MANILA — Around P4.6 billion meant for the transport sector whose services the government sought during the pandemic has yet to be released by the Philippines' transport agencies, with a lawmaker sounding the alarm as the appropriations law for it nears expiry.
House Ways and Means panel chair Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda on Tuesday asked the Department of Transportation and Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to speed up the release of funds intended to pay bus, jeepney, and other transport operators contracted by the government.
The P5.58 billion funding was intended to provide temporary livelihood for displaced drivers through service contract agreements under Bayanihan 2.
Salceda noted that of the allocation, only P1 billion was distributed. This was confirmed by LTFRB in a June 17 briefing, he added.
"The service has already been obligated. Filipino workers are clearly in need of more public transport options... The P5.5 billion is already a government payable. The least we can do is actually pay them," Salceda said in a press release.
Bayanihan 2, the government's second pandemic relief measure meant to act as the country's defense against health and economic problems stemming from COVID-19, was signed into law in September 2020.
With a week left before its expiry on June 30, Salceda warned that payment for the transport contractors could have "looming complication."
"We have to reauthorize the appropriations under the package, or else, we won’t be authorized by any law to pay the service contractors. That’s a complication, and a humiliating one. Parang nag-1-2-3 sa jeep ang gobyerno kung mag-expire ang Bayanihan 2 pero hindi natin babayaran ang service contractors."
The solon likewise highlighted the plight of transport sector workers during the pandemic, with many of them were left with no choice but to beg on the streets as lockdowns paralyze the economy.
"May pamilya rin po ang mga nasa transport sector, na pinakanahirapan ngayon pandemic. Paano po sila kakain kung hindi natin binabayaran ang serbisyong ibinigay na nila?" Salceda asked.
Before the passage of Bayanihan 2, LTFRB chief Martin Delgra told ANC he understood that public transpo drivers "have difficulty in terms of earning considering the pressure on social distancing."