Lawmaker wants more pandemic-affected drivers covered by government aid

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2021 06:41 PM

MANILA - More drivers should be covered by the government's "Pantawid Pasada Program" which will get a P5-billion funding next year, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Monday.

Pangilinan made the appeal as Sen. Grace Poe sponsored the proposed P120,600,196 budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for 2022. A portion of this is planned to be spent in aiding the pandemic-affected public transport sector.

Pangilinan said that aside from PUV drivers, particularly those driving jeepneys and buses, government aid should also cover tricycle, taxi and ride- and delivery-hailing service drivers as they are also reeling from the effects of the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poe, vice chairperson of the Senate finance committee which defended the DOTr budget, agreed with Pangilinan’s proposal, provided that additional funds will be allotted for the project's expansion.

“That would be quite a welcome for the department, so we can help distress drivers. The aim of this P5 billion is for 365,000 units. That’s of public utility vehicles, to be subsidized at P30,500 per unit. But if we can expand the program so that the other types of PUVs can be covered, that would certainly be welcome if we can find a funding for that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Poe noted that the DOTr and the Department of Energy are also working on expanding the number of petroleum companies giving discounts to PUV drivers.

Jetti, Unioil, SeaOil, Pheonix and Shell are currently giving discounts to drivers of public vehicles. 

The DOTR’s 2022 budget also includes a P10 billion budget for “service contracting drivers” or those servicing the “libreng sakay” program, Poe said.

Pangilinan said the agency needs to tap independent drivers--aside from bus drivers belonging to companies--for this program.

“Para matiyak na yung suporta hindi lang napupunta dun sa malalaki, para rin sa maliliit,” Pangilinan noted.

“The reason why perhaps, buses are prioritized, (is) because of the sheer (number) of individuals that can ride these buses. Of course, when you’re dealing with individual jeepney drivers, I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult to reach out to many of them,” Poe said.

But she assured the committee that she will exercise the oversight functions of the public services committee, which she chairs, to remind the DOTr to also actively include individual PUJ drivers for the said program.

The DOTr’s proposed 2022 budget – which is lower by P1.5 billion in the approved version of the House of Representatives -- is divided into the following agencies operating under it:

  • Office of the Secretary, P92.7B
  • Civil Aeronautics Board, P216.2M
  • Maritime Industry Authority, P909.2M
  • Office of Transportation Cooperatives, P33.1M
  • Office of Transportation Security, P312.8M
  • Philippine Coast Guard, P21.1B
  • Toll Regulatory Board, P34M
  • Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, P2.4B
  • Light Rail Transit Authority, P1B
  • Philippine National Railways, P1.2B

The budget also covers funding for priority infrastructure projects such as six rail projects, 18 airports, 46 ports and eight road projects.

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