By Alexandria San Juan
Transport and commuters groups are set to file a class suit against the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for not allowing hatchbacks to operate as a transport network vehicle service (TNVS).
The Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection (LCSP), and the Metro Manila Hatchback Community announced their plan to file a mandamus writ on Friday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to force the agency to implement its order which permits hatchbacks on the road.
The groups questioned why the LTFRB stopped on accrediting hatchbacks even with an outstanding memorandum circular allowing them to ferry passengers within a three-year transition period.
“We are going to file a mandamus case against LTFRB for them to implement its memorandum circular. Walang ibang dahilan para i-stop ito dahil walang binago sa polisiya,” lawyer Ariel Inton, president of LCSP, said.
Inton cited Memorandum Circular 2018-005 issued by the LTFRB in February last year to temporarily allow the use of hatchbacks as a TNVS provider from 2018 to 2021 to help in meeting the demand in the ride-hailing market.
Based on the memorandum, hatchbacks are only allowed to operate within Metro Manila and shall charge lower fare rates.
However, Hatchback Community leader Leonardo De Leon Jr. said most hatchbacks were not allowed by the LTFRB in obtaining a provisional authority which barred them to operate as TNVS.
De Leon also said a total of 1,225 hatchbacks were removed from the platform when ride-hailing firm Grab Philippines deactivated TNVS partners who failed to complete requirements for a franchise.
According to De Leon, they appealed the issue to Grab who told them that the decision is up to the transport regulators as “its hands were tied.”
“Tali daw po ang mga kamay nila sa LTFRB kaya hindi nila kami matutulungan,” he added.
Since last year, the LTFRB planned to exclude hatchbacks or those compact and small cars as TNVS citing safety issues for passengers.
But the groups argued that hatchbacks are much safer than motorcycle-taxis which were earlier given a green light for a six-month pilot-test run.
“If it is unsafe, where is the statistics na mayroong aksidente involving TNVS hatchbacks. Kung mayroon man, ilan yun? Considered na unsafe na ba?” Inton asked.
For the Hatchback Community, De Leon also claimed that hatchbacks as TNVS are fuel efficient and could provide safe and lower fare for passengers.
Ride-sharing giant Grab Philippines earlier urged the Department of Transportation and the LTFRB to allow pilot-testing of hatchbacks TNVS.
According to Grab Philippines president Brian Cu, allowing thousands of hatchback owners to enter the ride-hailing market could ease the ongoing TNVS supply issue causing difficulty in booking to commuters.
“Right now, we have thousands of hatchback owners who are willing and able to be part of the transport solution for the Filipino commuters, and I hope for the DOTr and the LTFRB to openly consider a pilot testing for them and observe within a specific time period how this best serve the interest of the commuting public, the TNVS owners, and how this largely eases the supply pain points of both the DOTr and the LTFRB,” Cu said