A lawmaker expressed dismay on Wednesday for the absence of a budget for the service contracting of public utility vehicles next year.
Thus, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda called on Congress to allot appropriations for active transport and service contracting in the budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in the proposed 2022 budget.
The proposed budget of the DOTr for 2022 is P150.76 billion.
“The absence of any appropriation for active transport and service contracting in the budget of the Department of Transportation is dismaying, especially given that Covid-19 is unlikely to be completely over by next year,” Salceda said.
He said funding these items would likely be crucial to the conduct of the May 2022 national and local elections.
He said the lack of allocation is due to the “disappointing performance” of the implementing agencies on the release of last year’s budget. Of P5.56 billion allotted to the Land Transport Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), some P3.3 billion is yet to be released as of last month.
“I already took issue with the low utilization rates for our affirmative transport programs during discussions on the implementation of Bayanihan 2,” he said.
He stressed that commuter transport is a sector that cannot be neglected, considering that the recovery of other key industries such as manufacturing jobs depends on a strong and inclusive transport budget, and the proper and timely spending of such a budget.
He referred to active transport and service contracting as “affirmative transport” because they encourage affirmative or good behaviors for Covid-19, preexisting traffic conditions, pollution, and health.
“I understand some of the issues on implementation. After all, affirmative transport programs are not the specialty of the LTFRB,” he said. “This is why I believe it necessary to have a long-term and multi-modal transport plan that would connect the various economic sectors better.”
He said the budget on active transport and service contracting must be accompanied by a commensurate Personnel Services budget.
He added that the Office of Transport Cooperatives must play a bigger role in the implementation of these programs.
“Our Operators and Drivers Associations are probably best organized as cooperatives, similar to the approach being taken by the Department of Agriculture for farmers groups,” he said.
Salceda said the implementation of these programs must suit realities on the ground, hence the need for big data analysis in mapping actual commuter routes and volumes.