Uber pays out $10 mn to get back on Philippine roads

Manila (AFP) –


Ride-sharing app Uber said Tuesday it had paid nearly $10 million in fines and drivers' compensation to return to the Philippines' roads, after it was suspended for defying the government.

The nation's transportation agency suspended Uber on August 14 for a month, saying the US-based company had ignored its order against accepting new driver applications.

However the agency agreed to lift the order on Tuesday after Uber paid a fine of 190 million pesos ($3.7 million), plus another 300 million pesos ($5.8 million) to its drivers to compensate them for lost income during the duration of the suspension.

Uber resumed its operations soon after the announcement.

"We have complied with the requirements outlined by the (regulators), and are grateful for the opportunity to serve the Philippines again," Uber Philippines spokeswoman Catherine Avelino told AFP.

The transportation agency last year banned new applications for ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Southeast Asian rival Grab, as it studied how to regulate a growing industry.

Regulators said while Grab eventually followed the directive, Uber "openly defied" it.

Uber's suspension had prompted a social media firestorm in the Philippines with commuters criticising the government for taking away a trusted and reliable app, particularly in Manila which has notoriously bad traffic and public transportation.

Uber secured a franchise to operate in the Philippines in 2015 and now has about 66,000 drivers.

The transportation agency acknowledged on Tuesday the public backlash it received but insisted it was ensuring commuter safety.

"This is a painful decision. This is not a popular decision but as the regulatory body we will take the brunt. It is part of our job," transportation agency spokeswoman Aileen Lizada told reporters.

The head of a congressional public services committee called the fine "hefty and mind-boggling", criticising the transportation agency for failing to adapt to new technology.

"It seems that it flexes its discretion as a whimsical regulator just for the sake of imposing regulations," Senator Grace Poe said in a statement on Tuesday.

Commuters took to social media to celebrate Uber's return.

"Uber is back! Yeah! Uber is Life!," said Twitter user @Ang_Javi_javi.