Congress has increased the budget allocation for fuel subsidies for the public transport sector to P3 billion, Senate Committee on Finance chairman Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said Friday.
To recall, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it allocated P2.5 billion for fuel subsidies for public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers under the proposed P5.768-trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2024.
In a statement, Angara said the “Congress increased this by P500 million.”
This, as the senator said that fuel subsidies being provided to the transport sector is “a key intervention of the government to help the operators and drivers cope with the rising prices of fuel.”
The P3 billion allocated for the transport sector’s fuel subsidies next year is seen to benefit 1.36 million beneficiaries.
Under the fuel subsidy program, P10,000 will be provided to each of the drivers of modernized public utility vehicles (PUVs); P6,500 to drivers of traditional four-wheel PUVs; P1,200 to delivery riders, and P1,000 to tricycle drivers.
“With pump prices going up for 11 straight weeks, the PUV drivers have to bear the additional costs and deal with lower incomes. This could mean more hours on the road and less food on the tables of their families,” Angara said.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has approved the exemption of the government's fuel subsidy grant to public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers from the election spending ban due to the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in October.
Now that the Comelec has exempted the distribution of the fuel subsidies from the ban on spending during this election period for the 2023 BSKE, Angara said there should no longer be any reason for delay in the full implementation of the fuel subsidy program.
“Assuming all of the requirements have been met and the recipients have been identified, we urge the Landbank of the Philippines to fast track the downloading of the fuel subsidies to the intended beneficiaries,” Angara said.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) started to release fuel subsidies last September 13, but a number of operators and drivers said they have yet to receive such benefits.
The DBM on September 8 approved the release of P3 billion worth of funds for the program.
Data from the LTFRB, as of September 14, showed 63,864 units of PUVs nationwide have so far received their fuel subsidies.
On the other hand, Angara said that apart from the P3 billion budget for the transport sector’s fuel subsidies, P1 billion has also been earmarked in the 2023 General Appropriations Act for fuel assistance to farmers and fisherfolk.
Of the P1 billion, P510.4 million was placed under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for fuel assistance to the farmers while P489.6 million was placed under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for the fisherfolk.
This will benefit 312,000 farmers and fisherfolk to help them sustain their production and operations.
In 2022, the Department of Agriculture was provided with P500 million for the fuel assistance program.
This was increased to P1 billion this year and for 2024, the same amount was proposed for the program, Angara said. —VAL, GMA Integrated News