MANILA, Philippines – Free rides likely won’t be coming back, but commuters may still find relief through discounted fares, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Friday, January 27.
The LTFRB said that the Libreng Sakay program, which offered free rides for EDSA Carousel buses, does not have enough budget to be totally free. Instead, the LTFRB and Department of Transportation (DOTr) are planning to offer discounted fares for several modes of public transportation.
“The intention of the leadership is to stretch the money for as long as we can. And we include jeepneys, shuttle rides. Hindi lang ho buses. So malamang ang gagawin dito (It won’t just be for buses. So most likely, what will happen here is that) we will just be giving discounts,” said LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III in a press conference on Friday, January 27.
Although the specifics of the revamped program is still being discussed, Guadiz said that the subsidies will continue to benefit both passengers and drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs).
“It is a subsidy. Probably on a per person basis, and of course we still have the subsidy din para sa mga drivers sa mga gasolina po (for drivers for their gasoline), which is P1,000,” Guadiz clarified.
Under the 2023 budget, the PUV service contracting program is set to receive P2.16 billion in funding, with P1.285 billion in programmed appropriations and P875 million in unprogrammed appropriations.
The LTFRB chairman said that this amount would quickly run out if the Libreng Sakay program for the EDSA Carousel – which offered 24/7 free rides in December 2022 – were to resume, echoing the sentiment of Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista last December.
“Amin po namin na kung ang pinagiisipan po natin is totally libre na sakay, hindi po kakayanin. In fact ‘pag ginamit mo lang ‘yan sa EDSA, doon sa carousel nila (If we’re talking about resuming totally free rides, we’re not capable of doing that. In fact, if we use that for the EDSA Carousel), that would only be good for three or four months,” Guadiz said.
Guadiz also added that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is about to turn over the P1.285 billion budget to the LTFRB. However, the agency is still awaiting instruction from the DOTr on how to mobilize the money.
Senator Sonny Angara, who serves as chairman of the Senate finance committee, had earlier pushed for the continuation of the Libreng Sakay program since the budget provided was a “substantial amount.”
“Malaking bagay ang pagpapatuloy ng Libreng Sakay sa panahon na ito lalo na at mabigat pa din ang pasanin ng karamihan ng ating mga kababayan dahil sa patuloy na pagtaas ng mga bilihin,” the senator had said.
(The continuation of Libreng Sakay is a big help at this time, especially now that most of us are burdened by the continued rise of prices of goods.) – Rappler.com
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