The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) free ridership program could be extended to next year, as funding for it was included in the proposed 2023 budget, Senator Sonny Angara said Sunday.
In a radio dzBB interview, the lawmaker said: “I know that will continue. Libreng Sakay was included in the budget. They also added…The head for that is Senator Grace Poe.”
“She’s really focused on the financial aid to the jeepney drivers, the operators of PUVs, and tricycle drivers. All of them will receive help—the fuel vouchers, the Libreng Sakay. These are some programs that really help ordinary citizens,” said Angara, who chairs the Senate finance panel.
In August, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Mark Steven Pastor saidthe DOTr requested P12 billion for the continuation of the program in 2023 that provides free rides to commuters and incentivizes public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who participated in the initiative.
However, he said it was not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).
Budget Undersecretary for Media Affairs, Community Relations, and Internal Audit Goddes Libiran then explained that the service contracting program is a non-recurring or one-time expenditure item.
The Libreng Sakay program of the DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was launched in late 2020 under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to help commuters and those in the public transport sector affected by the pandemic.
Under the service contracting program, PUV operators and drivers who participated in the government’s free ridership program will receive a one-time payout and weekly payments based on the number of kilometers traveled per week, whether they have passengers or not.
The DOTr has since continued the implementation of the program in 2021 and 2022.
On December 1, the 24/7 operations for the Libreng Sakay on EDSA Busway will start amid the expected influx of passengers during the Christmas season and the adjusted mall hours in Metro Manila.