Half of Pantawid-Pasada assistance in SouthCot unclaimed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 October) — About half of the 8,041 Pantawid Pasada-Public Transport Assistance Program (PTAP) subsidy slots for South Cotabato province has remained unclaimed even as the national government ponders another possible rollout of the relief initiative.

Josephine Leysa, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-South Cotabato provincial director, said their initial assessment showed that only around 50 percent of the identified PTAP beneficiaries in the province have availed of the one-time P150 fuel subsidy earlier released by the national government.

“The program is now in the evaluation and liquidation stage and based on the feedback from our partner local government units (LGU), the availment rate was quite low. It did not even reach 50  percent in some areas,” she said.

Of the two municipalities that so far completed the program’s liquidation process, Leysa said the municipality of Tantangan posted a 100 percent availment but Polomolok town returned around P200,000 of their PTAP allotment.

The returned allocation is equivalent to around 1,300 subsidy slots or 65 percent of the estimated 2,000 tricycle franchisees in Polomolok town.

Leysa said they expect the same trend regarding the PTAP’s implementation in Koronadal City, which earlier received about 4,000 subsidy slots.

Citing initial feedback from the LGUs and the beneficiaries, she said the low availment rate was due to the minimal amount of the subsidy. The one-time subsidy is only 150 pesos.

“The subsidy was also allotted to the franchise owners and not the tricycle drivers. We know for a fact that most tricycle franchise owners are quite well off and are just renting out their tricycles,” she said.

Leysa said the DILG provincial office is presently evaluating the PTAP’s overall implementation to determine possible changes or improvements in its implementing mechanisms should the national government decide another rollout.

“One thing that we will recommend is the cleansing of the program’s beneficiaries because we found out during the implementation that there were assigned subsidy slots to expired tricycle franchises,” she said.

Leysa said they will recommend that tricycle drivers  be authorized to claim the subsidies instead of the franchise owners only.

“If the national government can afford it, I think it’s reasonable to increase the amount of the allotted subsidy,” she added. The national government earlier released some P3.79 million to Region 12 or Soccsksargen Region for the implementation of the fuel subsidy scheme, which is  aimed at easing the impact of the recent increases in oil prices in the local transport sector.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Cotabato and Kidapawan.

The DILG had identified a total of 25,331 beneficiaries in the entire region. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)