Less than 1% of funds allocated for displaced PUV workers used in Bayanihan 2: Pangilinan

AS the Senate resumes its sessions Monday, Senator Francis Pangilinan wants to extend the validity of funds under the Bayanihan 2 Law from June 2021 to December 31, 2021 following reports of low utilization of money appropriated to assist transport sector workers displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“May perang nilaan ang Kongreso para sa ating mga jeepney drivers tapos nakikita natin silang namamalimos sa kalye. Mali yan. Gamitin na ang pondong nilaan para sa kanila,” said Pangilinan, who introduced the budget for the Service Contracting Program in Bayanihan 2.

A progress report by the Department of Transportation reveals that only 40 million pesos has been utilized out of the 5.58 billion pesos, or less than one percent of the total budget set aside for the Service Contracting Program, which aims to provide income to public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers who lost livelihood due to the lockdown.

Republic Act 11519, which extended the availability of appropriations under Bayanihan 2, provides that the budget for programs, projects, and activities, including Service Contracting, shall be available for release, obligation, and disbursement until 30 June 2021 or in less than two months.

The Service Contracting Program was designed to hire PUV operators and drivers who lost their routes after transportation was limited due to the lockdown.

Under LTFRB Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-079, drivers of modern jeepneys should be paid 800 pesos a day, while bus drivers should get 1,200 pesos, if the threshold for kilometers traveled were met. If not, the kilometer rate — which was amended in April — is at 45.50 pesos for bus drivers and 27 pesos for modern and traditional jeepney drivers.

For inter-regional routes nationwide, the LTFRB simplified the payment scheme based on kilometers traveled. In LTFRB MC 2021-029, the payout for bus drivers is at 82.50 pesos per kilometer, while the payout for jeepney drivers is at 52.50 pesos per kilometer.

Pangilinan said PUV drivers are now bearing the brunt of the inefficiencies of government agencies tasked to implement the program.

“Para sa kanila ang pera, kailangang makaabot sa kanila nang may makain at pang-tustos ang pamilya,” he said.

Pangilinan said the proposed extension of the funds validity until December 31, 2021 will give the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to systematize and speed up the processes of rolling out the program.

Earlier, transport coalition Move As One raised its concern to Pangilinan and proposed several measures to make the implementation of the program faster.

In its letter to Pangilinan, Move As One coalition proposed that the backlogs and discrepancies in the payouts must be fixed. It also said that the coverage of the program should be expanded to areas without regular routes of jeepneys or buses to cover more beneficiaries and service more commuters.