THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) has assured that the “Libreng Sakay” program for healthcare workers, medical frontliners, essential workers and Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR) will continue for as long as there are government funds.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made the assurance during the inauguration of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority’s six-story corporate building on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.
He said the free ride program under the Service Contracting Program of the DOTr and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will still be implemented.
“Ibig sabihin, hangga’t may pondong tumutulo sa kaban ng bayan, yung libreng sakay ay tuloy-tuloy (What I mean is that for as long as there are funds pouring out of government coffers, the free rides will continue),” Tugade said.
The program has benefited more than three million passengers nationwide, Tugade said.
“Are there still funds? Yes there are,” he said in Tagalog.
Tugade said there are funds from the DOTr, Land Transportation Office, LTFRB and from the Bayanihan 2 law.
“The Libreng Sakay will continue for as long as there is a fund to sustain this program, and I’m telling you, as we speak, there are funds,” he said.
The LTFRB said in a post on the DOTr website last Oct. 3 that as of June 30, 2021, P1.5 billion had been released to beneficiary drivers nationwide and for the procurement of the Systems Manager responsible for the development and management of the system.
The post clarified findings of a 2020 Commission on Audit report released recently which said the Service Contracting Program of the DOTr and LTFRB utilized only one percent of the program’s allocated budget.
“To set the record straight, with the actual funds downloaded to LTFRB only in November 2020, the Service Contracting Program was immediately implemented to incentivize public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who were given permission to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the statement read.
Initial payouts of P4,000 were given to 23,410 drivers; one-time onboarding incentives of P25,000 were provided to 8,461 drivers; one-time onboarding incentives of P20,000 were provided to 702 drivers; and; 18,864 drivers received their weekly payouts, the LTFRB post further read.
To date, the LTFRB has been coordinating with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the release of funds amounting to P3.3 billion which will be used to settle the remaining account payables.