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Biz Buzz: Bangko Sentral frontrunner

/ 12:34 AM January 27, 2017

We have all heard who the possible successors to outgoing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. are. It’s like last year’s presidential elections where there were several horses in the race and the frontrunner kept on changing so much that it was difficult to predict the outcome.

As the July expiration of Tetangco’s term nears (and term extension now out of the question), the business community is anxiously waiting for President Duterte’s choice of successor to Tetangco, a highly acclaimed central bank chief who’s leaving big shoes to fill.

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There’s now a lot of buzz that the new frontrunner is former banker and Monetary Board member Peter Favila, widely believed to enjoy the backing of Mr. Duterte’s political ally, former President and now Deputy House Speaker—and rumored future Prime Minister, if the Philippines shifts to a federal form of government—Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

To recall, Favila served as trade secretary during Arroyo’s 2005-2010 term. He was president of several banks—Security Bank, Philippine National Bank and Allied Banking Corp.—and likewise chaired the Philippine Stock Exchange at one point.

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If Favila is chosen as the new BSP chief, it will break the Blue Eagles’ monopoly of the top BSP leadership (Tetangco, Rafael Buenaventura and Gabriel Singson Sr. are all Ateneo de Manila graduates). It may very well be the Tigers’ turn to lead. (Favila finished BS Commerce Major in Banking and Finance from the University of Santo Tomas, before taking an Advanced Management Program at Wharton).

Another outsider widely believed to have a good shot at the BSP leadership is East West president and treasury veteran Antonio Moncupa Jr. But if Mr. Duterte chooses an internal appointment, the two incumbent deputy governors—Diwa Guinigundo and Nestor Espenilla Jr.—are seen both capable to become the next steward of this independent monetary entity.

We heard that the former frontrunner, Perfecto Yasay Jr., has lost his edge possibly because of mostly negative feedback when his name first cropped out as a candidate. Yasay’s biggest handicap as far as the BSP is concerned was his affiliation (as former lawyer and director) with the defunct Banco Filipino, whose officials were sued by the BSP for hazardous lending and lax collection policies and practices years ago.

Nothing is cast in stone now and any dark horse, like in last year’s presidential elections, could emerge as the new BSP chief.  It’s all up to the new CEO of the land to make that much-awaited call to preserve the country’s monetary and financial stability. —Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Uber-frustrated

If you think the roadblocks that ridesharing firms like Uber and Grab face have gone away after they meekly complied with regulators’ demands for surge pricing ceilings over the holidays, think again.

As it turns out, being a ridesharing firm in the Philippines is as difficult as ever, despite the demonstrable benefits they’ve brought to the long suffering commuting public, especially in major urban centers like Metro Manila and Cebu.

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According to a position paper written by Uber—a copy of which was obtained by Biz Buzz—the process of becoming a service provider for a ridesharing firm continues to be loaded with bureacratic red tape.

Take for instance the documentary requirements. The process to acquire a permit to drive on a ridesharing platform requires anywhere from 16 to 21 documents to be submitted to regulatory agencies. And if you think that’s bad, just remember that a would-be Uber driver or operator will have to wait at least three months, and sometimes as long as six months, for his application to be processed. That means six months more for any single commuter to either suffer his or her commute on a creaking train or bus system, or worse, aggravate vehicular traffic by driving his own vehicle.

“The Philippines needs progressive regulations to improve mobility,” the Uber position paper read. “Ridesharing has become a safe, reliable and convenient transport option for many Filipinos and a viable solution to easing traffic congestion.”

But it quickly lamented that “the regulatory environment has made it increasingly tedious to amplify the benefits of ridesharing and make it more accessible to a wider driver and rider base.”

As a result, “the Philippines has one of the highest costs and barriers to entry for ridesharing,” it said. Ouch.

So what do ridesharing firms want? It’s simple, really.

All the government has to do is implement some common sense proposals like streamlining processes and putting them online to help ensure that regulatory delays and red tape is reduced.

“The existing paper document submission process is prone to errors, misplacement of documents, and leads to unnecessary delays in processing and difficulties in storing documents on the part of the regulators,” Uber said.

“Regulations should prescribe ends, not means, based on specific public safety outcomes rather than the narrow methods for obtaining them,” the firm added. For Uber, this means that the goals of a proposed government requirement for cameras in all vehicles are already accomplished by its “de-anonymized” transport model, including GPS tracking and two-way accountability features.

“Regulations should acknowledge the unique traits of ridesharing,” the firm said. “Ridesharing is demand-responsive, enabling drivers and vehicles to be on the road when they are needed.”

In fact, 41 percent of Uber drivers drive less than 10 hours per week.

“Imposing 1900s era rules such as supply caps and professional driver’s license requirements can erode the contributions provided by ridesharing, particularly in solving traffic congestions in Metro Manila,” the firm added.

(Halfway through the two-page position paper, it becomes evident to any reader that the entrepreneurs behind ridesharing services have become increasingly frustrated with archaic government regulations—perhaps as frustrated as the country’s long suffering commuters themselves.)

“Ridesharing fights congestions in three ways: Consolidating trips into few vehicles across multiple users, reducing the overall need for car ownership, and complementing the use of public transit,” the company said. It also pointed out that 41 percent of Uber riders had eliminated or reduced usage of their personal vehicles because of the service.

And perhaps, more importantly, Uber makes it easier to get around for commuters who work late nights such as BPO workers, when late night transportation options are limited.

And despite these regulatory roadblocks, Uber’s own statistics provide an impressive picture of the benefits the service has provided: More than 682,000 active riders over the past three months, 7,000 active drivers during this same period and 211,000 riders for its new uberPOOL service.

The question now is… will these rationale arguments of ridesharing firms convince innovation-resistant regulators and their stakeholders in the traditional transportation sector? Don’t hold your breath. —Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Amando Tetangco Jr., Monetary Board member Peter Favila, Philippine news updates
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