GrabTaxi to face new competitor in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A new mobile app-based taxi service is set to fully operate in Davao City by early 2018.

Developed in partnership with local taxi operators, Hirna was unveiled here on Tuesday afternoon, December 19. The app itself, however, will not be available any time soon.

"It will be launched in the very early part of next year," said Francisco Mauricio, president of AVIS Philippines.

AVIS Philippines partnered with the Metro Davao Taxi Operators Association (MDTOA) and Globe Telecom for Hirna, which they demonstrated before Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio during Tuesday's launch. 

Mauricio said Globe serves as the service's infrastructure partner. In this set-up, he said, Hirna's partner-drivers will will be given free data and SMS packages "to encourage drivers to use the app."

Once it starts full operation, Hirna will become Davao City's second mobile app that taps existing taxi fleets here.

In 2014, Grab launched a similar service here called GrabTaxi. Davao City was the 17th location in Southeast Asia where the Singapore-based startup launched their app. 

"This is long overdue. At least now the senior citizens don't have to get wet in the rain to hail a taxi cab. We've been pushing for this," Aileen Lizada, spokesperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), told reporters.

As a taxi-hailing service, the companies behind Hirna said they do not plan to tap private sedans, but will only limit themselves to public utility vehicles. This is to "maximize" existing taxi fleets in Davao City, said Rogelio Largo, president of MDTOA.

Around 5,000 taxi drivers are targetted to be tapped by the service, according to Lizada.

Users of Hirna are given access to their assigned driver's information, which would "reduce" risks of overcharging, passenger refusal, and other illegal activities, said Largo. –