By Alexandria San Juan
As the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has been extended anew, transport groups lamented the seemingly slow distribution of cash assistance for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and claimed that at least 80 percent have yet to receive the aid.
In an interview Wednesday, Liga ng Transportasyon at mga Operator sa Pilipinas (LTOP) president Lando Marquez said that members of his organization, as well as other transport groups, have reported that only 20 percent of their drivers have received the financial aid through the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for PUV drivers.
“As per report ng ating mga leaders sa iba’t ibang mga groups, yung SAP na inaasahan nila na maibibigay, ay wala pang 20 percent ang sinasabing nakatanggap (As per report of our leaders from different transport groups, only less than 20 percent of their drivers have received the SAP),” Marquez said.
“Kami naman ay sumusunod sa gobyerno kaya sana ay maiabot na ang ayuda at matugunan na ang paghihirap ng ating mga tsuper dahil talagang sila ay gutom na gutom na (We are following the rules set by the government during the quarantine, so we are hoping that they will immediately release the aid to help ease the plight of the drivers who are already starving),” he added.
According to Marquez, in their group alone, only 10 percent of the 30,000 members have received financial assistance from the government.
While majority of the jeepney drivers wait for the cash assistance, Marquez bared that several local government units have stepped up and extended help to them through distributing relief packages.
Since the entire Luzon was placed under ECQ last month, the transport sector has been among the hardest-hit by the lockdown as all forms of public transportation were suspended, cutting the main source of income of thousands of PUV drivers and their families.
Under the program, drivers of PUVs, including jeepneys, buses, UV Express, transport network vehicle service, as well as motorcycle taxis, will each receive emergency support ranging between P5,000 for those outside Metro Manila and P8,000 for those in NCR.
Meanwhile, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) president Emeritus George San Mateo lambasted the government for its slow distribution of the assistance, noting that the number of drivers who received the assistance is still “at a very small percentage.”
“Bawat araw ay mahalaga. Bawat araw po ay sumasala sa gutom ang bawat PUV drivers at kanilang pamilya. Hindi makapamasada dahil sa lockdown pero ang ayuda ng gobyerno nakatengga sa halos 44 araw nang lockdown na extended pa hanggang Mayo 15 at hindi pa tiyak kung magtatapos nga ito sa Mayo 15 (Each day is important. Each day, PUV drivers and their families are getting hungry. They cannot go out and earn a living because of the lockdown. The assistance from the government has been idle for almost 44 days now while the lockdown has been extended until May 15, and it is still uncertain if it will be lifted on that date),” San Mateo said.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) recently announced that over 400,000 PUV drivers are set to receive the aid, however, as of April 25, only 21,103 drivers have been serviced so far, equivalent to P168,824,000.
Earlier, the LTFRB said that it has submitted a total of 392,662 names of PUV drivers to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for counter-checking and validation. Once validated, qualified drivers will be included in DSWD’s payroll which will be provided to Landbank for release of assistance.