Taxi operators stunned by LTFRB’s TNVS order

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Taxi operators in Panay were surprised by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) recent decision to grant 5,050 new slots for Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) units in Visayas and Mindanao for 2024 and 2025, as disclosed by the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (ATOP) President Perfecto Yap on Wednesday, May 15.

LTFRB Board Resolution No. 057, series of 2024, approved on May 7, allocated an additional 1,650 slots for Western Visayas—1,600 for 2024 and 50 for 2025.

The LTFRB stated the increase was necessary “to respond to the needs of modern commuters and to address the large demand for transport services in expeditious and responsive ways.”

The decision was based on the Taxi Availability Index (TAI), considering population and tourism data from Visayas and Mindanao.

Yap expressed dismay over the lack of public consultation with taxi operators and other stakeholders, which typically accompanies such decisions.

“The LTFRB[-Region 6] is supposed to conduct a consultation, but it turned out that there was none. So, it seems that this is something being cooked up by the LTFRB [central office]. They just approved something without prior consultation on affected parties,” Yap said via phone interview.

He said that the entry of more TNVS units would be detrimental to the already bleeding taxi sector of Iloilo City, which includes 2,800 taxi units registered with ATOP.

Yap pointed out that only 80 percent operate daily due to routine maintenance works on their members’ units.

He also criticized the former LTFRB-6 director Richard Osmeña for lack of transparency with the taxi industry about TNVS developments.

“When the [TNVS units] flood [the streets], there will no longer businesses or services because it will all be TNVS. That 1,600 is almost 60 to 70 percent of taxis currently operating in Panay [Island],” he said.

“We’re talking now of stiff competition. Although officially they would only operate legally, they will only operate through their apps. They would no longer need to fan over passengers on the roads,” he added.

He said that while they were not opposed to the presence of TNVS but called on operating on an equal footing.

“The concept of a TNVS is that they’re supposed to be a secondary means of livelihood. They’re supposed to be carried by the owner as driver. But what is happening is that there is a different driver. In other words, it defeats the purpose of having that kind of activity.”

OPPOSITION

Iloilo City Councilor Romel Duron, after a council session on Wednesday, announced plans to propose a resolution urging the LTFRB to halt new TNVS franchises.

Duron, a former transport committee chair and LTFRB-Region 6 hearing officer, echoed concerns about the impact of additional TNVS units on taxis and other public transport modes.

He noted that TNVS competition has already affected the taxi livelihood, especially with companies like Grab, which controls 1,000 vehicle slots in comparison to taxis’ 3,000.

The lawyer-cum-councilor cited TNVS company Grab, which was also his client, which he said would not yet introduce new units to the city due to profitability concerns.

“Whether we like it or not, [TNVS] competes with taxis. Their livelihood is already shrinking with the entry of Grab. Grab has 1,000 allotments, while taxis have around 3,000 in allotments. With 4,000 [vehicles], where would they roam in the city (sic)?” Duron stated.

“LTFRB, which is supposed to regulate [public transport], it becomes franchise milling company. It no longer regulates if there is an excess,” he added.

But Yap took Duron’s comments with a grain of salt, saying that they had not been consulted recently by the councilor, and cited the latter’s role in introducing Grab to the city.

“[Duron] was supposed to be the person we would rely on, because he knows the market, and how many [taxis] the city would need, being the guy handling the hearings. He knew the number of units being passed to operate taxis in the city and province of Iloilo,” Yap said.

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