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article imageUber's Philippine suspension: What we know

By Ayee Macaraig (AFP)     Aug 17, 2017 in Technology

Ride-sharing app Uber faces a month-long suspension in the Philippines, in its latest run-in with authorities around the world.

Uber, the world's most valuable venture-backed startup, was forced to suspend its services this week after the nation's transportation agency accused it of defying an order against accepting new driver applications.

Here's what we know about the dispute that lawmakers said harmed hundreds of thousands of commuters navigating the capital's notoriously congested roads.

- What does the government say? -

The transportation agency last year imposed a moratorium on the processing of 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 even after the government issued a new order last month. Other transport groups accused Uber of acting "above the law".

"Uber was defiant, challenging regulatory powers of the government and for which they must be accountable for," agency head Martin Delgra said.

- What does Uber say? -

Uber said this month it was accepting new applications for vehicles but was not processing them pending its discussions with regulators.

It also urged the government to simplify the accreditation process, with a representative telling a congressional inquiry: "We cannot impose 1900s regulations on today's technological innovations".

Uber on Tuesday initially defied the suspension order after lodging an appeal with the transportation agency.

But it quickly reversed its stance and obeyed the order after government officials immediately rejected the appeal and warned Uber drivers still on the road could be arrested.

Uber's regional manager, Michael Brown, then struck a conciliatory tone in a meeting with regulators in Manila on Wednesday.

"If there has been a misunderstanding in the past, that's on us and I apologise for that," Brown told the transport agency chief in front of reporters.

- What is the impact? -

Uber's suspension prompted an online backlash in social media-obsessed Philippines, with commuters venting their fury at having a trusted and reliable form of transport taken away.

The capital of Manila, which author Dan Brown once described as "the gates of hell", has notoriously bad traffic, public transport services and shady taxi drivers.

Politicians also voiced anger with Senator Grace Poe, who heads a congressional public services committee, describing Uber's suspension as "cruel" for those who depended on the service.

The decision also affects 66,000 Uber drivers, including the nation's migrant workers, who have invested savings in driving for Uber.

Uber's suspension sparked a surge in demand for Grab and the emergence of alternative apps.

- What happens next? -

At Wednesday's meeting, Uber said it was ready to pay a fine and compensate its drivers -- an offer senators described as "generous".

Uber also said it would file another appeal, which could prompt a shortened suspension pending a government hearing next week.

Uber's accreditation is set to expire this month.

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