Philippines lifts Uber suspension after it pays nearly $10 mln in penalties

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MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines lifted its one-month suspension on Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] ahead of schedule on Tuesday after the ride-hailing firm paid almost $10 million in a fine and financial aid to its drivers affected by the halted operations.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had halted Uber’s operations for a month from Aug. 14 for violating an order to stop accepting new driver applications.

Uber paid a penalty of 190 million Philippine pesos ($3.72 million), almost 20 times what it had earlier offered to pay, and another 300 million pesos ($5.87 million) as financial assistance to drivers as demanded by the regulator.

“We have complied with the requirements outlined by the LTFRB, and are grateful for the opportunity to serve the Philippines again,” Uber said in a statement. Uber said it resumed its operations in the Southeast Asian country from 0900 GMT.

Uber had previously offered to pay 10 million pesos to get the suspension lifted, even as it said it did not process new applications. It recently said it had nearly 67,000 Philippine drivers.

“It cost Uber close to half a billion pesos for defying government regulations, putting at risk tens of thousands of Uber (drivers) as well as the riding public,” Aileen Lizada, a board member at the transport regulator, told reporters.

The dearth of efficient and reliable public transport services in the Philippines has made Uber a hit with passengers.

Grace Poe, a senator and advocate for improving transport services, blamed Uber’s suspension on “the apparent inability of the LTFRB to adjust and adapt to new technology”.

“Based on what happened, it seems that it flexes its discretion as a whimsical regulator just for the sake of imposing regulations,” Poe said in a statement on Tuesday.

The dispute with the Philippine regulator was the latest setback this year to Uber, a firm valued at $68 billion at its most recent investment last year.

The San Francisco-based company has been embroiled in a number of controversies elsewhere including allegations of sexual harassment, a lawsuit alleging trade-secrets theft and a federal criminal probe over its use of software to evade city regulators, among other alleged misconduct.

Sources have told Reuters Uber on Sunday chose Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of travel-booking company Expedia Inc, as its next leader, putting him in charge of turning around the loss-making, scandal-ridden company.

Reporting by Karen Lema and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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