P5.58 billion funds for displaced drivers due to COVID-19 pandemic yet to be spent

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 17 2020 08:59 PM

Jeepney drivers beg for spare change as they call on the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in their main office in Quezon City, on August 20, 2020, to let them and other drivers from routes in Metro Manila to resume operations. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The P5.58 billion funding intended to provide temporary livelihood for displaced drivers through service contract agreements under Bayanihan 2 is yet to be released, Sen. Grace Poe said Tuesday. 

Poe, who was tasked to defend the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) budget in the Senate plenary, said the funds for the service contracting program are yet to be disbursed as of Nov. 11.

The senator noted, however, that the department is supposed to transfer the funds to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on the same day. 

The program will benefit some 60,000 displaced public utility drivers, she said.

“According to LTFRB’s monthly disbursement plan, they intend to disburse P2.897 billion by the end of November, and P2.263 billion by December 2020," she said. 

"Since I am not beside DOTr resource persons, we will try to get an update before we end this interpellation and we’ll just forward to your office an update,” she added.

Under the scheme, bus and jeepney drivers are paid by the government as public transit operates at a reduced capacity because of physical distancing measures. 

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Sen. Francis Pangilinan said it would greatly help jeepney and bus drivers severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic if the funds are released as early as late November.

“Kung ito ay matutuloy ng November at December, kahit papaano, mayroon silang kikitain. Bilyon din ang halaga niyan at sila ang mga jeepney driver, bus driver natin, malaking pakinabang po sa kanila,” Pangilinan said. 

(If the funds will be given to the drivers in November and December, at least they will have some money. It's worth billions so it will greatly benefit our jeepney and bus drivers.) 

A total of P3 billion has been set aside for jeepney drivers in the program, while P2.58 billion were allotted for other PUV drivers.

A recent study by Ibon Foundation showed that thousands of jeepney drivers in Metro Manila have lost P78,000 each since Luzon was locked down in March.

Each jeepney driver in the capital region used to work 6 days a week and earned at least P1,000 daily on a 12-hour shift, Ibon said.