ride-hailing industry

GrabBike relaunch? Grab readying its motorcycle taxis even without approval

Lance Spencer Yu

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GrabBike relaunch? Grab readying its motorcycle taxis even without approval

Adrian Portugal/Rappler

As Grab's top brass meet with the President, could the ride-hailing giant be readying to finally crack into the motorcycle taxi market?

After its “backdoor entry” into the motorcycle taxi market through Move It, Grab is at it again. But this time, the ride-hailing giant looks like it’s gearing up to operate its own motorcycle taxi service – even while it has yet to be officially allowed to do so.

Grab has begun to recruit riders for what seems to be the upcoming relaunch of GrabBike, a motorcycle taxi service within the app, according to industry sources and concerned groups.

Sources tell Rappler that Grab is onboarding riders and even tapping motorcycle community leaders to help the company build up its motorcycle taxi fleet. Grab is even offering to give the first 2,000 riders free helmets, long sleeve shirts, and P200 in gas allowance, based on promotional materials seen by Rappler.

But wait, is Grab allowed to do this? Or is it confident that it can crack the motorcycle taxi market now that it has what appears to be a powerful backer?

Grab is among seven new applicants for the motorcycle taxi pilot program. The key word here is “applicant” because so far, there are only three accredited motorcycle taxi firms: Angkas, JoyRide, and Move It.

That’s because motorcycle taxi operations in the Philippines remain limited under a pilot study that’s been running since 2019. The technical working group (TWG) in charge of that study only approved the three aforementioned motorcycle taxi firms. Grab applied to join the pilot study as well, but failed to make the cut.

But that hasn’t stopped Grab from setting its sights on the lucrative motorcycle taxi market. In 2022, Grab bought out Move It in a deal that some lawmakers have called a “backdoor entry” into the industry.


Now Grab seems to be making moves to start its own service, on top of Move It. The ride-hailing giant has been reaching out to riders to “opt-in” to its GrabBike service by accomplishing a “survey form.”

Based on promotional materials and forms reviewed by Rappler, riders can enter their details and documents through the form, after which they will be required to complete “skills training” at a scheduled date.

RECRUITMENT? Shown on the left is a message from Grab inviting riders to apply for the ‘GrabBike Mototaxi Service.’ On the right is the Google Form linked to in the text message. Screenshots from industry sources

Aside from driving for GrabBike, riders may also be tapped to serve for GrabFood or GrabExpress, according to the terms and conditions. Grab also noted in its form that signing up isn’t a guarantee that a rider would be able to drive for GrabBike, as it would depend on the “available slots.”

Grab declined to comment on whether or not it was promoting the “survey form” for GrabBike.

Although GrabBike operates in other countries like Vietnam and Thailand, it’s already had a troubled past in the Philippines. GrabBike previously operated in the country before the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered it to shut down in 2016, given that the government did not have any regulations yet for motorcycle services.

The LTFRB has also recently made it clear that Grab is not yet allowed to operate motorcycle taxis.

“Prefatorily, the Motorcycle Taxi Technical Working Group agrees with your statement that Grab is not authorized to participate in the pilot implementation study or to operate a motorcycle taxi service. At present, only Angkas, Joyride, and Move It are allowed to participate in the said study,” the LTFRB said in a February 1 letter given to Lawyers for Commuter Safety and Protection president Ariel Inton.

Inton believes that before Grab acts, it still has to secure proper approval from the TWG to participate, especially given its already controversial buyout of Move It.

Grab is advocating competition, pero sa totoo lang, ang nangyayari, it’s trying to monopolize everything. Kaya nga dapat, the TWG should not accept new applications dahil they have to resolve first the problem about Grab and Move It. Hindi puwedeng ipasok ang Grab, tapos ‘yung Move It, Grab din,” Inton told Rappler.

(Grab is advocating competition, but in truth, it’s trying to monopolize everything. That’s why the TWG should not accept new applications because they have to resolve first the problem about Grab and Move It. They can’t let Grab enter, and then Move It is also under Grab)

‘NOT AUTHORIZED.’ This letter from the LTFRB confirms that Grab is not allowed to operate a motorcycle taxi service. Photo from Ariel Inton

Grab also declined to comment on the LTFRB letter shown above.

Others also fear that Grab’s entry into the motorcycle taxi market could be anti-competitive. Back when Grab first ventured into motorcycle taxis through Move It, Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo previously called on the Philippine Competition Commission to watch over Grab, fearing that it could use its powerful app to rapidly dominate and crowd out the fledgling motorcycle taxi market.

Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald Gustilo also told Rappler that Grab’s entry into motorcycle taxis could be “anti-competitive.”

“With Grab’s massive capital and advantage sa tech, kawawa local players. Kung Uber nga nabili nila, what more itong iba. Talo na naman ang commuters at riders diyan (the local players suffer. If they were able to buy out Uber, what more these other players. It’s the commuters and riders who lose),” Gustilo told Rappler.

A powerful backer

But why is Grab so confident reaching out to riders if it hasn’t even been officially allowed to participate in the motorcycle taxi study? Or does it already have an implicit seal of approval?

Recall that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. previously attended a dinner hosted by Grab’s chief executive officer Anthony Tan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in January 2023. Tan would later visit Marcos in Malacañang with an “investment commitment” that would supposedly translate into 500,000 jobs.

According to the Presidential Communications Office, Tan said then that it was “just a matter of unshackling things so the company could soar further.” In various briefings and Congress hearings, Grab has long pushed for the full legalization of motorcycle taxis beyond the pilot study.

About a year after his meeting with Tan in Malacañang, Marcos again met with Grab – and this time, with the entire board.

FULL HOUSE. Left to right: Independent directors John Rogers, Ng Shin Ein, Dara Khosrowshahi, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, chief executive officer Anthony Tan, chief people officer Chin Yin Ong, independent director Oliver Jay. Photo from Bongbong Marcos’ Facebook page.

“We’re working with Grab to legalize motorcycle taxis and relax regulations on TNVS. More transport options will benefit commuters, drivers, and MSMEs,” the President said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, February 20, showing him surrounded by all of Grab Holding’s board members.

Now that the President has publicly committed to working with the ride-hailing giant in reshaping regulations, will it just be a matter of time before Grab dominates the motorcycle taxi market too? – Rappler.com

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.