer rate has legal basis.
“The authority given to transport network companies to formulate their fare structure can be clearly seen in the Department Order 2015-011 of the Department of Transportation and Communications,” the statement said adding that the order only gives them the power to “oversee” the fare rates.
But LTFRB Chairman Atty. Martin Delgra maintained that there is a violation on Grab’s P2 per minute charge.
“If you are going to ask me, we will stick on the majority rule na may paglabag doon sa pag impose ng P2. We respect the opinion of each of the members of the board,” Delgra said in an interview.
Delgra also explained that Grab’s communication to his office is not valid as the Board should decide if they can impose a fare increase.
“The communication to my office is not something, or you cannot equate it as an authority from the Board because the Board is going to decide as to whether you are going to grant a fare increase or not,” he added.
The LTFRB Chairman also said they do not just exercise its oversight function but also its regulatory power over the whole public transport vehicles including fare adjustments.
Delgra also strongly denied that there are political pressures on their basis of the order being Congressman Nograles as the complainant.
“No [political pressures]. I have to say that. We have based our decision on the merits,” he explained.