MC taxi riders raise alarm over disturbing trend in the sector

THE move to potentially ax Move It from the motorcycle (MC) taxi pilot study sent chilling shock waves, hinting at a deeper crisis within the MC taxi sector. Industry watchdogs, riders and passengers raised their voices against what was being branded as a “monopoly of mediocrity,” with allegations flying that political muscle was being flexed to sideline competition and preserve a status quo of declining service quality from other MC taxi players.

More than 2,000 motorcycle (MC) taxi professionals stage a protest at the Liwasang Bonifacio against the proposed exclusion of Move It from the MC taxi pilot study. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The House Committee on Metro Manila Development recently proposed the exclusion of Move It from the pilot study on MC taxi services — a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences that could impact the livelihood of thousands of drivers and the commuting experience of Filipino commuters, particularly as the holiday season approaches.

In a display of unity, 2,000 MC taxi professionals from Move It gathered to defend their livelihoods. The moving chant of “Move It, huwag ipasara (don’t shut it down)” resounded through the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, with rider leaders stepping forward to voice their collective concerns regarding the call to halt the operations of Move It.

“Paano po ang mga pamilya namin? Paano po iyong mga taong umaasa sa amin na makapag-uwi ng pang-gastos sa araw-araw? Sana po alalahanin ng mga opisyal natin sa gobyerno na kalakip ng kagustuhan nilang patigilin ang operasyon ng Move It ay ang pagpapatigil nila sa kabuhayan ng libo-libong rider (How about our families? What about the people who depend on us for their daily expenses? We hope that our government officials will consider that, along with their desire to stop Move It’s operation, they are also putting the livelihoods of thousands of riders at risk),” notes Butch, a rider leader who has been with Move It since its launch in 2018.

Move It currently has 6,500 riders in Metro Manila with the majority serving as the primary providers for their families.

Irony of penalizing compliance and service excellence

Despite a clear track record of adherence to regulations, evidenced by approvals from both the Philippine Competition Commission and the Department of Transportation, Grab Philippines and Move It find themselves in the crosshairs of an unexpected controversy.

Where compliance and operational excellence are usually celebrated, here they are being questioned on long gone issues, sparking debates on the real motives behind these allegations.

Romeo, one of the pioneering riders of Move It, shared that banning Move It from the pilot study will put riders and commuters on the losing end as they would have fewer reliable options available.

He said: “Kahit sino pong pasahero ang tanungin ninyo, kalimitang dahilan kung bakit sila nagmo-Move It ay ang bilis at maasahang app, paniguradong ligtas na biyahe at ang murang pamasahe. Ngayon, kung ipapatigil nila ang operasyon ng Move It, sino ang talo? Hindi naman ang mga opisyales ng gobyerno, kung hindi ang bawat komyuter na umaasa sa Move It para sa ligtas at maasahan na biyahe; at bawat Move It rider na araw-araw binabagtas ang init ng araw at pagod sa traffic makapag hanapbuhay lamang (Regardless of which passenger you ask, the common reasons they use Move It are for its speed and reliable app, ensuring a safe journey and affordable fares. Now, if they were to stop the operation of Move It, who loses? It’s not the government officials but rather, every commuter who relies on Move It for a safe and dependable journey, and every Move It rider who braves the heat of the day and traffic fatigue just to make a living).”

Shadow of political play and market manipulation

It became apparent to observers that the field is being tilted. Move It’s efforts to push the envelope in providing exemplary service were being overshadowed by what appears to be a concerted effort to monopolize the market through political channels.

The question on everyone’s lips: Are politicians — in cahoots with rival MC Taxi firms that are failing to rise to the competitive challenge — conspiring to create a market of single-choice, single-standard service?

A concerned rider from Move It aired his frustration over the repeated attacks on the platform: “Nakakapanghina minsan ng loob ang mga patutsada ng ibang nasa gobyerno. Ang gusto lang namin maghanap-buhay. Ang mga pasahero naman, gusto lang makabiyahe nang matiwasay. Ngayon may mga nagmumungkahe na i-ban si Move It sa pilot study sa mga kadahilanang matagal naman nang nabigyang linaw. Ang tanong lang naman ay sino ba talaga ang nang-monopolyo? Itong mga akusasyon laban sa Move It paukol sa monopolyo ay halata namang hindi totoo. Tatlo ang kasalukuyang player, paano ‘yun naging monopolyo? Ito ay isang maling haka ng mga taong ang nais talaga ay sila ang nag monopolyo sa MC taxi, sila na “malakas” na tila mas magaling pa sa ating saligang batas (Sometimes, the criticisms from some government officials can be disheartening. We just want to earn a living. And the passengers, they simply want to travel safely. Now, there are calls to ban Move It in the pilot study for reasons that have long been clarified. The real question is, who is the one really monopolizing? These accusations against Move It for monopolizing are clearly untrue. There are currently three players, so how can that be a monopoly? This is a false assumption from people who actually want to monopolize the MC taxi, those who are ‘influential’ and act as if they are above our constitution).”

This potential exclusion of Move It from the MC taxi pilot would not only stifle competition, but cement a virtual monopoly that promises nothing more than stagnation and dissatisfaction for commuters and riders alike.

The notion that the everyday passenger might be consigned to a future of deteriorating services under the guise of regulation compliance was not just unacceptable — it’s a betrayal of public trust.

The veil of violations: A smoke screen for incompetence?

As fines have been settled by Grab Philippines and transparency has been a hallmark of Move It, the so-called violations appeared to be a smoke screen, perhaps to distract from competitors’ inability to provide satisfactory service or innovate.

The call for exclusivity of service seemed less about public safety and more about protecting certain interests at the expense of public choice and quality.

These receipts document the payments made by Grab to the Philippine Competition Commission, following the successful issuance of reimbursements to Grab users. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

These receipts document the payments made by Grab to the Philippine Competition Commission, following the successful issuance of reimbursements to Grab users. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

The stakes were high that the livelihoods of thousands of riders and the daily commute of millions are in jeopardy. With a failing technology and deteriorating service level offered by the two other MC taxi players, it puts into question their ability to serve the public but most importantly, it puts into question the mandate of lawmakers tilting the market to serve a few interests. Whose interests? One can only assume.

There is now a growing call to action: urging consumer groups, regulatory authorities and the media to scrutinize these maneuvers that threaten to cripple an industry on the cusp of transformative growth.

The public demanded more than just a ride; they demanded the right to choose quality. We should call upon every stakeholder to take a stand against this regression into a “monopoly of mediocrity.”

Mike Ibanoz

Mike Ibanoz is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has spent the better part of two decades covering gadgets and apps, and helping people make smarter tech decisions.

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