CASH AID. Tricycles parked at the terminal near the municipal hall in Mangatarem, Pangasinan. Tricycle drivers have lamented the decline in their earnings because of the pandemic but some have acknowledged the help of the cash aid being provided by the government. (Photo by Joann Santiago-Villanueva)

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan – Physical distancing measures to control the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) being implemented by the government have greatly affected earnings of people, particularly public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers, with some incurring as much as 80-percent decline in daily earnings. 
However, drivers who benefit from the government’s cash aid programs have acknowledged the impact of this financial support on their lives during this pandemic. 
Rafael Viernes, 55, said the pandemic has significantly impacted his ability to provide for the needs of his family of seven. 
A tricycle driver since 1989, Viernes said he has to work doubly hard now by starting his operations around 7 a.m. until before the 8 p.m. curfew.
Pag hindi ako kumita wala kaming pambili ng ulam (If I don’t earn, we have nothing to buy for our meal),” he told the Philippine News Agency. 
Viernes sometimes makes less than PHP100 now, a far cry compared to his earnings before the pandemic. 
He was earning extra income before the pandemic because he was regularly tapped by some village officials for their official trips to Dagupan City, some 47 kilometers from here. 
With the drop in his earnings, Viernes said his wife is helping him by doing sideline jobs as househelp or saleslady. 
Mahirap ang buhay ngayon pero kailangan kumita para sa mga bata (Life is hard but we need to earn for the kids),” he said, adding “ang mahalaga walang problema sa katawan at malakas ka (what is important you are healthy and strong).”
He is grateful that his family is a beneficiary of the Pantawid sa Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). They are receiving PHP4,200 monthly from the cash aid program. 
This amount used to be PHP5,200 but has been reduced after one of his kids, who was part of the 4Ps program, graduated from high school and is now a second-year college student. She is studying in college through a scholarship being provided by a local private school. 
To date, only two of his kids are qualified for the program since both are in high school. 
He has two other children who are high school graduates and are not working.
John Deck Rubic, 33, said he is grateful one of his daughters has been approved as a beneficiary of his mother-in-law for the 4Ps program in place of his brother-in-law who has graduated from high school. 
His eight-year-old kid, a Grade 2 pupil, receives PHP600 monthly.
The cash aid is coursed through the bank account of his mother-in-law, he said. 
Rubic said his other kid, an incoming Grade 1 student, has also been approved as 4Ps beneficiary but is not yet receiving cash aid pending her enrollment in elementary. 
Rubic said he has not applied for 4Ps but did not elaborate. 
Pasalamat na lang din ako kasi qualified yung mga anak ko. Malaking tulong na rin po yun para sa mga bata  para may pambili ng gamit nila sa school. (I’m still thankful because my kids are qualified for the program. It’s a big help for the kids, they have funds to buy their school needs),” he added. 
Rubic said he received government cash aid since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Rubic said he got PHP5,500 once and the assistance was for drivers affected by the virus-induced global health crisis. 
Pero di na nasundan yun kasi 4Ps beneficiary daw yung anak ko. (But it was the only cash aid I got because they said that my kid is a 4Ps beneficiary),” he added.
The pandemic, he said, has reduced his earnings to just PHP200-PHP250 daily. He starts his trips around 7 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m. 
This is a big drop compared to the PHP400 half-day earnings before the pandemic, Rubic said. (PNA)