Transport coalition hits slashed public transport budget under Bayanihan 2

Transport coalition hits slashed public transport budget under Bayanihan 2
Commuters at Monumento Caloocan make their way to a free ride vehicle provided by city of Valenzuela during the implementation of modified Enhanced Community Quarantine on August 4, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Slashing the public transportation budget to a measly P10 billion to finance the programs of the Department of Transportation to assist affected businesses in the transportation sector is an abandonment of the pleas of healthcare frontliners and transport workers alike, a transport coalition said on Tuesday. 

With a vote of 242-6, the House of Representatives on Monday afternoon passed the Bayanihan 2 bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping special powers once more on its third and final reading. During its first reading, though, the transportation budget listed in the bill was P21 billion. 

The move was slammed by the Move as One transport coalition, which said that the original P21 billion was already "a position of compromise" in comparison to its earlier proposal of a P40 billion budget for service contracts, active transport infrastructure, and road infrastructure.

"This budget cut is an affront to our transport workers who are forced to beg in the streets because they do not have service contracts and have been unable to ply their routes for five months. This budget cut is an affront to the daily sacrifice of grocery workers, security guards, and essential workers who needlessly risk their lives in our dangerous car-centric streets that do not have protected cycling and walking lanes. This budget cut ignores the plight of our brothers and sisters stranded in stadiums and terminals, unable to come home," the coalition said. 

"Our budget analysts say the government can afford more than the P162 billion proposed stimulus in the House Bill to respond to this pandemic; we see no reason why the public transport budget should suffer this cut...the P21 billion transport budget passed on first reading would have funded critical areas in public transportation in our coalition proposals," it added. 

The coalition has long been calling for the national government to "rescue and reform the public transport industry" with a proposed P110-billion stimulus fund, which includes a service contracting scheme for public utility vehicles and their operators, where operators are paid to ply their routes and service commuters regardless of how many passengers get on.

Even the House panel on Metro Manila development has acknowledged the pronounced lack of public utility vehicles for commuters who still need to go to work amid the modified enhanced community quarantine, calling on the transportation department to allow for the deployment of more PUVs.

READ: Fuel subsidies, new bus system among DOTr plans for 'new normal' transportation

The modified enhanced community quarantine is only slated to run until August 18, and only public shuttles for frontliners, company shuttles, and active transport will be allowed to function for that time. The transportation department has called on the private sector to hire PUVs as shuttle services in the absence of mass transportation. 

In its statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the Move as One coalition reiterated its previous calls and asked the government to:

  1. Grant at least P21 billion to the transportation department during the bicam hearings of Bayanihan 2
  2. Pass and implement service contracting
  3. Resume public transportation immediately
  4. Amend the IATF Guidelines to allow public transportation for ECQ and MECQ
  5. Urgently implement the attached evidence-based minimum public health standards for public transportation

The Bayanihan 2 bill now shifts to the bicameral conference committee for consolidation with the Senate version of the bill. 

For the time being, transport group Piston said that most of the jeepney drivers and operators still left without work for the fifth month in a row have resorted to begging in the streets after they were not given any aid under the government's social amelioration program. 

"Slashing this budget by more than half means this budget is gutted; essential public transport services will continue to be seriously insufficient and paralyzed in some cities; the pandemic will worsen; our people will suffer even more. The pandemic has worsened our already massive public transportation crisis. We should invest in our public transport system. We should invest in our people. We should resume public transport under minimum public health standards," the coalition said. 

"Our people, especially our frontliners and essential workers, have the right to get to work and come home safely. Our people deserve better." — Franco Luna





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