HOUSE committee on ways and means chairman and Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has asked the Department of Transportation and Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to release around P4.6 billion that the government owes to service contractors such as bus and jeepney operators under the transport service contracting program funded by Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which is set to expire on June 30.
As confirmed by the LTFRB in a June 17 briefing, only P1 billion of P5.5 billion allotted for the program has been distributed to service contractors.
“The service has already been obligated. Filipino workers are clearly in need of more public transport options. The funds are available, although expiring soon. We have to release these funds without delay,” Salceda said.
Salceda added that safe, efficient public transport options through service contracting will help prevent overcrowding among commuters.
“From the very start of this pandemic, I already asserted that the only way to prevent overcrowding in public transport is through more public transport supply, not bans on public transport routes. Now, that was acknowledged through service contracting programs. But if we’re not paying contractors for services they already rendered, how will we keep this program running?” Salceda asked.
“May pamilya rin po ang mga nasa transport sector, na pinakanahirapan ngayon pandemic. Paano po sila kakain kung hindi natin binabayaran ang serbisyong ibinigay na nila?” He lamented.
“The P5.5 billion is already a government payable. The least we can do is actually pay them,” Salceda said.
LOOMING COMPLICATION DUE TO BAYANIHAN 2 EXPIRATION
Salceda also warned of what he called a “looming complication” in paying service contractors due to the expiry of Bayanihan 2, which authorized the program.
“Bayanihan 2 is expiring on June 30. We have to reauthorize the appropriations under the package, or else, we won’t be authorized by any law to pay the service contractors,” Salceda said.
“That’s a complication, and a humiliating one. Parang nag-1-2-3 sa jeep ang gobyerno kung mag-expire ang Bayanihan 2 pero hindi natin babayaran ang service contractors,” Salceda said.
“There is 3 billion in the 2021 General Appropriations Act for transport service contracting, but that is just half of what we have under Bayanihan 2. That will not be enough, especially as more face-to-face work resumes,” Salceda warned.
Salceda earlier called for an extension of Bayanihan 2 through a memorandum for the House leadership, which the House tax panel chair said the leadership is actively exploring.