President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expanding the government’s fuel assistance program to tricycle drivers to help them cope with the continuing rise in fuel prices.
“At present, only public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers (of jeepneys and buses) benefit from the fuel subsidy under the Pantawid Pasada Program,” he said Tuesday in his first Palace press briefing, following his first Cabinet meeting since assuming the presidency.
This would affect drivers of about 4.5 million registered tricycles in the country, many of which have parked their three-wheeled vehicles as of late owing to fuel prices soaring past 90 pesos a liter.
Marcos did not specify how much aid trike drivers would receive, but about 377,000 jeepney and bus drivers are getting P6,500 each from a P5-billion fund under the government’s current fuel aid push.
Tricycle drivers have also faced stiffer competition from electric tricycles or e-trikes, e-jeepneys, and other vehicles that don’t use gasoline or diesel fuel.
In the Cabinet meeting, Marcos also approved the extension of the government’s free rides program for the EDSA Carousel buses in Metro Manila, following a meeting with Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez last Friday at Malacanang.
The President also said the “Libreng Sakay” program for students on the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3), Light Rail Transit-2 (LRT-2), and Philippine National Railways (PNR) lines would continue, as schools are scheduled to return to in-person classes in September.
“We just discussed that we are going to try not only to continue the fuel subsidies for the transport sector but to expand it to include the tricycles, which up to now have not been included,” Marcos said.
“We talked about it in the Cabinet meeting. We talked about the funding, where it can come from, and how we are going to manage the funding for the additional fuel subsidies,” he said.
“We have enough budget I think to last for most of this year and a little bit beyond. But we still have to find that money if we are going to continue,” the President added.
On the free train rides on LRT-2, which goes through Manila’s University Belt, Marcos said: “Libreng Sakay continues as is. That continues, but what we are going to do is we are going to do a program for the students because if they come in we will fully subsidize first their pamasahe (fare).”
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) earlier said free EDSA Carousel bus rides would be extended until December 2022, while the free train rides for students on Metro Manila’s trains would be from August 22 until November 4, 2022.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) earlier said the rollout of the second tranche of the P5-billion fuel subsidy program for PUV drivers and operators is set for late this month or early July.
The beneficiaries include LTFRB-supervised PUV drivers and operators, tricycle drivers and operators under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and delivery riders under the Department of Trade and Industry.
The fuel subsidy program had served as a stopgap measure instead of a sought-for minimum fare hike increase amid soaring oil prices, according to the LTFRB.
Citing a portion of the DOTr memorandum which Marcos approved, the department said it considered the availability of the budget for Service Contracting under the 2022 General Appropriations Act for the extension of the free bus rides.
The Transportation Department said the move would “ease the burden of rising living expenses on Filipino families and help them save money, especially with the return of face-to-face classes after more than two years.”