public transportation

Libreng Sakay may return; transport group opposes EDSA Carousel privatization

Lance Spencer Yu
Libreng Sakay may return; transport group opposes EDSA Carousel privatization

LIBRENG SAKAY. Commuters take advantage of the free ride of the EDSA busway at the Monumento stop in Caloocan during the start of the 24/7 Libreng Sakay program of the Department of Transportation on December 1, 2022.

Rappler

The Department of Transportation has yet to give further details on what the possible reimplementation of the program may look like

MANILA, Philippines – The government is looking to extend its Libreng Sakay program in 2023 while also eyeing to privatize the EDSA Busway (EDSA Carousel) by the 3rd quarter of next year.

Libreng Sakay may return; transport group opposes EDSA Carousel privatization

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued a statement clarifying its earlier announcement that free rides for the EDSA Carousel under the Libreng Sakay program would end by December 31.

Ang pagtatapos ng nasabing programa ay dahil ubos na ang pondong nakalaan dito sa ilalim ng 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) na P7 billion, gayundin ang idinagdag na P1.4 billion ng Department of Budget and Management noong Agosto 16, 2022,” the DOTr said.

(The termination of the program was because of the depletion of funds allotted for it under the General Appropriations Act, which amounted to P7 billion, along with the P1.4 billion added by the Department of Budget and Management on August 16, 2022.)

Regarding its budget of P1.285 billion for service contracting in 2023, the DOTr will be using this to reimplement the Libreng Sakay program nationwide, in cooperation with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and local government units (LGUs).

Sa susunod na taon, mayroong aprubadong P1.285 billion para sa service contracting program sa ilalim naman ng 2023 GAA. Kaugnay nito, nagsasagawa na ng plano ang DOTr at ang LTFRB sa muling pagpapatupad ng programa sa buong bansa katuwang ang LGUs,” the statement read.

(Next year, there is an approved P1.285 billion for the service contracting program under the 2023 GAA. Given this, the DOTr and the LTFRB are already planning on how to implement the program again nationwide in cooperation with LGUs.)

The DOTr gave no further details on what the possible reimplementation of the program may look like.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista previously said that the Libreng Sakay program is unlikely to be extended, according to a CNN Philippines report on Wednesday, December 28. While the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) budget for 2023 included P1.2 billion for service contracting, Bautista had said this would not be enough to continue the Libreng Sakay program.

Sa EDSA busway, we spend around P10 to 12 million a day. So ang P1.2 billion, ilang buwan lang ‘yun,” he said. (On the EDSA busway, we spend around P10 to 12 million a day. So P1.2 billion would only last for a few months.)

Keeping ‘public transportation’ public

The Transport Secretary also said that the government is hoping to privatize the EDSA Carousel by the 3rd quarter of 2023, according to a report by CNN Philippines. Private sector investors have already shown interest in the busway, although no official bids have been submitted yet.

A joint statement by 30 private groups also urged the government to privatize the EDSA Carousel immediately, saying that public-private partnerships could develop the busway in accordance with global standards.

However, transport group PISTON has pushed back on the privatization move. 

In a press release on Thursday, December 29, the group underscored that privatizing the EDSA Carousel does not guarantee greater efficiency and may even result in higher fares, as private groups attempt to maximize profit.

“Hinihikayat namin si Secretary Bautista na pag-isipan ito nang mabuti. Ano ang garantiya ng mga negosyante na magsisilbi sila sa interes ng publiko kung ang interes ng publiko ay abot-kaya at mabisang serbisyo?” PISTON national president Mody Floranda said in the statement. (We invite Secretary Bautista to think about this well. What is the guarantee that businessmen will serve the interest of the public when the interest of the public is affordable and effective service?)

The transport group said that the current transport crisis was borne out of an overreliance on the private sector in the first place. The group urged the government to increase support and subsidies for services.

In the case of the EDSA Carousel, the government ought to continue subsidizing social services through programs such as Libreng Sakay rather than privatizing the busway. The group stressed that essential public utilities should be funded through a progressive tax system instead of through private investments.

Alam naman nating an interes ng pribadong sektor ay kung paano magpapalaki ng kita habang pinapababa ang gastos nila sa operasyon at pasahod sa kanilang manggagawa. Kaya kapag ipinasa sa mga malalaking negosyante ang dapat ay public service gaya ng EDSA Carousel, asahan nating tataas din ang pamasahe,” Floranda said. (We know that the private sector’s interest is increasing their profits while lowering their costs in operation and payroll. So when big businesses are given control of what should be a public service such as the EDSA Carousel, we can expect fare prices to go up.) – Rappler.com

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