MANILA, Philippines — An estimated P17 billion in idle funds of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) should be realigned to support public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers whose source of income was affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, Senator Grace Poe said.
“By our estimate, there is about P17 billion worth of programs and projects in the 2020 DOTr budget that cannot be implemented due to the pandemic on top of those not yet sunk in the ground from 2019,” Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, said in a statement on Friday.
“We might as well realign these funds for the benefit of our transport drivers whose earnings are severely affected due to the enhanced quarantine,” she added.
With the rise of coronavirus disease 209 (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines, the government has placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the virus.
To date, the number of COVID-19 cases soared to over 700 with the death toll climbing to 45.
Under the month-long containment, most office work and mass public transportation in Luzon have been suspended.
Several provinces have since implemented similar policies to stem the spread of the virus in their jurisdiction, Poe said.
There are about 130,000 jeepney drivers and some 65,000 transport network vehicle service drivers nationwide, she noted.
Poe said there are at least 13,000 public utility bus drivers and roughly 47,000 motorcycle taxi drivers in Metro Manila alone.
She pointed out that under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was signed into law earlier this week, the President is authorized to discontinue programs, projects and activities, and utilize the savings generated to augment items vital in the fight against COVID-19, including amelioration for affected communities.
“Ang pondo na pangtayo dapat ng proyekto ay ipamigay na o ipambili na lang ng pagkain ng mga drayber ng mga pampublikong sasakyan,” Poe said.
(The funds that were initially for the construction of projects should just be given to public utility drivers or be used to buy food for them).
“Surely, no one will contest that the right to food of a PUV (public utility vehicle) driver is more important than some obscure project,” she added.
The senator also said that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law earmarks 30 percent of its incremental revenues for mitigation measures, including fuel vouchers for franchise holders of public utility jeepneys.
“The budget has ceased to be set in stone. The amount for the fuel vouchers should be repurposed as cash or food assistance in this time of emergency,” she said.
“Dapat gamitin ito bilang pantawid sa walang pasada,” Poe added.
(This should be used to support drivers who currently have no source of income).
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