December 7, 2023

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has been met with criticism for implementing a memorandum circular that only taxicabs that are able to process cashless payments will be allowed to operate during the general community quarantine.

LTFRB-Cordillera’s social media page has been bombarded with complaints due to the policy. Citizens claim the policy is not commuter-friendly, was abruptly implemented, and failed to consider that not all commuters are have smartphones and knowledgeable in using ride-hailing applications.

The city government through Mayor Benjamin Magalong and the city council have asked the LTFRB-Cordillera to suspend the circular, saying cashless payments is not convenient for the residents of Baguio.

In an interview over a local radio station, taxi operators president Rey Bacoco said drivers and operators are not against the LTFRB directive but he said commuters should be given two options – to pay in cash or via card.

LTFRB-Cordillera Director Lalaine Sobremonte said Memorandum Circular 2017-026 is not a new policy, saying it was supposed to have taken effect in 2017 but its implementation was suspended after drivers complained that the MC tended to favor Grab – a pioneer transportation network company (TNC) operating in Southeast Asia.

In 2018, former Department of Transportation regional director Jose Eduardo Natividad issued a memorandum reiterating to Baguio and La Trinidad-based drivers to comply with MC 2017-026.

In January, the LTFRB-Cordillera reminded taxi drivers to comply with the MC.

MC 2017-026 issued on Nov. 17, 2017 by LTFRB Chair Martin Delgra said that prior to the calibration of taxi meters, taxi units must be equipped with a Global Navigation Satellite System receiver, free Wi-Fi, CCTV, and dashboard camera.

She said the LTFRB central office has  found the GCQ as opportune time to implement the cashless payment policy as one of way of preventing the spread of viruses through money.

Sobremonte said since September 2019, there are over 700 taxicabs accredited by TNCs like Grab, Hirna, and Micab but many of these units have been deactivated because they were inactive as many commuters in Baguio pay in cash.

During the GCQ, Sobremonte said accredited taxis need not get a special permit to operate and need only to follow the vehicle reduction scheme implemented by the local government of Baguio.

To reach out to taxi drivers that need to be trained on how to transact using ride-hailing apps, Sobremonte said Grab will conduct a training for the drivers.

She said this is being ironed out to comply with the physical distancing health protocol.

She said they have also requested the LTFRB central office to consider suspending MC 2017-026 again to give way for information dissemination on cashless payments, which is part of the Philippine transportation modernization system. – Rimaliza A. Opiña