Lawmakers flag slow budget utilization for some DOTr projects

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2022 10:32 PM

DOTR office in Clark, Pampanga. ABS-CBN News/File
DOTR office in Clark, Pampanga. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Only around 2 percent of tricycle drivers have so far received fuel subsidies under the Department of Transportation’s Pantawid Pasada Program this year, according to a lawmaker on Tuesday.

1-RIDER Party List Rep. Ramon Gutierrez called on the DOTr to speed up and ensure equitable distribution of the subsidy.

DOTr’s budget sponsor at the House of Representatives, Valenzuela City 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez, explained that there were issues encountered in validating the list of tricycle driver beneficiaries.

But he assured his fellow lawmakers that the DOTr has issued a circular to prevent delays in the distribution of fuel subsidies.

“It is just very bewildering to see that the component for tricycle drivers, we’re only at 2 percent. Moving forward, how will we be refining this process?” Gutierrez asked during the House plenary debates on the proposed 2023 budget for the DOTr.

“The issues of the past have been noted by the DOTr. With this circular, we will be able to hasten and cure those possible issues that might arise again. We join you in the vigilance of doing such distribution, given that 2 percent figure for our tricycles. DILG and DOTr will remain implementing partners, but on a scale that would not hinder the speed with which we can deliver this ayudas for our tricycle drivers,” Martinez replied.

Of the P2.5-billion budget allocated for fuel subsidies this year, the DOTr utilized P1.8 billion as of Aug. 26. It benefited nearly 294,000 public utility vehicle drivers, including 147,000 jeepney drivers, 45,000 taxi drivers, 20,000 UV Express drivers, and more than 900 bus drivers.

“Ninety-seven percent of jeeps, buses and UV express have been distributed. Next phase would be tricycles,” Martinez said.

“Napakalaking kasalanan na may perang nakalaan sa ayuda pero hindi ito maibigay sa oras,” AGRI Party List Rep. Wilbert Lee noted.

“They have made a commitment, full steam ahead so as to finish all these approriations for this program as we usher in a new set of budget,” Martinez said.

JEEPNEY MODERNIZATION SUBSIDY

COOP NATCCO Party List Rep. Felimon Espares, meanwhile, questioned why the 2022 budget for the PUV modernization program equity subsidy amounting to over P1 billion remains unutilized.

Nueva Ecija 2nd Dist. Rep. Joseph Gilbert Violago, who is also sponsoring DOTR’s proposed budget, explained that the funds were transferred to private banks. But he assured his colleagues that the budget will be utilized before the year ends.

“Parang walang utilization ‘pag ganyan. Kasi ‘yung budget niya is P1.05 billion, and this time intact pa rin ‘yung P1 billion? Patapos na ang taong ito,” Espares said.

“Nilipat kasi ang pondo sa private banks. Dati, nasa government institutions lang ‘yung pondo… Gumagawa na po ng IRR ang mga bangko kung saan nandito ang mga pondong ito para ma-implement na rin ang program na ito,” Violago said.

RAILWAY PROJECTS

Gabriela Party List Rep. Arlene Brosas also flagged the low disbursement rates for some DOTR railway projects in 2021.

She cited the LRT Line 1 Cavite extension project, with obligation and disbursement rates of 41 percent and 40 percent respectively. For 2023, around P2.7 billion is allocated for the project.

“May low disbursement rates, pero bibigyan natin ng mas malaking alokasyon,” Brosas said.

“Noong 2021, may factors kung bakit nagkaroon tayo ng delay sa disbursement, at sa obligation. Una, ‘yung problema sa right of way, at pangalawa, delay sa pag-award ng projects. Pero this year, since medyo naayos na ang mga problema sa dalawang ‘yun, bumilis ang ating obligation at disbursement rate,” Violago replied.

Violago admitted that right-of-way issues for some railway projects continue, but he said the DOTr is working to resolve it.

Brosas also urged the agency to consider funding the rehabilitation of LRT2. Violago said the DOTr is already studying it.

The House of Representatives terminated on Tuesday the plenary debates on the proposed 2023 budget for the DOTr.

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