Fund service contracting along with pantawid pasada–labor group

(F.A. Angelo photo)

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) asserted that the government should provide funding for service contracting of jeepneys aside from the pantawid pasada program.

The budget for pantawid pasada or fuel subsidies for jeepney drivers was raised to P5 billion in the 2023 national budget but only P1.285 billion was set aside for “libreng sakay” or service contracting of buses and jeepneys.

However, news reports state that the P1.285 billion may all be used to fund “libreng sakay” in the EDSA busway.

“The better formula is public funding of both fuel subsidies and service contracting for jeepneys. Higher fuel prices are not the only problem of jeepney drivers and operators. Just as bad is the uncertainty brought by the public utility vehicle modernization program of the government. Service contracting will allow jeepney cooperatives who undertook the difficult transition to survive and hopefully thrive,” explained Mario Andon, PM-Iloilo coordinator.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo Grab Riders Union called on the government to increase the amount of pantawid pasada for delivery riders since they suffer from the high fuel costs.

Andon also stated that no funds for the public utility vehicle modernization program has been set aside for this year.

This means that no funds are allotted for the P 160,000 state subsidy for operators of traditional jeeps to transition to modern jeeps. Jeepney organizations are calling for the subsidy to be raised to P 500,000 since the cheapest modern jeep now costs P 2 million.

Under the service contracting scheme implemented in late 2020, jeepney operators are paid by the government to ply their routes and commuters get to ride for free.

This is the same scheme applied in the EDSA busway.

Service contracting of both buses and jeepneys was allotted P 5.5 billion under the Bayanihan 2 and then another P 3 billion was budgeted in 2021.

The group Move As One Coalition, of which PM is a member, is campaigning for service contracting to shift from being a form of pandemic assistance to being the better normal of public transportation.

The group assert that service contracting benefits all actors: commuters through a safe and convenient transport system; jeepney drivers who will gain status as employees of jeepney cooperatives and thus enjoy the rights and benefits of formal workers; and jeepney operators organized in cooperatives who will have guaranteed source of income from service contracts of several years in duration.

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