An Uber driver’s fear: That’s my only source of income

Raisa Serafica
An Uber driver’s fear: That’s my only source of income
What if LTFRB's suspension of the transport network company extends beyond 30 days?

MANILA, Philippines – When the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced the suspension of Uber operations on Monday, August 14, Ronan Barrientos was one of around 66,000 Uber drivers who got worried about where to get their income for the next month.

“Syempre, maraming tumatakbo sa utak mo dahil ‘yan na lang ang source of income mo, you think of other ways agad para makakuha ng income, kasi your income cannot stop,” Barrientos said. (Many things went through inside my head. Since that is my only source of income, I immediately considered other livelihood options, because you cannot stop having income.)

The decision came after the  transport network company (TNC) continued accrediting drivers into their system past July 26 despite LTFRB’s order against it. In an advisory, the LTFRB said it “strongly recommended” that Uber gives financial assistance to its peer-operators who would be affected since the latter “would not have suffered the current predicament were it not for the predatory actions” of Uber. (READ: Leader of TNVS drivers’ group: Uber at fault

Monthly income

Barrientos started driving part-time for the ride-hailing service in early 2015. By the end of that year, he resigned from his full-time job and went full-time driving for Uber.

He also serves as an administrator of one of the biggest Facebook groups catering to drivers for Transport Network Vehicle Companies (TNVCs) like Uber and Grab.

According to Barrientos, he earns at least P20,000 a month for driving Uber 4 times a week. He does not drive on weekends because he reserves them for his family.

A father of two, he allocates majority of his income to pay the P10,000 monthly downpayment for his car. The rest goes to their expenses at home.

“Hindi biro ‘yung araw-araw na gastos, kasama na ‘yung grocery, kuryente, tubig, ‘yung ibinabayad sa kotse buwan-buwan. Hindi biro mga ‘yun. Imposibleng hindi nag-panic mga Uber drivers up to some level. What if magtuloy-tuloy yan?” he said.

(The daily expenses – grocery, electricity, water, and car payments – they are not a joke. It’s impossible for Uber drivers not to panic to some extent. What if this [suspension] continues becomes permanent?)

On a regular day, Barrientos leaves their house at 5:30 am to bring his wife from Pasig to Pasay, where she works. Without taking a break, he would then drive for 8 to 9 hours straight.

Other Uber drivers have it worse, according to Barrientos.

He says Uber drivers who are under an operator and do not drive their own cars usually work longer hours to be able to pay their boundary and earn a decent income at the same time.

“’Yung iba doon, they drive 12 to 15 hours a day just to get a decent income. Ang pahinga nun, tulog lang at saka kain,” Barrientos said. (Some would drive 12 to 15 hours a day just to get a decent income. The rest of the day is for sleeping and eating)

Commuters’ woes

Barrientos also raises his concern for commuters who depend highly on Uber.

“I had this one passenger, it was before dawan, female, she was by herself. Drunk. When she got in the car, she passed out. You can’t do that in a taxi or a jeep,” he said.

Another time, a mother booked a ride for his grade schooler son on Uber. According to Barrientos, she just let him drive the small boy to his school. 

What happens to commuters like them? 

The Uber driver said that the TNVCs introduced an unprecendented trust between commuters and drivers. 

What’s the reason why riders use Uber? It’s the service that they are getting. They are getting their money’s worth and peace of mind brought by good service. No one will ask for additional fare. The car smells nice, it’s clean, and the air conditiioner works,” he explained.

True to this statement, commuters immediately took to social media to express their anger and rally behind Uber drivers on Monday night.  

According to commuters, the decision will cause unnecessary “hassle for commuters.” This was echoed by Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, calling the suspension “cruel and absurd.” She said she is set to call LTFRB officials for a meeting on Wednesday, August 16.

Moving forward

Despite Uber’s suspension, Barrientos remains optimistic that the transport network will not allow the suspension to last for days.

“Nung una, ang unang pumasok sa isip ko ay hindi magtatagal yan. For sure, hindi papayag si Uber at magpa-file ng motion for reconsideration,” the Uber driver said. (I initially thought that the suspention will not last for long. For sure, Uber will fle a motino for reconsideration to overturn the decision) 

In fact, around lunch time on Tuesday, August 15, Uber filed a motion for reconsideration and resumed its operations. 

LTFRB, however, clarified that the order still stands, and that Uber drivers are still prohibited from plying the roads even though the ride-hailing company has filed a motion for reconsideration. – 

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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.