DOTr chief: Funds set aside for Libreng Sakay up to December

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MANILA — Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista revealed that the Department of Budget and Management has finally set aside the budget needed for the Libreng Sakay program of the government to last up to December this year.

Bautista made this remark in an interview televised during GMA News’ Unang Balita on Thursday morning when asked if there were enough funds to sustain the subsidized rides all the way until the end of the year.

Though Libreng Sakay for other commuters has since ended on the Metro Rail Transit-Line 3, free rides were also provided to students on the rail lines ahead of their return to face-to-face classes.

As one of his first acts as president, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in July extended the Libreng Sakay program along the EDSA busway carousel until December. At the time, the DOTr admitted that it was uncertain where the funds would come from. Free rides on the EDSA buses were scheduled to stop the same month. 

Vice President Sara Duterte on Wednesday launched her office’s Peak Hours Augmentation Bus Service Libreng Sakay Program.

Under the OVP initiative, two buses will be deployed in Metro Manila, one in Davao City, one in Cebu and one in Bacolod. 

Though free rides on the EDSA Carousel has been a financial crutch for commuters amid the fuel crisis, commuter groups have sounded the alarm on the long lines forcing commuters to wait hours just to get a free ride. 

The Move as One transport coalition previously called on the national government to reconsider the program, noting that it would do more harm than good. 

“In the experience of the EDSA Busway, we need to also look at the potential of expanding dedicated lanes for public transport to other routes, and to other major corridors,” transport economist Robert Siy, Move as One co-convenor said in a Zoom interview. 

“Because when we give a dedicated lane for buses or jeepneys, we enable them to deliver more round trips, within the same time period, they can operate faster, they can have more round trips, and when they have more round trips, they can carry more passengers. And that is one way we also increase the capacity of our transportation system.”

According to Siy, while Libreng Sakay does benefit commuters, increasing transport capacity should be a more immediate need than alleviating transport costs amid the fuel crisis. 

“In some Jeepney routes, we see that Libreng Sakay is offered maybe for like 20% of the jeepneys but the other 80% are forced to collect fares. And this creates a very distorted market on the same route because many of the commuters will want to shift into the vehicles offering Libreng Sakay,” he said.

“So the other 80% are starved of their normal passengers and they are the ones now rendered unviable or loss-making as a result of that particular initiative. So, it can be harmful actually for the transport industry. And it can also be harmful for commuters if many operators stop operating when they are not part of the Libreng Sakay system.”

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.