LTFRB to arrest GrabBike drivers

MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will start apprehending GrabBike drivers after the motorcycle-hailing service was found to have continued operations despite a cease and desist order.

LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said the board would start clamping down on these drivers because they are considered to be illegally operating under the public service law.

The LTFRB on Wednesday, March 2, summoned MyTaxi.PH – the transportation network company offering GrabTaxi and GrabCar – to explain why its accreditation should not be cancelled after it continued offering the GrabBike service on its app-based platform.

The legal counsels of MyTaxi.PH, however, said that they could not answer questions on the operations of GrabBike because it is being operated by a different company.

In its show cause order dated February 23, the LTFRB said that Grab once again offered its motorcycle-hailing service even after it announced in early February that it would be temporarily suspending operations.

This was in compliance with an LTFRB order issued on January 27, ordering the suspension of GrabBike operations because it was not part of the business model approved and accredited by the board.

Illegal operations

During the Wednesday hearing, Ginez used his phone to book a GrabBike ride to prove that the service was still ongoing.

On the Grab app, the GrabBike service is offered for free. To get a free ride, passengers need to key in a promo code.

The driver, identified as Mon Carlo Gaya, was apprehended by LTFRB officials and questioned by Ginez.

Gaya said that Grab informed its drivers about the suspension of operations, but was later told it would be resumed with passengers riding for free. GrabBike drivers, meanwhile, would be paid P40 for each trip.

Ginez informed Gaya that he was operating illegally. The driver was issued an inspection report summons, requiring him to explain before the board why a fine of P6,000 should not be imposed on him. His motorcycle will also be impounded.

While the GrabBike service was being offered to passengers for free, Ginez said that its operations are covered by the public service law.

"It's still covered by the public service law because you are transporting a passenger with compensation.... Compensation under the public service law is treated as any economic benefit to the entity which provides the service," Ginez said.

He said that the company is still benefiting by increasing patronage of the service.

Different entities

Meanwhile, the lawyers of MyTaxi.PH maintained that it could not explain GrabBike's operations because it falls under a different company.

In a February 3 hearing of the House committee on transportation, Grab said that the motorcycle-hailing service was operated by Grab Bike Incorporated.

But it still uses the same app where other Grab services like GrabTaxi and GrabCar can be booked.

The LTFRB's cease and desist letter, as well as its show cause order, was addressed to MyTaxi.PH.

"We're not representing GrabBike Inc.... We were directed to show cause and yet we were obliged to answer for GrabBike, which is not connected to MyTaxi.Ph," legal counsel Jerome Leynes said.

Leynes pointed out that operations of GrabTaxi and GrabCar will stand to suffer if their accreditation is cancelled due to the actions of an entirely different entity.

But Ginez dismissed this, saying it was merely "their allegation" that the two companies are not connected.

"But it shows otherwise because they use the same system. And what we accredited was the model, the system itself," he added.

The LTFRB decided to amend its show cause order and its cease and desist order to also cover Grab Bike Incorporated.

It also expanded the coverage of the orders to include stopping the operations of the recently-introduced free service, Grab Jeep. – Rappler.com