The biggest things to hit the Philippines in 2014? Wicked, Spotify, Tim Ho Wan, H&M, McRibs,
Sasha Grey, Uber.
The last one has earned the ire of the LTFRB (because it falls under colorum vehicles) and that of local legislators (because it’s so easy to jump on a bandwagon to pick their next political crusade), but it’s no simple victim here.
In just a few weeks, the local headlines went from Uber drivers threatened by 200,000-peso fines to Uber employees advising government agencies on the future of public transport.
Elsewhere, and for months now, stories keep cropping up about their shady tactics: poaching drivers, DDOS attacks, fake bookings, targeting journalists, misogyny, rape, avoiding responsibility in accidents, and so on.
(To be clear, competing ridesharing startup Lyft doesn’t seem to be innocent either.) The whole business seems like a grim, cutthroat place to be in, and for all we know, worse things could be happening in other industries where tech companies happen to be conquering the space.
Cough video games hashtag gamergate cough.
But if I didn’t read about these things happening abroad—which is most likely the case for majority of Filipinos, probably including government officials—it would be so easy to side with the cool new underdog startup (as underdog as billion-dollar valuations go) persecuted by the big bad outdated government, despite providing reliable cars, safe rides, polite drivers, and a “techie” solution to the ordeal of commuting in Metro Manila.
We haven’t even gotten to the point where local taxi drivers are protesting Uber’s presence, calling for fairness in regulation (which is what the LTFRB is actually driving at). While wages seem to be better than for driving a cab, elsewhere that’s gotten worse, leading to the Uber drivers themselves to go on strike.
It’s like looking into a crystal ball and already knowing where this is headed. Yet at the same time, it appears to be an impossible future, because our laws and infrastructure are far too rusty to even bother with such intricacies or intrigue, and there are hardly any better options out there.
Photo: Traffic light tree in Bangkok. Plans are underway to build the Philippines’ first subway system ever
and sink the overpopulated metropolis for good. Meanwhile, Japan’s new Maglev Shinkansen breaks five hundred kilometers per hour.