Philippines becomes first country to legalise ridesharing services; SG passes Bill to regulate third-party taxi apps

Brand logos of GrabTaxi and Uber

The Philippines has become the first country in Asia to give app-based ride sharing services such as Uber and GrabTaxi a legal framework to operate.

The Philippines’ Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it would be creating a new category of transport known as Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TVNS), which will cover vehicles for hire, offered by the Transportation Network Companies on their mobile apps.

The development comes, even as Singapore passed a Bill on Monday (May 11) that grants powers to the country’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) to regulate app-based ride-sharing services. The city state’s transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told law makers that the proposed framework reflects the government’s “light-touch approach” that balances the need for consumer protection with the flexibility for the industry to innovate and thrive, the Business Times said in a report.

The Singapore Bill describes third-party taxi booking platforms as those having more than 20 participating taxis, and also mandates that they register with the LTA, and allows the latter to put in place, compliance measures such as a financial penalty of not more than S$100,000 or a suspension of not more than three months for each instance of contravention, the report adds.

Philippines though has gone further with its regulatory framework for third-party taxi and private car booking apps, DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya announced yesterday three other new transport categories besides TNVS, such as the premium taxi, the airport bus, and the bus rapid transit, in efforts to modernise transport services.

Abaya said that app-based and ride-sharing services like EasyTaxi, GrabTaxi, Uber, and Tripda will fall under the category of TNVS.

EasyTaxi has been operating in the Philippines since August of 2013, while GrabTaxi, Uber, and Trida were launched in the country last year.

He further added that the categories were not created to phase out the old taxi industry but to “promote innovation.”

“We view technological innovation as a driver for progress, especially in transportation where it can provide safer and more convenient commuting options to the public. App-based transport services help address the increasing demand for mobility spurred by rapid urbanization,” Abaya said in a statement.

“Many people appreciate the safe and convenient services offered by the TNVS category. We want this to motivate other public utility vehicle operators to modernize, upgrade, and innovate their services for the benefit of the public,” Abaya added.

Uber in a blog post titled, ‘Arriving now: Progressive ridesharing in the Philippines’, expressed its jubilation over the development.

The senior vice president of policy and strategy, Uber Technologies David Plouffe, said, “Today, the Philippines has officially become the first country to create a national dedicated framework for ridesharing. This first-of-its-kind order is a shining example of how collaboration between government and industry can advance urban mobility, create new economic opportunity and put rider safety first.”

The vehicle requirements under the TNVS category include, installing global positioning system (GPS) devices screen. Vehicles should not be older than seven years, and only sedans, Asian utility vehicles, sports utility vehicles, vans, or similar vehicles will be allowed. Also drivers will be required to issue e-receipts, and secure passenger insurances under the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Meanwhile, the premium taxi category also shares some of the TNVS requirements, like vehicles should not be older than seven years and that taxis under such category will also be required to install GPS, online, smartphone booking capability, and cashless transactions through credit or debit card payments.

As for the airport bus category, it was created to provide additional transportation to airport passengers especially during peak hours at the terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Only recently, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) started allowing unaccredited white metered taxis to pick up passengers at the arrival areas of NAIA terminals 2 and 3 for the same reason.

Abaya explained that the airport buses will be required to have fixed schedules, off-street stops, low-floor height, adequate luggage space, CCTV cameras, GPS device, free WiFi, and must run on Euro V or clean alternative fuel.

However, the bus rapid transit (BRT) category is expected to help decongest traffic and modernize the transportation services in the country. In fact, the Cebu BRT project has already been approved. A feasibility study on a BRT between Quezon City and Manila is expected to follow suit.

For Uber, this marks an important breakthrough especially after run-ins with regulators across the continent. It has been under scrutiny in South Korea, India, Thailand and Indonesia among other countries.

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.