‘Balancing act’: DOTr eyes subsidy for PUV drivers amid fuel pump price increases


The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will be doing “balancing act” in addressing fare hike petitions amid the continuous increase of gas prices in the market.

Transportation officials said on Monday that they are now coordinating with concerned government departments to create a subsidy program to cushion the impact of the oil price hikes to public-utility vehicle (PUV) drivers.

“We have to find the right balance between the needs of the drivers and the welfare of passengers, especially during the pandemic. So instead of an across the board increase, we are proposing subsidies for both drivers and passengers,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

Last week transport groups filed before the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) a joint petition for fare adjustment for jeepneys from P9 to P12.

“The petition filed last week is being studied by the LTFRB. This will go through hearings so that LTFRB will be able to determine if there’s a need for a fare adjustment,” Transportation Assistant Secretary Steve Pastor said.

He added that while the petition is being processed, the DOTr is now talking with the Department of Energy (DOE) to roll out fuel subsidies to PUV drivers.

However, he noted that this also entails a supplemental budget that will come from the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers and transport officials are said to meet on Wednesday.

Aside from this, Pastor said the DOTr is encouraging drivers to join the Service Contracting Program to ensure a steady stream of income even amid the oil price increases.

In a nutshell, the program provides for the contracting of operators and drivers for certain routes. They will be paid on a per trip basis regardless of the number of their passengers per day.

Drivers and operators may join the program provided that they have valid and existing certificates of public convenience, provisional authorities, and special route permits from the LTFRB.

The program, which was first introduced in late 2020, ended with the lapse of the Bayanihan 2 Act on July 1.

The DOTr, however, has noted irregularities in the disbursement of funds from already-paid operators to their drivers.

Pastor noted that the DOTr is now assisting drivers in receiving their payouts through the mediation of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“We have been monitoring the actual receipt of drivers from their operators. We also received info that there are some irregularities with this. We are now helping them meet with the DOLE to raise these issues against their employers,” he said.

In related development, the transport department plans to increase the capacity of PUVs as the government eases restrictions in certain parts of the country.

“The increase in passenger capacity has to be progressive and in line with the mandates of the local governments as well as the Interagency Task Force [for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases],” Tugade said.

Pastor declined to give an exact figure as to how much the increase in capacity will be from the current 50 percent.

“It will be significant. Secretary (Arturo) Tugade ordered the proposal to be based on technical expertise and is backed by medical studies that certify that the increase in capacity is safe,” Pastor said.

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