Service contracting to use 2021 budget with Bayanihan funds expiring — LTFRB

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Service contracting to use 2021 budget with Bayanihan funds expiring � LTFRB
Photo release shows operatives of the PNP-Highway Patrol Group and the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic implementing random checks of coronavirus protocols in public transportation.
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MANILA, Philippines — With the Bayanihan 2 law expiring on Wednesday, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board hopes to use the funds in the 2021 national budget instead to keep its service contracting program going. 

Speaking to media at a press briefing Tuesday, Joel Bolano, head of LTFRB Central Office Technical Division, said that for the time being, the service contracting program's free rides given by the transportation department will have to come to a close. 

The Department of Transportation had a P5.58 billion budget in the Bayanihan 2 bill, which expired on Wednesday, June 30. 

Under the General Appropriations Act, a total of P3 billion is earmarked for the program — a significantly lower amount compared to its earlier Bayanihan budget, and one the LTFRB said it has already requested. 

LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III said that the Department of Budget and Management is still processing the request for the new funds. 

Analyst Loremee Perada of the DBM confirmed at an earlier House hearing that the budget department had already received the request on June 17. The DBM may still reject the request, however. 

"As to how soon [the program can continue], I wouldn't want to venture a guess, but definitely we're doing everything to start again," Delgra said, asserting that they needed the funds before anything else. 

He added that besides the new funding source, "basically nothing is going to change" in the service contracting program. 

Payout to continue

Delgra said that the processing of the much-delayed payouts for drivers will continue even after the Bayanihan 2 funds lapse. 

"We will honor that, but these will have to undergo a verification process," he said. 

Bolano added that service contracts will have to be online to allow the department to check the number of kilometers each driver had run. 

In the service contracting program, public utility jeepneys and buses will be paid a subsidy for every kilometer they run on required 18-hour operations daily, among other performance standards specified under these contracts.

Drivers joining the program for the first time were also supposed to receive one-time incentives ranging from P20,000 to P25,000. 

The soon-to-be defunct program was supposed to "protect the families of millions of transport workers who are now at the brink of starvation," according to transport groups, but due to the delayed payouts, the effect was largely unfelt on the ground. 

Delgra said the LTFRB was still unsure how much of the P5 billion would remain. 

"Since we're still doing the payout, that might increase. We will know the numbers by the weekend," he said. 

Unused funds

Ahead of the expiration of the funds, transportation officials admitted before a House panel that less than 15% of the funds allocated for the service contracts of public utility vehicles had been used by the Duterte administration. 

This, despite the money being disbursed to the department as far back as October 28 of last year. It had been months after the program formally began when the House committee on transportation discovered this in a hearing earlier in June. 

Bolano on Tuesday also admitted that only 42,571 drivers had executed complete contracts before June 30. This also ultimately fell short of the board's target of 60,000 drivers served. 

He added that "over 70,000" have actually been oriented on the program but did not yet have activated contracts. 

Attempts to extend the effectivity of the stimulus bill were pursued in both chambers of Congress but so far not come to fruition, pending the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to pursue a special session.

"We participated in the discussions and supported the move to extend it," LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III said.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 5, 2021 - 11:25am

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill that grants him special powers to address the novel coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines. Bookmark this page for updates. 

September 5, 2021 - 11:25am

Strategies proposed by the inter-agency taskforce against the COVID-19 pandemic need the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says.

He made the statement after news of a shift to "granular" lockdowns that will be first implemented in the National Capital Region starting September 8.

June 30, 2021 - 3:48pm

The government should extend 'Bayanihan 2', the legislation intended to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Akbayan says as it joins the call of labor groups SENTRO and NAGKAISA for an extension.

"Millions of Filipinos are still without work thanks to the pandemic. Add the fact that the country is under recession for the first time since the Marcos years, and it becomes imperative that the State step in and continue to provide aid," the party-list says.

"We echo the view that terminating Bayanihan 2 now will push more Filipino families towards hunger and desperation. The government must realize that without a sustained comprehensive economic aid plan, people will be forced to leave their houses to get food, medicine and supplies, which increases the risk of getting COVID. And with hotspots multiplying outside the NCR, extending Bayanihan 2 is not only logical, but necessary," it also says.

June 23, 2021 - 9:45am

The government should increase efforts to inform people about the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 instead of threatening to jail those who refuse or telling them to leave the country, Akbayan says.

"Mr. Rodrigo Duterte cannot jail his way out of this pandemic. Neither can he expel COVID-19 by throwing out of the country Filipinos who are hesitant of the vaccines. It is both sad and ironic that in the middle of a catastrophe, the President is so quick to threaten to expel his own people, yet chooses to remain silent on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea," Dr. RJ Naguit, Akbayan spokesperson, says in a release.

"The global health crisis is not simply a law and order problem. The virus cannot be contained by penal servitude. This is exactly the simplistic and violent approach that continues to divide this country, the idea that there are only two kinds of people, those who obey, and those who don't. There is far more to this crisis than that," he says.

The government has often used the "pasaway" narrative, saying people are stubborn and do not follow guidelines, to explain surges in COVID-19 cases and other issues related to the pandemic. This, despite top government officials being among those often seen flouting the same safety guidelines.

June 21, 2021 - 12:31pm

Face shields are no longer required when leaving home, the Palace says.

People will still need to wear face shields in public transportation, markets and indoor establishments.

This change in policy comes after President Rodrigo Duterte told senators that the face shields should only be worn in hospital settings.

Prior to the president's remarks, agencies, inlcuding the Palace had insisted on the use of face shields, claiming wearing them over face masks is almost as good as being vaccinated against COVID-19.

May 27, 2021 - 8:40pm

A total of 1,415 golf workers in Metro Manila have received cash aid from the DOT and DOLE as part of the Bayanihan 2 act.

The golf caddies, golf workers and employees in five major golf clubs in the capital region received almost P7.075 million.

“For the beneficiaries of the cash assistance program with us today, I hope that this amount can help you and your families in this difficult time," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says.

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