LTFRB pays EDSA Carousel operators P310 million; drivers yet to get dues

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Atty. Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil (center), along with her colleagues at the agency, try riding the EDSA Busway on July 12, 2022. (Photo: LTFRB/Facebook)
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Atty. Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil (center), along with her colleagues at the agency, try riding the EDSA Busway on July 12, 2022. (Photo: LTFRB/Facebook)

Bus operators handling the government’s “Libreng Sakay” program have already been paid P310 million according to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), but some drivers are yet to get their dues.

In a virtual press briefing on Tuesday (July 19), LTFRB Chair Cheloy Garafil said that bus consortiums ES Transport and Mega Manila Consortium Corp. did not deploy some of their buses for the Libreng Sakay program during rush hours on Monday (July 18) because of delayed payments to their operators and drivers.

Only 200 out of the allowable maximum of 440 public utility buses were deployed during rush hours, forcing hundreds of commuters to form long lines at the EDSA Busway Carousel stations.

“One of the reasons why they can’t fully deploy their buses is because they cannot pay their drivers on time, and some of them would actually rather go back to their provinces,” LTFRB Chair Cheloy Garafil told reporters in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

Earlier, Garafil said that the LTFRB and Department of Transportation (DOTr) met with the two consortia operating at the EDSA Carousel.

“Today, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista and I have met with the two consortia operating at the EDSA carousel to talk about relevant issues. They have promised to enforce maximum deployment of buses, especially during rush hours,” Garafil said in a statement on Monday (July 18).

“When I was appointed to the LTFRB two weeks ago, the sixth week of the program hasn’t been paid yet, but it was already at its 13th week. I have immediately ordered the fast-tracking of the payment,” she added.

The payment covered dues for the sixth to 10th week of operation of the Edsa Busway Carousel. Of the total P310 million, P72 million was paid for the sixth week; P75 million for the seventh week; P72 million for the eighth week; P60 million for the ninth week; and a partial payment of P31 million for the 10th week.

The LTFRP hopes the P310-million payout would be “sufficient” to cover the deficiencies “in the meantime” to ease long lines in the Edsa busway during rush hours.

“We are confident and we are relying on the word of the consortia operating on the busway that they will keep their word to maximize their deployment,” Garafil added.

Delayed salary

In an interview with ONE News on Wednesday(July 20), transport union Buklod ng Manggagawa sa ES Transport (ES Transport Workers Union) said that they are yet to get paid for their services.

Yung programang Libreng Sakay ay hindi po namin naunawaan kung sa una po ay nakatulong, pero sa bandang huli, kami po ay lalong nagigipit. Ang karanasan po namin sa ES Transport, masyado na pong dinelay and sahod namin,” Buklod ng Manggagawa sa ES Transport President Joji Vizconde said.

(We don’t understand if the ‘Libreng Sakay’ program is helpful because in the end, we’re the ones at disadvantage. In our experience with ES Transport, they have delayed our salary for too long.)

Pagkatapos po, noong kami ay panay ang dulog namin sa mga ahensiya, follow-up. Pinagturu-turuan po kami ng mga ahensya hanggang sa nagsimula po kami sa Office of President. Tinuro po kami sa DOTr. Pinasa po sa LTFRB. Hanggang sa nakarating po kami sa DOLE na wala pong nagawa,” he added.

(When we followed up (the status), government agencies just pointed at each other until we started at the Office of the President. They pointed at the DOTr. Then they pointed at LTFRB. Until we reached DOLE which could still do nothing.)

The leader appealed to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Benny Lauesma to intervene in their complaint.

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 on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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