No budget for ‘Libreng Sakay’ in 2023; DOTr asks lawmakers for funding

The continuation of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) program to provide free rides to commuters and incentivize public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who participated in the initiative next year did not receive allocation in the agency’s 2023 budget.

During the House Committee on Transportation’s hearing on Thursday, Transportation Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Marke Steven Pastor said the agency requested P12 billion for the service contracting program for 2023.

“However, hindi naisama sa [it was not included in the] National Expenditure Program (NEP),” Pastor said.

Under the NEP, the DOTr has a proposed budget of P171.1 billion for next year, up 120.4% from P75.8 billion in 2022

The service contracting or “Libreng Sakay” program was an initiative of the DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) launched in late 2020 under the 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.

“We are apealing na mapondohan ang service contracting upang next year ay may pondo po ang Libreng Sakay,” Pastor told the House panel.

(We are appealing that the service contracting program be funded so that next year the Libreng Sakay program can continue.)

ACT-Teachers party-list Representative France Castro supported DOTr’s appeal so the free ridership program can continue next year.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) amounting to P1.4 billion, which will cover the additional funds needed for the extended Libreng Sakay program from September 1 until December 31, 2022. –KBK, GMA News

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