Taxis are main mode of transportation in Philippine cities. A primary mode for wealthier families individuals and businesses for whom a private car may not be available at the moment and yet need to get from point A to point be relatively unharassed. As opposed to paying highly prohibitive parking fees in the financial district (where pay parking areas are few and far between and available slots highly competitive) or retaining a driver (easily Php10,000/month plus meals), taxis provide an affordable alternative.
As a public transport utility aspects of taxis operations are regulated by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) via the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Regulation along with technology are probably the most important factors in the evolution of taxis in the Philippines where taxis have remained the primarily in the service of the middle class and where the proportion of this middle class has remained small vis-a-vis the lower classes who depend on buses, jeepneys, tricycles or pedicabs as well as an obsolete and dilapidated train system (but that’s another story).
History of Taxis
Manila’s traffic in the Fifties was comprised of a unique combination of vehicles, ranging from the ever-present and wildly garlanded jeepneys, those ubiquitous rickety buses that pick up waiting passengers by curbside. There was also, the poor cochero with his typically lean and sinewy horse fighting for a bit of space in the already crowded streets. Already the city was a bad symphony of noxious vapors, smoke exhaust, and you guessed it– horse manure. Taxis in this decade were considered luxury. Only the rich and the elite were able to afford it.
Manila taxis were operated in fleets and were generally efficient and clean until the middle of the ’60s. Some fleets could be actually be contacted by radio, but most were still too expensive for most folks. Taxis became cheaper to ride from the mid-’60s to the ’80s but they were peppered with complaints for not having airconditioning, for tampered meters, sketchy drivers, and pungent interiors. Operators would also run their taxis until the engines gave out or the brakes ran paper-thin. Many rode taxis only as a last resort when all other alternatives were exhausted.
Taxicabs became more widely used in the 1970s and in the mid-1980s a new diesel powered and airconditoned Isuzu Gemini became the most prominent model. In the mid-1980s, more models were seen on the road. Models included the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Daewoo Racer, Hyundai Excel and Kia Pride.
In the 80s, taxis were more present, accessible and generally better and better. Despite the lack of airconditioning, many commuters preferred this mode of transportation because of the arguable comfort it provided—not as packed as the buses and far from being victimized by deviant behaviors in the streets. The taxis in the 90s had improved with airconditioning becoming the norm. But dampening and offsetting this new comfort and convenience were complaints against taxi drivers who almost as a trade union, became a choosy lot, denying passengers when the destination didn’t suit them and charging decidedly exorbitant fares outside the usual meter.
he Calibration and Sealing of Taxi Meters in Metro Manila was the beginning of the new and more modern taxis plying its streets.
As a concession by taxi operators and petitioners for fare hikes, they agreed, in LTFRB Board Resolution no. 065 series of 2018 to install online digital platforms for connecting to their passengers/riders as prerequisite to calibration and sealing/resealing.
Eventually too, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers will become the norm along with free Wifi, CCTV and dash cam with at least 24 hours of recording and an on-line digital platform compliant with the technical specifications of operating conditions specified in DOTr Department Order 2017-0011.
However, taxis that have undergone calibration and sealing/resealing, through an executed undertaking, will have to install other required gadgets two months from the date of the calibration and sealing/resealing. Only newly authorized through dropping and substitution of taxi units are required to have full compliance of gadgets. Meanwhile, the last increase of fare for taxi was granted in year 2010, the increase was granted considering factors such as price of petroleum, inflation and cost of living.
But the Wheels Keep on Turning
Before the measures set forth by LTFRB, many passengers and commuters were delighted by the emergence of an industry disruptor: ridesharing. These resulted to requests of taxi rides and requests plummeting to erstwhile inconceivable degrees. The taxi sector responded with complaints, demanding better fare and treatment, and the equal regulation of TNVS.
Still, the new TNVS has descended upon the city and industry and still it dominates metered city rides.
A New Hope
Eddie Ybanez and his Micab company who saw the opportunity of reviving the morale of taxi industry is providing a new hope for the taxi federations.
In late 2017, Ybanez disclosed that Micab was already currently serving about 20,000 passengers per month, who collectively accounted for more than 200,000 bookings in the same time span. Ybanez revealed these numbers as he announced two major partnerships with both the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association (PNTOA) and the Association of Taxi Operators in Metro Manila (ATOMM). This partnership would give Micab access to more than 20,000 taxis, 7,000 of which it would deploy with Micab by year’s end.
Given the introduction of Micab in the transportation technology, all is not lost for the taxi industry. With a single push to download the application, it paved a new direction for the taxi operators and drivers. It is also providing an alternative to commuters against exorbitant ridesharing fares. More importantly, it is restoring our faith in the good ol’ taxis and their honest driver.