MANILA, Philippines — The government must heed the call for help of the transport sector, especially the 800,000 operators, drivers and transport workers who claim they did not receive any of the allotted funds meant to support them, a former lawmaker said yesterday.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. urged the government to address the plight of transport workers who are still reeling from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic on their livelihood.
“Let’s give sufficient help to our fellowmen working in the transport sector,” Marcos said in Filipino, citing the need of displaced drivers of jeepneys, taxis and pedicabs to provide for their families.
He cited a recent statement from the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) that their members were surprised to learn that P5 billion was earmarked by the government for transport workers.
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 Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (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 that the service contracting program should continue to supplant the reduced income of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers.
“Some drivers reported only earning P250 after a hard day’s work,” he said. “This program has good intentions and should be continued by the government.”
Marcos also appealed to the IATF to increase the seating capacity of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) to allow drivers and operators to recoup their losses since passenger numbers are still weak even as the economy slowly reopens and businesses gradually resume operation.
At the same time, he 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.