The government intends to disburse P1 billion in cash aid to qualified public utility jeepney drivers (PUJ). The decision comes amid a worsening trend of oil price hikes.

Earlier this week, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) committed to dispensing cash grants to around 178,000 affected persons until the end of 2021.

According to the DBCC, the amount will be taken from leftover funds from the 2021 national budget. The funds will be directed to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), which will release the cash under its Pantawid Pasada Program.

The cash grants come at a time when more and more transport and advocacy groups have clamored for government support due to rising pump prices nationwide. Some have called for other measures to be enacted. Fare hikes and the suspension of the excise tax on fuel are both wanted by many in the sector. 

The government is considering these options, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. While the requested P2 to P3 fare hike lost steam with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), it has proposed a return to 100% operations for PUVs.

Is it enough? Only the PUV drivers can say for sure. More recently, the LTFRB clarified that only PUJ drivers qualify for the subsidy. That means no cash grants for tricycle and bus drivers.

Local oil companies have hiked their prices for nine consecutive weeks. After-effects from the COVID-19 pandemic and an energy crisis plaguing several large markets are speculated to contribute to the recent ballooning of global oil prices. Fossil fuels are in short supply, and inflation has been the result. The cost of crude oil currently sits at above $80, the highest in eight years.

With the latest cash grants for PUJ drivers, the government hopes to alleviate some of the burden brought upon by the continuing fuel prices. Meanwhile, it's expected to continue finding solutions that will benefit the entire public transportation industry.

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