DOTr Urged To Explain Billions Of Unspent Bayanihan Funds For Drivers

Driver Arthur Vinluan, 62, sits on a jeepney beside a sign that reads: “Sorry, we’re not yet in operation.” | IMG SOURCE: Aaron Favila/AP Photo via Al Jazeera

MANILA, Philippines — Calls for Department of Transportation (DOTr) to explain how it utilized the P9.5 billion Bayanihan 2 funds to alleviate the situation of pandemic-hit transport workers amid reports of huge underspending have been made by law makers.

Due to the need to limit movements in the capital in order to keep the surge in coronavirus cases at bay, the government implemented quarantine guidelines which have affected the transport sector immensely. Jeepney drivers lost their jobs and in turn, healthcare workers had difficulty in commuting to work due to the lack of transportation.

“Hindi ba tayo naaawa sa mga driver na namamalimos? Iyong umaasa sa bigay o nakapila sa mga community pantry para may makain ang pamilya nila? May pera naman pala, bakit hindi gamitin para makaahon man lang sila?” Senator Grace Poe commented.

Jeepney drivers beg for money with a sign that says: “a little help please for the drivers, thank you” in front of the Tandang Sora terminal.| IMG SOURCE Aaron Favila/AP Photo via Al Jazeera

The Department of Budget and Management released their report on the P 9.5 billion fund from the Bayanihan 2 law, which has been allocated for various programs of the DOTr, during the senate briefing

Of the amount, P5.58 billion was allotted to provide temporary livelihood to displaced drivers and operators through service contracting; P2.604 billion intended to assist the critically-impacted business in the transport industry; and P1.316 billion allocated to develop sidewalks and protected bicycle lanes, procurement of bicycles and related safety equipment.

In a news release in August, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, one of the agencies under the DOTr, said that P1.5 billion has been released to beneficiary drivers nationwide and for the procurement of the Systems Manager, responsible in the development and management of all project systems.

Poe said she will also seek an explanation from the DOTr on reports that of the P1.5 billion, only P653 million made it to the hands of the beneficiary drivers.

The senator said the agency should be taken to task for the unspent funds when it presents its proposed 2022 budget.

“Displaced from their source of income because of the lockdowns, our drivers and other transport workers run the risk of becoming victims twice as government agencies appear incapable of using the billions of assistance funds to help them.”

“Imbes na gastusin ang pondo para makabalik na sa kalsada ang ating mga driver, pinapatulog lang ang pera at walang serbisyong naibibigay sa panahon ng kagipitan,” Poe said.

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