Transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide on Monday urged the government for more assistance amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
George San Mateo, PISTON emeritus president, lamented the government’s plan to limit the passenger capacity to 30 percent to comply with the Department of Health’s protocol of social or physical distancing.
“We need government help if we would only allow the 30- percent passenger capacity,” he said.
“If there would be no other assistance, the only solution is for us to increase the fare,” he added.
He, however, clarified that it is not timely to increase the rate since most workers have been severely affected by the lockdown due to the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Meanwhile, San Mateo slammed the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for the “snail-paced” distribution of the special amelioration program for public utility drivers.
Out of the 280,000 drivers in the list of the LTFRB, only 20,164 of them received the cash assistance of P8,000 each, he said.
San Mateo said that under the original list submitted to the LTFRB, there were 435,319 target beneficiaries of the program.
“The number of beneficiaries was slashed to 280,000 only,” he added.
In a related development, Senator Grace Poe, said on Monday that there should be no further delay in the release of emergency subsidy for affected tricycle drivers following the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the NCR and other high-risk regions.
“We should not make them wait any further. Their perseverance to bring us even to remote areas must now be repaid with prompt aid,” said Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services handling transport concerns.
The senator made the call in the wake of the report made by the 2.9-million strong National Confederation of Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines that “many of its non-4P members have only received measly or partial subsidy, if not none, from the government.”
“The first wave of help is yet to be distributed when the quarantine had already been extended,” NACTODAP National president Ariel Lim said.
Poe said affected tricycle drivers and operators in various cities and provinces comprise a significant number of the informal economy workers who are considered government priority for aid under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act (RA) 11469.
Poe earlier hailed LGUs that already handed assistance to the informal economy workers especially tricycle drivers.
Poe also urged fuel subsidy and livelihood assistance grants for tricycle drivers in areas placed under general community quarantine where public transport will be allowed in reduced capacity.
Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called on all concerned government agencies to also provide support for other sectors of society whose livelihood had also been adversely affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, subject to the condition that there shall be no duplication of benefits from Social Amelioration Programs of other agencies.
Several government agencies continue to provide assistance through various programs for the poorest of the poor, informal workers and vulnerable sectors through the Department of Social Welfare and Development; displaced formal workers and overseas Filipino workers through the Department of Labor and Employment; and micro, small and medium enterprise employees and the middle class through the Department of Finance and Social Security System.
As the government continues to roll out its programs to help these identified sectors, Go also recommended to institute a program for affected Filipino cultural workers and artists as several of them are also affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in a bid to fight the spread of COVID-19.
As they incur income losses and struggle to make ends meet due to the ECQ, Go said that the government should come up with a system to identify qualified beneficiaries and provide financial assistance to affected cultural workers. .
The senator’s made the request after several cultural workers called on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to support Filipino artists and cultural workers as many of them remain affected by the ECQ.
Aside from cash assistance, cultural workers also asked the government to create opportunities for remote work as people may remain fearful of attending social gatherings and public events for a certain time which could adversely affect income sources, particularly for performers.
Go cited Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7356, or the NCCA Charter, which mandates the agency to extend financial and economic assistance, such as subsidies, artist funds and social security to promote cultural development and protect artists and cultural workers.
To facilitate the program, Go suggested that the NCAA may utilize the National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts established by RA No. 7356 to administer the said program for Filipino creatives.
Go added that the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” grants President Rodrigo Duterte temporary emergency authority to provide emergency subsidy to citizens affected by the ECQ.
Aside from 4Ps, the initial subsidy to the sector came from the assistance for informal economy workers, local government units’ (LGU) aid, and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers under RA 11469, Lim said.
The Executive Department’s April 20 report to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee stated that under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Program mainly implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, “for the non-4Ps, the amount of P73.8 billion or 91 percent of the allocated amount has already been downloaded to the local government units.”
The concerned LGUs are required to distribute assistance within seven days, and 10 days from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas from the receipt of funds, to be followed by a liquidation report within 15 days.
Another source of aid for the sector, the TUPAD program implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment “has served 178,549 beneficiaries” as of April 16, with P410.7 million utilized out of P966.5 million, according to the April 20 report.