DOTr Usec to Grab, Uber: ‘You can’t do something illegal to fill a need’

Rambo Talabong

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DOTr Usec to Grab, Uber: ‘You can’t do something illegal to fill a need’
Transportation Undersecretary Thomas Orbos counters the defense of the transportation network companies

MANILA, Philippines – Transportation Undersecretary Thomas Orbos called out  Grab and Uber for citing public demand as their reason for allowing their undocumented drivers to operate.

“Don’t hide beyond the need; the need is there. Gobyerno tayo eh, naiintindihan natin na may pangangailangan, pero sandali lang. Hindi puwedeng gumawa ng ilegal dahil may pangangailangan,” Orbos told reporters before a meeting with the transport network companies (TNCs) on Wednesday, July 19.

(We are the government, we know that there is a need, but wait a minute. You can’t do something illegal because there’s a need.)

Both TNCs cited public demand in keeping their undocumented drivers on the roads as they await clarification on the LTFRB order.

Orbos, undersecretary for roads at the Department of Transportation, said while the slow processing of provisional authority permits contributed to the proliferation of colorum transport network vehicle service (TNVS) drivers, it should not be used as a reason to disregard the rules.

“The inaction of the government must not give them the right to move forward. Kailangan ng additional na sasakyan (More vehicles are needed) while waiting for the longterm solutions, yes but that does not mean that we can go forward or they can move forward without addressing these issues that we have,” Orbos added.


Orbos, concurrent Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager, raised the question of “accountability” in the event of an accident. 

Unang-una sinong accountable (First of all, who is accountable)? Is it the operators, the drivers, or is it them?” he asked.

He added that surge pricing – rooted in the demand and supply of vehicles, as well as other factors – needs to be further regulated,  The problem, according to Orbos, is that the TNCs have not given them data on how this demand is measured.

Uber representatives earlier said it was difficult to put a number on something that changes constantly.

Sila may datos (They have the data). I think they should allow us or explain to us how their system works,” Orbos said.

Still, Orbos recognized that the TNCs have brought “something good” to the Philippine transportation sector – an “alternative” that has spurred competition.

“Let’s face it, something good came out also – we gave the people an alternative. The  taxi industry is stepping up because of them, so all in all, we just have to go to this process of discussing this in a more open manner,” Orbos said.

The technical working group meeting is expected to bring solution to the nearing July 26 deadline for over 41,000 colorum TNVS drivers, and better regulation to the TNCs and TNVS operators in the long run. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.