Transport group PISTON calls for careful and fair implementation of the plan to utilize the P2 billion Service Contracting budget for PUJ fare discounts, emphasizing that the disbursement of funds should not be limited to consolidated franchises alone.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced on Wednesday that they plan to reduce the current minimum fare for public utility jeepneys (PUJs) from P12 to the pre-pandemic rate of P9. The agency plans to allocate the P2 billion budget for Service Contracting or Libreng Sakay to cover the discount.
PISTON said that the P2 billion budget cannot cover all PUJ routes. Realistically, only selected routes can carry the discount and the subsidy.
“Our concern here is that the government might use this exclusively for consolidated franchises, to still push for the phaseout,” said Mody Floranda, PISTON national president. “That’s not fair to the drivers, operators, and even to the commuters.”
The group emphasized that the disbursement of said funds should not be restricted only to consolidated franchises to ensure a just and unbiased distribution of the benefits of the program.
“The fact that Malacañang was compelled to direct the DOTr and LTFRB to review the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines following our two-day strike proves that our criticisms against the mandatory franchise consolidation are legitimate. Therefore, these agencies must respect it,” added Floranda.
While PISTON appreciates the DOTr’s efforts to alleviate the plight of commuters, the group believes that the government needs to do more to uphold the people’s right to affordable transportation. Priority should be given to implementing substantial wage increase for workers, rather than forcing drivers and small operators to shoulder the burden of lowering fare prices. Additionally, for PISTON, urgent action is needed to reduce fuel prices by scrapping the fuel excise tax and VAT and repealing the Oil Deregulation Law.
“There’s no problem in reducing fares if the government will also lower and control the prices of oil and basic commodities and increase the wages of workers so that no one will be left behind,” said Floranda.