By Denise A. Valdez, June 12 2019; Business World

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THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it will not ease its accreditation requirements to deal with a potential shortage of ride-share drivers, despite appeals to temporarily allow transport network vehicle service (TNVS) operators with pending documents to stay on the road.

In a joint statement with the Department of Transportation (DoTr) Wednesday, the LTFRB said its application process for TNVS is “imperative for the safety and security of the riding public.”

“The DoTr-LTFRB does not wish to deprive applicants of opportunities for livelihood. The process, however, must comply with the level of accountability to the riding public especially in moments of conflict and accident,” it said.

On Monday, a group of around 1,000 TNVS drivers, Hatchback Community, called on the LTFRB to relax its requirements for Certificates of Public Convenience (CPC) or Provisional Authority (PA), or the permit to operate as TNVS.

These permits are required by the government regulator for TNVS to drive under transport network companies (TNCs) such as Grab Philippines (MyTaxi.PH, Inc.).

The group said the requirement to obtain a bank certificate of conformity and restrictions on who may represent a driver for a CPC hearing are the main hurdles.

The LTFRB said it is implementing the necessary measures to “ascertain that the applicant is qualified and able to assume the duty of public transport service.”

It said the bank certificate of conformity is only a problem because drivers must disclose to banks that a vehicle purchased with bank financing will be used for public transport service, which the Hatchback Community claims leads banks to shorten the term of auto loans. “New applicants… will have to take the official route of loan application, as should be the proper course,” it said.

Regarding authorized representatives for a CPC hearing, currently limited to spouses, parents or descendants of a driver to, the LTFRB said it needs to communicate with appropriate representatives of applicants. “The issue of representation becomes paramount especially when there are complaints filed by passengers or third parties against the absentee-applicant, in relation to franchise violations,” it said.

The LTFRB said it has so far given CPCs and PAs to 40,522 TNVS units, representing the number of drivers allowed to operate legally for TNCs such as Grab. It opened on Monday 10,000 slots for new TNVS applicants, who are currently being processed.

Grab, on Monday, deactivated around 5,000 drivers from its platform for lacking CPCs or PAs.

It also called on the LTFRB on Wednesday to allow the pilot testing of hatchback cars as TNVS, as it was forced to remove 1,225 drivers from its platform for operating such vehicles.

“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 pilot testing for them and observe within a specific time period how this best serves the interest of the commuting public…,” Grab Philippines President Brian P. Cu said in a statement.

The LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular 2018-005 last year which allowed hatchback cars to be accepted as TNVS after a three-year “transition period.” But members of Hatchback Community said Monday their applications for CPCs or PAs were not entertained by the LTFRB over safety concerns.

“If the DoTr and LTFRB through our good Secretary Tugade, allowed a motorcycle taxi pilot, we hope they would also consider a similar pilot for hatchbacks, which have all passed manufacturer’s international safety standards,” Mr. Cu said. — Denise A. Valdez