THE GOVERNMENT has allocated P1.285 billion in this year’s budget for the continuation of free bus services nationwide, including the EDSA Busway system in Metro Manila, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Thursday.
“We understand the plight of our commuting public. The service contracting program, which funds ‘Libreng Sakay’ is a big help. This will be a big help for everyday commuters,” Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said in a statement.
Buses serving the EDSA route started charging fares on Jan. 1 as the government’s free ride program ended on Dec. 31. Contracts for free rides elsewhere in the country ended earlier last year.
“Whatever amount they save daily, they can reallocate to equally or more important needs such as budget for food, electricity, tuition fee, among others,” she said.
The bus service contracting program under the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was initially launched in late 2020 as part of response measures for the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Dec. 27, the LTFRB recorded a total of around 165 million passengers who have availed of the Libreng Sakay program along EDSA in the preceding year.
This number does not include beneficiaries in other parts of the country, mostly main urban areas, where the program was also rolled out.
DBM Undersecretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said the DoTr will be in charge of deciding how this year’s budget will be utilized.
“Since the DoTr is the implementing agency, it is up to them to identify the scope or coverage of the program. They have the option to spread or limit its coverage, based on the result of their study,” she said in a Viber message. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson