The internet has blown up about Manila commuters’ horrendous stories of living without Uber, which was meted a one-month suspension for violation of LTFRB rules in accepting applications beyond the approved number. I feel their pain, truly. And so I’ll jump in with my own.
Transport options in Manila
Travelling around Manila was horrible for me. There were several options 1) drive your car 2) On coding days, a car-owner is to take public transport, which consists of 3) MRT / LRT (none of which are subway systems) 4) bus 5) cab 6) FX / aircon vans / v-hire and lastly 7) jeep. Now, I think the habal-habal (single commuter motorcycle) has grown in popularity as well.
I primarily took cabs. But in case of a hearing to start within the next hour in QC, I could trust the MRT from Ayala Makati to take me to QC on time. This was before 2014. That’s no longer the case now as the MRT bogs down all the time.
For hearings at courts located in places without access to MRT like Bicutan (and when there’s no available car service from the law firm) it was convenient to take the FX. Just mind your belongings and your person (it’s a tight squeeze) and numb yourself to other people’s body odor, if any.
The times that I’m able to hail a cab (which is impossible during Makati rush hour) cab drivers usually DEMAND an additional fee of their own liking. Add to that the usual EDSA traffic (which I heard has only worsened since I left), and you have a recipe for releasing your inner bitc*. I always wondered why I was always irritable in Manila and how I learned all those Tagalog curse words. I got all those things from interacting with Manila cab drivers!
Manila cab drivers are rude, fraudulent and always out to make a quick buck out of you. They routinely refuse passengers and demand additional undue tips for bad services but then always brag about their huge monthly income of at least PhP 30,000.00. After having ridden cabs in other countries, I conclude that Manila cab drivers take the cake. They’re even worse than Vietnamese cab drivers who short-change you!
Now in Cebu
Just a month after moving back to Cebu, I noticed a huge change in me. I was no longer irritable and I never curse anymore! Granted, Cebu has only two public transport options, the jeep and the cab, but you can’t beat Cebuano drivers’ manners. More than that, there is the burgeoning traffic that’s starting to feel like a future EDSA, but I’m hoping that current government plans for a bus rapid transit (BRT) will push through. I’m also hoping for solar-powered buses for the BRT so they can be environmentally friendly.
There is also the ongoing construction of a third bridge connecting Cebu SRP to Mactan and there are future plans of a Naga to Danao expressway. However, as my environmental law professor taught me, wider roads are not the answer. The efficient use of vehicles is the answer i.e. car-pooling to fill an entire car rather than a single person driving a huge SUV (which fills a large part of the road but isn’t efficiently used), use of public transport, or even riding a bicycle on government-provided bike lanes to reduce fuel emissions.
Much ado about Uber /Grab
Thus, as much as I sympathize, I believe Uber/Grab isn’t the answer. It actually contributes to worsening traffic as it gives people unlimited license to buy cars JUST TO CONDUCT BUSINESS as an Uber operator. What would be ideal is for existing car owners to car-pool using Uber/Grab and not add to the existing inventory of vehicles out on the street.
Buying a new additional car for Uber/Grab is unsustainable
In the short-term you may feel the money coming in. But this practice of buying a SEPARATE car just to use for your Uber /Grab “business” is an unsustainable business model, especially if the car is financed up to your nose (i.e you availed of those almost zero down-payment “promos”). First, what happens when the government accreditation is revoked (as it now is, temporarily). How will you keep up with the monthly payments or deal with possible repossession of your car?
Second, what happens when you figure in an accident and the car or worse, your passenger, is heavily damaged/injured? Note that most personal car insurance only covers “personal use” and requires additional payment of premium for it to cover commercial use, which you do when you operate for Uber /Grab. While I hear many Uber drivers claim that Uber has separate insurance coverage for them, I have yet to hear any actual experience of a claim being paid.
Third, you’re treated only as an independent contractor with no employee benefits. For those who quit their 20-year careers to drive for Uber because they got burnt out at work, I don’t recommend such action. You go from being a regular employee with security of tenure and benefits to an independent contractor with precarious employment, ready to be cut off without so much as a separation pay. You may be banned from the Uber/Grab app without due process.. You could lose employment or be suspended with Uber/Grab without due process.
Uber /Grab is ideal for part-timers only or those who can’t work on a fixed hour or day. It’s ideal for a sharing economy where drivers could pick up passengers on their way to work and thereby ease traffic while at the same time make a little money.
What’s your take on this Uber/Grab mess?