THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) said a P10-billion fund supposedly allotted for the service contracting program that would help public transport drivers and operators was slashed from its proposed 2022 budget, officials said in a House budget hearing on Wednesday.
“We included service contracting in our submitted (budget) proposal to the Department of Budget and Management which was around P10 billion. Unfortunately, this was not included in the National Expenditure Program,” said DoTr Undersecretary Giovanni Z. Lopez.
The government’s service contracting program would pay public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers a fixed income based on kilometers traveled instead of the number of passengers along with a one-time incentive payout of P4,000.
The program started as part of the Bayanihan II, a law on the pandemic response, with P5.58 billion allotted to DoTr. It was suspended on July 1, with the DoTr failing to disburse the total amount, as the validity of the law expired. It resumed on Sept. 10 after P3 million was allotted for service contracting under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
The DoTr is proposed to receive P150.76 billion next year, an increase of 72% from this year’s P87.45 billion.
Samar Rep. Edgar Mary S. Sarmiento said the contracting program should be continued with an allocation of at least P3 billion. “The most we could use the (P3 billion for 2021) is (for) six months (of payments) and this pandemic will be another flu in the making (and will last) 5 years… If the jeepneys won’t generate profit, the industry will die,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Mr. Sarmiento also said that public utility drivers are not earning a profit as operations are limited to 50% of passenger capacity to observe distancing.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Martin B. Delgra III, meanwhile, said during the hearing that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has also approved the release of P3.38 billion worth of unpaid Bayanihan II funds for drivers hired under the service contracting program.
He said they are aiming to complete the payments within the next two to three days. — Russell Louis C. Ku