‘Libreng Sakay’ drained of funds, supplement budget needed to continue

·Contributor
·3 min read
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - MAY 29: Filipinos out of work and stranded due to the coronavirus pandemic queue to take a free bus ride home to their province on May 29, 2020 in Paranãque, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) ‘Libreng Sakay’ (free ride) program, will need a supplemental budget from the incoming administration to continue its operations. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - MAY 29: Filipinos out of work and stranded due to the coronavirus pandemic queue to take a free bus ride home to their province on May 29, 2020 in Paranãque, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) ‘Libreng Sakay’ (free ride) program, will need a supplemental budget from the incoming administration to continue its operations. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) ‘Libreng Sakay’ program, will need a supplemental budget from the incoming administration to continue its operations past June 30.

In an interview on Thursday (June 23), LTFRB executive Tina Cassion said that the agency’s funds have been exhausted after spending P10 million per day.

“We would want to extend the program but of course, we would need some supplemental budget on this,” the official said, adding that about 80% of the P7 billion ($128 million) allocated funds for the program nationwide have already been spent.

Cassion noted that the program currently covers 942 routes, up from 546 last year. The number of units used also jumped to 16,691 from 5,734, while the number of operators and cooperators grew to 761 from 378.

“Even if we say that the funds are exhausted but because of the widespread participation, we can say that more and more commuters were served, especially high volume routes were served, that’s why people are really clamoring for the extension,” she added.

Meanwhile, some routes will be extended until July 31, including the EDSA Busway Carousel and the Montalban to Quezon route.

On April 11, the EDSA Busway Carousel started providing free rides to commuters under the third phase of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) service contracting program.

Under the service contracting program, public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers who participate in the government’s program are supposed to receive a one-time payout and weekly payments based on the number of kilometers they traveled per week, whether they have passengers or not.

Some bus drivers are complaining that they are yet to receive their salaries, and are even fired from their jobs after calling for proper compensation.

Buklod ng Manggagawa sa ES Transport (ES Transport Workers Union) president Joji Vizconde Jr. said the employees were owed P20 million in 2021, and that only a few drivers were paid their salary.

Sa ginawa po naming pag-iingay nung Pebrero, tinanggal po kami sa trabaho. Gusto lang po namin mabayaran (We were removed from our jobs because we protested last February. We just want to get paid,” Vizconde said.

In an interview on Wednesday (June 22), Vizconde said that their operators went after the labor union’s officers first before firing all their members.

LTFRB’s Cassion said that the said drivers should file a complaint instead of going to the media.

However, the drivers have already filed various complaints, but the case has yet to be resolved at proceedings by the Department of Labor and Employment because the owner of the company refuses to cooperate.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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