MANILA -- As the government starts the implementation of its Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), two party-list lawmakers on Monday urged government agencies to speed up the approval of regulations on the use of public funds for public utility vehicle operators and drivers who will be affected by the PUVMP.

The modernization program seeks to replace 15-year-old and above public utility jeepneys (PUJs) with modern public transport that will help reduce toxic fumes and support alternative clean energy options for the public transport sector.

The transition to modern jeepneys is also expected to enhance safety and convenience of the commuting public and improve traffic congestion.

1-PACMAN Partylist Rep. Michael Romero urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) to fast-track their approval of the project mechanics and components of the lending program for PUV drivers.

To help drivers through the transition, the DOTr has partnered with Landbank and DBP to provide the program’s lending facility.

The said banks each have PHP1.133 billion in their respective budgets for the PUVMP.

Loans under the program carry a 6-percent interest and are payable within seven years.

Modern PUJs are estimated to cost between PHP1.4M to PHP1.6M per unit.

Under the program, the banks will extend loans for up to 95 percent of the total acquisition cost of the unit to be financed, while the remaining 5 percent is the equity of the borrower.

The government has also set aside an initial subsidy of PHP2.2 billion for affected drivers and operators.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) earlier noted that the PHP80,000 subsidy per driver will be enough to cover the 5 percent equity requirements.

“Kailangan malaman ng publiko ang mahalagang papel ng Landbank at DBP sa buhay ng mga mahihirap at mga PUV operators,” Romero said.

"Congress is waiting for the project mechanics and details for the loan program. The 2018 budget has a special provision requiring these," he said.

For her part, Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Landbank to expedite the promulgation of their guidelines for the cash transfer subsidy under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

The House Committee on Social Services member proposed that PUV drivers be included among the beneficiaries of the TRAIN subsidy and the 4Ps conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

"To absorb in full or in part the impact of the TRAIN excise taxes on diesel and lubricants, I ask the DOTr, in coordination with the DSWD, to expand the 4Ps to include PUV drivers," she said.

"The new CCT program’s first phase should cover all PUV drivers, whether or not the PUV they drive has an LTFRB franchise or not. The sins of the PUV operator must not be the sin of the PUV driver," Herrera-Dy said.

Under her proposal, instead of the cash transfer being for fuel purchases, the new CCT for PUV drivers will be more similar to the 4Ps of the DSWD which would enable them to purchase food items for their families, send and keep their young children studying in elementary and high school, and get vaccines and medicines.

Unlike the current 4Ps wherein the contact persons are the mothers, Herrera-Dy wants the DSWD to trust and "help the impoverished fathers, some of whom are single parents or breadwinners supporting siblings, children, and elderly parents."

However, she stressed that a strict condition for inclusion in the CCT for PUV drivers must be staying drug-free, alcohol-free, and gambling-free.

"To instill responsibility and accountability, the new CCT for PUV drivers, ATM cards cannot be used for any purchases of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and illegal drugs. Those ATM cards cannot be pawned or used as collateral in any way and doing so will mean automatic removal from the CCT program," she said.

She identified the PHP 24.488 billion in the Landbank budget, the Malampaya Fund, and the road user's tax as possible funding sources for the CCT for PUV drivers.

The party-list lawmaker said that if the expanded CCT she is proposing proves to be successful, a future phase of the new CCT for drivers can include tricycle and pedicab drivers.

"Most Filipino drivers are living in poverty. Drivers of jeepneys, tricycles, and pedicabs often live in extreme poverty. They are disadvantaged because of the lack of education, livelihood options, and poor or zero access to basic government services," Herrera-Dy said. (PNA)