Uber defies suspension order in the Philippines

An ongoing dispute between Uber and Philippine regulators escalated yesterday with the app-based, ride-hailing service resuming its operation after halting it for half a day, in effect defying a one-month government suspension.

Through it all, thousands of commuters vented their frustration on social media. Most directed their anger at the government agency overseeing public transport, complaining that it also penalised over 200,000 riders each day when it suspended Uber's operation instead of just levying a stiff fine.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Monday suspended the accreditation of Uber for a month for continuing to accept new drivers despite an order for it to stop pending a review.

In an e-mail to its users, Uber said it stopped operating at 6am yesterday. But by midday, it appealed against the suspension and resumed services.

LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra insisted that the suspension was still in force, warning Uber drivers that they risked being arrested, fined up to 120,000 pesos (S$3,200) and their cars impounded for up to three months.

In its appeal, Uber said it had the right to due process and denounced the suspension as a "blatant violation of (its) right to due process".

"Over the course of this morning, tens of thousands of riders were left stranded, causing needless inconvenience, while drivers were unable to access the earning opportunities they rely on. We are looking forward to urgently resolving this matter," the company said in a Facebook post.

Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the senate committee on public services, has summoned LTFRB officials to meet her today so that they could justify what she saw as a "cruel and absurd" penalty.

Many commuters were also critical of the agency.

Mr Jojo Ledina, 51, an internal audit director, said Uber's suspension was "either a clear case of pride and ego, or just pure ignorance". He said he found the ride-hailing service convenient as he no longer had to wake up at 4.30am to take his daughter to school.

"Now many riders, drivers and their families will suffer. That is life in the Philippines," said Mr Dennis Leung, 41, business development head at Golden Legacy Financing.

But to Mr Leo Emmanuel Gonzales, spokesman for Uber rival Grab, the government is "just doing their job".

Uber is regarded by its users in the Philippines as more reliable and competitive than the country's outdated public transport services.

Commuters have long complained about choosy and overcharging taxi drivers, and even reports of cab passengers getting robbed, abducted and raped.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Uber defies suspension order in the Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe