By Freddie Lazaro
LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte – The provincial government of Ilocos Norte through the Metro Ilocos Norte Council (MINC) has deployed additional “Libre a Pagluganan” (Free Ride) jeepney units to accommodate the transportation needs of healthcare workers, non-medical frontliners, and medical patients.
A total of 15 public utility jeepneys (PUJs) have been deployed at selected pick up and drop-off points in the province, compared to its initial nine PUJs during the “Libre a Pagluganan” launch on March 22.
“Ang ‘Libre a Pagluganan’ program ay kailangang tuloy-tuloy [kahit na nasa GCQ na tayo]. Especially, services for frontline workers. Sa katunayan, nadagdagan pa ang mga service vehicles natin. Madali kasing mapuno dahil 50% lang ng maximum passenger capacity ng isang jeepney [ang pupunuin]. When we started, dalawang jeepney lang sa isang ruta. Ngayon tatlo o apat na,” said Perry Martinez, the MINC executive director.
According to Martinez, members of the “Night Express” Program were hired as beneficiaries for the free ride service. Each driver-beneficiary receives a daily fuel subsidy and a P340.00 salary.
“Kinausap natin ang mga kasama natin sa ‘Night Express’ [Program]. Basically, the ‘Night Express’ is not going to happen because of the curfew. Kaya nilipat natin ang pondo at manpower sa mga programang makakatulong sa mga kababayan natin ngayon panahon ng COVID-19 pandemic,” Martinez said.
To date, the free ride service has already ferried a total of 5,663 frontliners and 275 medical patients.