By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe said she will scrutinize the proposed budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for 2019 as she raised issues on the implementation of its public utililty vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services said this on Monday, after attending a unity summit of transport groups opposing the phase-out of jeepneys under the government’s modernization plan.
While clarifying that she is not against the program, Poe maintained that the DOTr should be “just and humane” in implementing the phase-out. She said about 600,000 operators and drivers will be affected by it.
Poe, particularly, said she will ask the department in their budget hearing to consider increasing the subsidy for affected operators and drivers for their purchase of new jeepney units.
The government, earlier, said it will provide an P80,000 subsidy to operators, to cover part of payment of the over P1-million loan package, which is payable for seven years at a six-percent interest rate.
The P80,000, however, “may not be enough,” Poe said.
“Papaano naman sila makakabili ng jeep na P1.2 million hanggang P1.8 million at ang bibigay mo lang P80,000 na downpayment? So anong pwede nating gawin dito (How will they afford new jeeps worth P1.2 M to P1.8 M when you would only give them P80,000 for downpayment? What do we plan to do about this)?” she explained during in an interview after the summit held in Manila.
“Kung ang downpayment pwedeng taasan ng kaunti, kung kakayanin ng gobyerno, bakit hindi?” she added.
Poe said she might push for an additional budget for the DOTr about this, although she stressed that the agency has to justify first their expenses in their proposed 2019 budget.
Aside from the modernization subsidy, Poe took note of the complaints of the hundreds of participants in the transport unity summit, who said they have yet to receive fuel vouchers from the government to aid in the impact of the increased fuel taxes under the TRAIN Law.
Poe criticized “several” officials of the DOTr for supposedly turning a deaf ear on the concerns of stakeholders, including the Senate, against the hasty implementation of its programs and orders.
“So ‘yon yong mga bagay na dapat sagutin nila sa amin at kung hindi nila magagawa yon ay talagang magkakaproblema sila pagdating kanilang budget,” Poe warned.
“Syempre ayaw naman nating gawin yan, na basta ipitin [ang budget] dahil maraming apektado, pero kailangan muna nila na patunayan ang kanilang sarili na sa tamang paraan gingasta ang pera na pinapamahagi ng taongbayan, dapat makarating sa mga drivers,” she noted.
The DOTR, under the P3.757-trillion proposed General Appropriations Act for 2019, had an allocation of P76.1 billion, P35.9 billion or 89 percent more than its 2018 budget of P40.2 billion.
Likewise, P447 million of the proposed 2019 budget would reportedly fund the PUV modernization program.