By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV on Friday lamented the government’s late response and insufficient support to the transport sector affected by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) program.
Aquino made the statement after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced the release of P5,000 fuel subsidy for jeepney operators and drivers covered under the Pantawid Pasada program.
Under the scheme, the beneficiaries will be getting the amount in lump sum, instead of its earlier plan to release it on a piecemeal basis over the next six months.
Aquino said the government should review the program and check if the funds are sufficient to cover the increase in fuel prices and other needs of jeepney drivers.
“Atrasado na nga ang tulong, kulang pa ang ibibigay ng gobyerno sa mga tsuper ng pampasaherong jeep (The financial assistance is already late, and still the help the government is supposed to provide our jeepney drivers is insufficient),” Aquino said.
Under the Pantawid Pasada program, a total of P5,000 will be given to jeepney drivers for the last six months of 2018. This will mean an additional P833 per month or P27.7 per day supposedly to help defray the cost due to the excise taxes on fuel.
“Kung kukuwentahin, wala pang isang litro ng diesel ang tulong na binibigay sa ating mga jeepney driver. Kulang na kulang ito sa taas ng presyo ng bilihin (If you compute it, the amount is not enough for a one liter diesel. This is not enough considering the high cost of commodities),” added the senator.
Aquino said state economic managers should make sure government that the subsidy is enough to cover not only the rise in fuel prices as well as other basic needs such as food.
He also urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to expand the Pantawid Pasada program to other modes of public transportations such as tricycles and UV express services.
“Kung tutulong na rin lang tayo, bakit hindi pa natin lubus-lubusin at isama ang mga nagmamaneho ng tricycle at UV Express, (And if we are going to help, why don’t we include those who are driving tricycles and UV Express?)” the senator suggested.
Aquino has been pushing for the suspension and rollback of the excise tax on petroleum products under the TRAIN law to help lower the prices of fuel and goods at the same time.
A measure he filed seeking to stop and rollback the excise tax on fuel when average inflation rate surpasses the annual inflation target over a three-month period is still pending at the Senate.