Banning über is as ridiculous as banning email while we still have post offices

June 16, 2015

Barely a week after the DOTC and the LTFRB gave the green light on the usage of Uber, Grab car, and other similar ride sharing platforms, along comes Congress to create another unnecessary roadblock on what would have been a landmark decision by any national government agency worldwide; a decision that can put the Philippines back on the map as a forward thinking, progressive country. Instead, thanks to a select few, we run the risk of taking one step forward and a hundred back.

For what reason, I’m not entirely sure. But it is probably for the same reason we privatise the buses and refuse to maintain and expand the MRT, due to a paralysing fear that it may eventually lead to progress. Because as Mark Twain so eloquently pointed out, “If the opposite of pro is con, then the opposite of progress must be…?” Think about it. What other valid reason would a country like ours, which is not only the traffic capital of the free world but home to arguably the worst public transportation system, have to refuse to adopt a ride sharing platform?

Security? I don’t think it can get any worse than it is right now with our cabs. Besides which, Uber is the only platform that requires the mandatory use of a credit card for identity verification and cashless transactions. Taxation? Refer to the previous answer. Regulation? Rinse and repeat the first and second answer, add the word ‘Seriously?’ and apply it to anything Congress throws your way. Bottom line is, Filipinos have embraced Uber and other similar platforms because the government has failed to provide us a safe and reliable alternative. Period. And trying to impose that on the commuter when there’s a better option is like banning the use of cellphones and email to protect the pager and fax machine industry.

We’re on the cusp of a breakthrough. It’s time we put politics aside for the greater good and pave the way for a possible revolution in public transportation––at least on a taxi and private car use level. The Philippines has the chance to make history here. Never before has Uber been given authority to operate in any country on a national level. The DOTC is a national agency. It has already been approved by secretary Abaya, who is now slowly being credited as a forward thinker and a man in search of solutions rather than pointing out problems. And considering the current fiasco surrounding the LTO––an agency that falls under his watch––they could seriously use the PR, don’t you think? Remember the first rule of a hole? When you’re in one, stop digging.

Besides, nobody is asking for taxis to be phased out or banned. All we ask is to be given a safe and more efficient alternative. Let competition take care of extinction. If the cabs can level up, they should have no problem. Right?

This is the future. At least until something just as radical replaces it. And resistance is futile. Imagine if one Uber car replaces 15 private cars in Metro Manila? That would be far more effective than coding. And while it can be argued that one Uber car cannot replace 15 cars on the road at once, it can definitely be applied to the parking situation. But whatever math works for you, it is impossible to deny that it would significantly ease congestion. And once Uber launches Uber pool, which is a ride sharing within ride sharing, you can expect these numbers to only get better.

Just freshly out of Beta phase, the Philippines will be one of the first markets outside the U.S. to experience it. The idea, according to Uber, is to match people who are going the same way as you and give you the option to share your ride. Should you agree, you could save almost 50% off the ride (it won’t be exactly half according to the head of Uber Philippines, Laurence Cua) but it will be close. This means each passenger saves about 40% or so, while the driver earns a little more than normal, making it a win-win-win situation so long as you are willing to share and possibly make a new friend. Think of it like inception for ride sharing.

As it is now, Uber is roughly 40% cheaper than a regular cab ride in San Francisco. With Uber Pool, this makes it almost 80% cheaper. And with enough competition, there’s no reason it can’t be similar in the Philippines. This is just the beginning. There’s a reason why Google Ventures has said that Uber has become the fastest growing company in the history of the Internet, and it comes down to one simple thing. They dared to reinvent the wheel.

So I make a humble plea to those in government that are trying to stop this. Kindly look at the social impact first and work your way backwards to find a way to make this happen. It can be done. It is just a matter of political will. And you now have the chance to make history for yourselves and change the public’s perception of the traditional politician by reinventing your own will.

About the Author

James Deakin
James Deakin is a multi-awarded automotive journalist located in Manila, Philippines. He has a weekly column in the Philippine STAR's motoring section, is a motoring corespondent for CNN Philippines and is the host of the Philippine motoring television show Drive, which airs every Sunday night at 10pm on CNN Philippines.