THE national government must provide more assistance to transport workers who are still reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their livelihood, having been the first hit by strict mobility restrictions.
The call comes from former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as he noted the disappointment aired by some transport groups who claim that none of the 800,000 operators, drivers, and transport workers received the allotted funds meant to support them.
“Let’s give enough attention and assistance to our countrymen in the transport sector. They are the drivers of jeepneys, taxis and pedicabs who daily must ply their routes to support their families,” Marcos said, speaking partly in Filipino.
A spokesperson from the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) said recently that they were surprised to hear that P5 billion was earmarked for transport workers, because the latter received only a pittance.
Piston lamented that it should have been distributed to the workers in all modes of transportation, including buses, taxis, tricycles, and UV Express vans, who were among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
According to a 2020 Commission on Audit (COA) report, only P59 million of the P5.58-billion fund allocated to the LTFRB was used for the service contracting program to subsidize operators and drivers to ply their routes to serve those allowed to report for work.
Marcos said the service contracting program should continue to supplant the reduced income of PUV drivers. Some drivers reported only earning P250 after a hard day’s work.
“This program has a good intention, and it’s only right that the government pursue this because there are drivers who say their daily income plunged to just P250 when they ply their routes,” Marcos added.
Marcos also appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to increase the seating capacity of PUJs. This would allow drivers and operators to recoup their losses since passenger numbers are still weak even as the economy slowly reopens and businesses gradually resumes operation.
“We hope the IATF considers increasing the capacity of PUVs. Per information we received, they need to load at least 10 passengers per trip in order to cover just the fuel and other basic costs. But right now, only six to eight passengers are allowed because of the restrictions,” Marcos pointed out, by way of explaining why the transport workers are operating in deficit and continue to be mired in poverty.
Marcos also urged the government to ease restrictions among transport workers as they will play an essential role as the country’s economic reopening picks up steam.
“Let us ease the restrictions on our transport workers because with the steady reopening of the economy, we will increasingly need their services,” Marcos added.