Corrupt Cebu City Cabbies

I’ve praised taxi drivers in the “Queen City of the South” on this website in the past. I’m sorry that I now feel compelled to post this next story: “Corrupt Cebu City Cabbies,” but regulars readers of “Philippines Plus” know I always try to tell you the positives and negatives about living in the Philippines. 

Scammer from Road Runner Taxi

My asawa and I recently made our third trip to the “Second City of the Philippines” via Cokaliong Shipping Lines. After 13 hours on the high seas we landed at Cokaliong’s port area and after an extremely long trek made it to the taxi area. We’ve taken metered cab rides from the port to our destination, The Travel Bee Pension House, about ten minutes away, several times.

I usually check the taxi’s meter as soon as I get inside to make sure the meter is on but failed to check this cab until we had gone about a block away. To my surprise the meter was already reading “334” pesos, $7.26!

“Why does your meter read 334?” I asked the driver. “We have only gone one block.”

The driver immediately cleared the meter but I still did not see it running; he “had forgotten” he told my wife. Right.

“If you’re not going to take us on the meter,” I informed the driver, “you can stop this taxi and we will get off now!”

The cabbie said something to my wife.

“He said he will take us to the hotel for 130, all inclusive.” my spouse informed me.

The driver, who operates a taxi for Road Runner in Cebu, was clearly trying to cheat us. But since we had already spent 13 hours on the boat we were anxious to check in to our hotel so I relented and said no more. I know that it never takes more than 100 pesos to reach the Travel Bee and was disappointed our trip had gotten off to a bad start.The 666 Taxi in Iloilo City

Now I’ve read where some expats in the Philippines don’t care if they get cheated because of the “skin tax” or foreigner tax. I’m not one of those expats so if you don’t mind being cheated, then by all means, bend over and pay the extra money. It’s entirely your choice.

What the taxi driver from Road Runner doesn’t realize is that he would have gotten a generous tip for being honest and gotten more than the 130 he had requested.

More Corrupt Cebu City Cabbies

Unfortunately we discovered even more dishonest taxi drivers in Cebu when we arrived from a day trip to Bohol (more on that trip later) via the Super Cat Ferry.

It was around 7:45 pm before our Super Cat from Bohol arrived in Cebu City. We were one of the last passengers to get off the ferry and did not see any cabs in sight. We walked a short distance into the night outside the Port Terminal and found a whole line of taxis waiting.

I approached one driver and asked if he would take us to SM City Cebu on the meter.

“My meter is broken,” the cabbie announced.

Yeah, right.

We continued on walking through a crowded neighborhood near the port that definitely was not a safe area for any visitors, especially a foreign one.

“This is a bad area!” my wife exclaimed.

“Yes, it is,” I replied, “but we’re going on until we can find a taxi that will take us on meter.”

We walked another block through a city block teeming with locals, definitely attracting attention. We saw a taxi across the street. I opened the cab door and asked the driver if he would take us to SM City on meter. He would.

The honest driver received a generous 100 peso tip and informed us that we were indeed traveling through a very dangerous neighborhood.taxi

The Honest Drivers

We used several Cebu City cab drivers throughout our week long visit to the “Queen City of the South,” all who took us to our destinations on the meter. On our trip back to the Cokaliong Terminal to return to Iloilo we boarded the taxi of one very friendly man who understood my English “slang” perfectly.

I told the driver about the trouble we had the night we got off the Super Cat. The driver informed me that many of the taxi drivers in the area will deliberately wait outside the terminal at night hoping they will hit “the jackpot.” He, too, told us that  we had walked through a very dangerous area and told us what street to take if we ended up in that situation again. He also pointed out a nearby police station where he said we could have complained to the police and they would have gotten us a taxi that would go on “meter”‘ which is the law here. I thanked him for the information and had my asawa give him a generous tip, too.

Yes, it might seem that I’m complaining about a small amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing that irks me the most. Like I said before, I’ve read of some expats who don’t mind being cheated and pay the “skin tax” without any protest. That’s their prerogative of course, but it’s not the path I travel on.

16 comments

  1. I met my wife in Cebu 1992. Every time we have gone back the skin tax has always been a part of dealing with the PI. The port areas seem to be worse than any other areas. In Dec we went through the port area twice on our island hoping adventure. Each time we had the same experience as you guys. We lucked out getting to the airport late and still catching our flight home to the US. My wife was arguing over $100 peso difference. Most times I fully support her arguing over money but not this time. It would have cost us much more if we would have missed our flight. In the future I will try to plan our trip without using the port. For some reason they are overly aggressive and dishonest.

    1. After almost seven years of living in the Philippines, Mike, I’ve learned to let my asawa handle any possible “skin tax” violations. My wife goes to the local wet market and buys all of our fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish. I stay at home or linger in our truck counting how many motorcyclists pass by that don’t wear helmets. Of course, when we go to SM City to go shopping, the prices are fixed, though my wife will try to get a better price on goods that might have a slight dent, tear or flaw.

      The port area, as confirmed by Lance in another comment, does seem to be the worst area for this “foreigner tax.” We were BOMBARDED by tour groups once we reach Bohol but fortunately had already reserved a tour group in Cebu. The port area in Iloilo is really no better. The drivers refuse to go on meter even though the dock to return to Guimaras is only five minutes away. We’re screamed at by drivers in the port area in Iloilo who always want to take us to Boracay. I brush by them without saying a word. If we don’t have too much luggage, we just hop on a jeepney and get to the wharf for 6 pesos.

  2. Hi Dave, I think it’s the same in any big city it’s just luck you get a lot more dishonest
    Drivers than good taxi drivers, they are after big bucks that’s why I try to avoid taxis
    Especially in Manila like you if they are honest we give them a tip if not just look for another taxi, the worst place has got to be the airport in Manila if we’ve been on a trip we always get the shuttle bus at the airport and get off in baclaran then catch a
    Taxi or ride the mrt , you always have to be smart in the Philippines there are a lot of scams out there hope you had a great time in Cebu, yeah it’s more fun in the Philippines despite the skin tax and remember it’s not only foreigners they target it’s
    Their own people as well, Derek in pasig.

    1. Well, Derek, Manila, being the huge metropolis it is, does have a ton of cab drivers who have never wanted to go on meter for us. I simply get out of their cab and find a driver that will go on meter. I’ve even had security guards at the SM Malls in Manila stop the driver and order them to go on meter.

      You’re right about the skin tax targeting locals also. My wife has managed to find her own “sukis” who give her a discount at the wet markets to reward her for always shopping at their stall.

  3. So far, all the rides we or I have taken, the meter was always working. In Davao where most of our rides are taken, most (not all) drivers are very honest and very helpful. I have found that they are an excellent source of information when trying to locate a service there.

    I had been looking and asking around for about 2 weeks for a company or an individual that could rewind motors, it hit me one day to ask a taxi driver if he knew of anyplace, he didnt but he called another driver and that driver did, so I had the taxi take me there, and sure enough thats what they did, repair and rewinding, he waited while I went inside to talk to them and then took me home, so I doubled his fare on the meter, and he was VERY appreciative, he also gave me his phone number and I called him quite a few times while there to take us places, he spoke good English, and was just a nice guy. When someone like him is helpful or goes that extra step to help us, I appreciate it and make sure they know I do.

    One thing that I dont understand though is when we go shopping at a fresh market, where prices are many times not posted, they will try to charge me the skin tax, but rather than charge me what a local would pay, they let me walk away and make no sale rather than drop it back to where it would be for a local. Many times I will stand off to the side and see what they charge a local for, so I then know they are inflating the charge for me.

    1. In Davao, Bill S, I think you have a mayor running for President who won’t put up with any crap and even enforces the rules for cab drivers. He might just end being the next president of the Philippines.

      Glad to hear you found a helpful cab driver, Bill. I’m sure he was quite happy to have his fare doubled. The majority of the taxi drivers in Cebu and Iloilo (though more so in Cebu) are honest and trying to earn a living without cheating their passengers.

      Yes, I’ve found it best to stay out of the picture when it comes to the local wet markets. I let my asawa handle all the shopping chores at those markets and if I happen to tag along, stay way out of the picture.

  4. Dave, a similar thing happened to us a few years ago when we took the evening ferry back to Cebu from Bohol. It was dark, and we exited the terminal just in time to see another group of tourists taking the last taxi in front of the terminal. This Filipino guy walked up to us and offered to drive us to our hotel in his private van. We didn’t trust him and refused. We started walking towards the street outside the terminal but he went to his van and started driving beside us, still offering us a ride. We kept refusing and just happened to walk past a police officer who told the guy that he was driving the wrong way on the one way road and he drove off. When we told the police officer we were looking for a taxi, he didn’t offer to call us one but instead pointed out which road we should walk down to catch a taxi on a nearby street. Like you said, it didn’t look like a very safe neighborhood at night. We didn’t find any taxis parked on the street, but fortunately we managed to flag down one that was driving by, and they drove us to our hotel. Next time I am in a similar situation in the PI, I will ask the police officer to call me a taxi.

    1. Lance, the incident you describe sounds exactly like what happened to us. I failed to mention in my post that a van driver also approached us but I ignored him. Thankfully he did not follow us. There were several vans in the area.

      We didn’t take the “safe road” and the crowds of people milling around us as we walked by did not seem to be the typical “friendly Filipino.” It was quite dark and we had no idea how to get around in the area. But I can guarantee you that if my wife expresses concern, I take note of that. I’m just glad we found a taxi that was willing to help us out.

      Hopefully, we won’t find ourselves in that situation again. I guess I could have used such a service as a “Grab”‘ taxi but I don’t have that app downloaded. Might have come in useful.

    1. Yep, I keep a close watch on my valuables whenever we get on a jeepney, Captain Tom. Fortunately, we haven’t been the victims of any theft yet, but we never let our guard down. Having the cash in a pouch under your shirt is an excellent idea.

    1. Amen to that, Papa Duck. The cabbies around NAIA are absolutely the worst of the worst. But if you file a complaint with the local LTFRB, you have to appear in person for the follow up on your complaint. Not many people have the time to do that or want to fight the Metro Manila traffic and the cab drivers know that.

  5. NO No No Dave! You have EVERY right to complain about this stuff because it needs to stop and it is good to inform others.

    I rarely have a problem with a taxi cab driver in Manila, but I have had some issues here and there.

    For those that don’t get it…DO NOT GET IN A TAXI UNLESS THEY AGREE TO METER IT! And make sure the meter is set to the starting rate, which is 40 pesos here in Manila.

    As far as these total DOPES that don’t mind being cheated out of money…are they really serious!?? You should never have to pay a skin tax here if you have any common sense.

    Ruby and I go out regularly on walks, in the norning, around noon, and at night. Well this one night Ruby was at home with her family and I decided to get some cooked peanuts. Since Ruby and I have gotten these peanuts many times, I knew the price…20 pesos for a large pack.

    Well this night I happen to go by the peanut vendor and ask for a large pack of peanuts, he starts to prepare it but the way he acted was a bit shady. So I asked him “how much for the large pack.” He says 50 pesos! LOL. Ruby regularly pays 20 pesos for the exact same peanuts and same size. So I tell the guy “Uh no thanks, that price is far too much and I walked away.

    The next day Ruby is back, so we are on a walk and I ask Ruby to go to the vendor and buy the peanuts again while I waited a few yards away. So she does, and the vendor charges Ruby 20 pesos. I quickly walk up to the vendor and Ruby and say “Ruby, this is the guy that tried to charge me 50 pesos the other night for what you just paid 20 pesos for.”

    The vendor lowered his head in shame. He knew he had been totally busted. So I tell the vendor “young man, you tried to cheat me out of 30 pesos and if you had you would have gotten an extra 30 pesos ONE TIME. But, since I knew what these cost there was no way I was going to pay you two and a half times MORE than what you charge filipinos!”

    Then I tell him..”do you understand how much business you lost by trying to cheat me out of 30 pesos? Neither I, my fiance here, or any of my friends will EVER buy peanuts from you again.”

    He looks down and doesn’t say a word. I usually don’t like to do stuff like that here but I NEVER let anyone screw me here. EVER. As I was walking away another vendor walks up to me and says “sir, I am sorry for his behavior. We are not all like that and those types of guys hurt all of his here because foreigners then don’t trust us.”

    I told the guy he was right but he had no worries because if he was selling something I wanted I would still buy from him, but not the other guy.

    So the point of this long ass post is this: know what you are doing! Find out the prices and NEVER let anyone here gouge you. The reason some of these vendors and others do this is because they have gotten away with it before!

    Those of you that don’t care about YOUR money and what you pay, maybe you can at least consider you are not only hurting yourself but other foreigners as well.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story, Todd. It really is a good example of the “skin tax,” my major pet peeve about living in the Philippines. The peanut vendor who tried to screw you really just shoot himself in the foot. I am more than fair with honest locals I deal with. But if you try to rip me off, well, my wife has had to calm me down in more than one instance.

      Kudos to the vendor who had the balls to come up to you.

      I was reading a post from another website where the post’s writer proclaimed that we, as visitors to the Philippines, should never complain about the “skin tax” and should just shut our mouths and pay it. Well, though I am fully aware that many of the expats living here are indeed more financially well off than the average Filipino, I, personally, don’t care to be disrespected no matter what country I’m living in. But again, as I said in my post, if you don’t have a problem with the skin tax, bend over.

  6. Happened to me on Sunday as we waited for a cab to take us to Ocean Park. Flagged down a cab and the only way he would take us was if we paid 100 upfront,hahahaha… Luckly we found a cab that used the meter and off i went to see seals dance and birds play basketball. Vacation so far is good,hahaha..

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