Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Congress to investigate the reported low utilization of funds of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) under its Service Contracting Program which led to delayed benefits for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 862 directing the appropriate Senate committee to look into the recently released Commission on Audit (COA) report flagging the LTFRB for using only 1 percent of the P5.58 billion funds allocated to the benefit program for drivers amid the pandemic.
“PUV drivers are among the sectors most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On and off restrictions to travel and transportation imposed by the national government to control the spread of the virus have likewise prevented PUV drivers from earning a steady source of income,” she said.
“Failure to implement a social assistance program addressed to a particularly vulnerable sector of the society amounts to gross neglect on the part of the government and the implementing agency to the prejudice of the program beneficiaries,” she added.
Under the Service Contracting Program, which aims to subsidize PUV drivers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the drivers would be allowed to enter into transport service contracts with the government to help in easing the impact of the pandemic. The government, in turn, would be providing the payouts for public transportation services to the drivers who will receive a subsidy based on their performance.
Last May 5, transport groups urged the LTFRB to improve the implementation of the Service Contracting Program, lamenting the delayed and inadequate payment problems which worsen the already difficult state of PUV drivers. The delays happened despite the extension of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to June 30 of this year.
Roughly three months after complaints from transport groups, or on Aug. 12, the COA flagged the LTFRB for using only one percent of the ₱5.58 billion funds allocated to the program for drivers amid the COVID-19 pandemic – an amount equivalent to roughly ₱59 million pesos.
According to the COA report, delays in the implementation of the Service Contracting Program ranging from two to 10 weeks as of 31 December 2020 resulted in minimal fund utilization and led to the delayed benefits to the public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who are beneficiaries in the program.
De Lima said the timely delivery of the government’s assistance and livelihood programs for the vulnerable sectors becomes all the more essential with the emergence of even deadlier COVID-19 variants coupled with the slow rollout of the government’s vaccination program threatening to lead to further restrictions on transport and mobility.
“The LTFRB failed to fully deliver the Service Contracting Program within its original timeframe. Even with the extension of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, they still flopped in fully utilizing their allocated budget for the program. These delays raise serious concerns on the capacity of the LTFRB to implement the program in the first place,” she said.
“Sa mahigit isang taon ng pandemya, kahit ano pang propaganda ang sabihin ng gobyerno, malinaw na kulang na kulang ang nakararating na ayuda. Huwag namang hayaang lalong malubog sa utang at lalong maghikahos sa gutom ang matagal nang mga nangangailangan,” she added. (30)