By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe urged the government to act with dispatch in
releasing payments to certain transport operators hired under its
service contracting program amid the pandemic.
“The service has been rendered. The funds are available. The operators
and drivers must be paid what’s due them,” she said.
“Hirap na ang ating mga kababayan sa transport sector dahil sa
pandemya, taas ng presyo ng langis at mahal na bilihin. Hindi na dapat
dagdagan ang kalbaryo nila sa pagpapahintay sa bayad na dapat matagal
na nilang nakuha,” Poe added.
The senator said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory
Board (LTFRB), which implements the program, should keenly coordinate
with the Land Bank of the Philippines to ensure proper crediting of
the money to the payee drivers or operators without further delay.
“We expect our disbursing agencies to act faster and see the urgency
of settling their payables to the drivers and operators, who depend on
this income for their livelihood. Bawat oras na lumilipas ay matagal
na paghihintay sa gitna ng kanilang kakapusan,” Poe said.
As more economic activities emerge with the easing of restrictions,
Poe said more public buses, jeepneys, and other public transportation
will be needed to bring people from one place to another.
“Ito ang talagang Catch 22—iyong mga pasahero, walang masyadong
masakyan dahil punuan din iyong mga sasakyan na available ngayon. Pero
iyong mga driver, wala namang insentibong pumasada dahil napakamahal
ng gasolina,” Poe said.
Poe said the service contracting program should be able to augment the
road-based public transport, especially as the demand increases with
the reopening of more businesses and the looming face-to-face classes
in some schools.
Delays in payment, underspending and other issues hounding its
implementation should be addressed for more operators and drivers to
trust and participate in the initiative.
Poe said several transport groups have aired their complaints about
the unpaid services they have rendered under the program.
Some organizations of bus drivers informed that payables to their
members have reached P18 million at the minimum.
Poe said the government must give a definite response to the operators
on when they can get the payment.
The service contracting program was allocated a P5.58-billion fund
under the Bayanihan 2 law, which expired on June 30 this year. To
continue the program, it was earmarked another P3 billion under the
2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In a statement on Oct. 25, the LTFRB said it has “distributed
P2,289,506,007 from Sept. 13 to Oct. 23 from Bayanihan 2, while
P539,672,859 from Sept. 13 to Oct. 23” under the GAA.
“We must put the pedal to the metal in using the remaining billions under
the program. There’s no room for sloth as our drivers struggle to find
income and commuters jostle each other for the limited ride,” Poe