MANILA -- The Government Service Contracting Program or "libreng sakay" program has been defunded in the 2022 national budget.
This was revealed during the budget briefing of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) at the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday morning.
DOTr Undersecretary Giovanni Lopez was the first to confirm this when he was asked by House Committee on Transportation Chair and Samar First District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento.
"Dito po ba sa original na budget na sinubmit niyo sa Department of Budget and Management may naisama po ba tayong service contracting?" Sarmiento asked.
Lopez replied, "If I may answer that, may nasama pong service contracting sa sinumite nating proposal sa (Department of Budget and Management) kung di po ako nagkakamali diyan Sir. We requested for P10 billion."
Sarmiento said, "Pero hindi po binigay ng Department of Budget and Management tama po ba?"
Lopez replied, "Unfortunately, yes your honor, hindi po naisama sa (National Expenditure Program)."
Sarmiento said that the P3 billion for the Service Contracting Program under the Bayanihan 2 that was unutilized has been diverted to the 2021 budget, but he pointed out that this won't last long.
"Kasi itong 2021 na P3 billion, maybe the most we can use this money is six months, pagkatapos wala na po. And this pandemic based on study, will be another flu in the making, five years po ito."
"I would strongly manifest that we again assess the budget and provide a service contracting amount of no less than P3 billion for the 2022 budget," Sarmiento said.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Mark Steven Pastor said the Service Contracting Program is a big help for drivers across the country.
"We would like to reemphasize po the need for the funding po ng service contracting para mapagaan po natin ang buhay ng ating mga drivers at mabigyan po natin sila ng ayuda na naayos sa gusto nilang kita sa pang araw-araw po.”
He added, "Kinakailangan po namin ng pondo para sa service contracting dahil dito po namin kinukuha ang funds para gamitin sa libreng sakay. Dito lang po sa ating libreng sakay, pwede ko lang explain, 'di lang ho ang ating mga driver operators ang nakikinabang dito."
"Lalong-lalo na ho [ang] mangagawa, mananakay dahil malaki natitipid nila sa kanilang pamsahe at maidagdag pa ho ito sa pang araw araw na gatsusin nila. Kaya ho we are requesting this honrable committee if the road sector can be afforded po additional funding particularly sa service contracting," he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite wondered why the program, subsumed under the Road Sector Budget, was defunded despite the overall increase in the DOTr’s budget.
Transportation Secretary Art Tugade also appealed to lawmakers to help fund the Service Contracting Program.