Sad face: 'Libreng sakay' program suspended as Bayanihan 2 expires

Published June 30, 2021, 3:28 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

With the expiration of the Bayanihan to Recover As One (“Bayanihan 2”) Act, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was left with no choice but to temporarily suspend its service contracting program, which for the past few months facilitated free rides in public utility vehicles (PUVs).

(Mark Balmores /File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

LTFRB Chairman Martin B. Delgra III said the fund being used for the implementation of the PUV service contracting program was covered by the Bayanihan 2. The law officially expired Wednesday, June 30.

“There were attempts to extend it in both houses of Congress. In fact, we participated in some of the deliberations and we supported the move to extend it,” Delgra shared.

Recognizing its huge help to drivers, operators, and commuters, Delgra said they are hoping to utilize the funds under the 2021 national budget to keep the program going.

According to Delgra, they already requested P3 billion from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to extend the program.

“Makaaasa ang ating mga kababayan na gagawin ng DOTr [Department of Transportation] at LTFRB ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang maipagpatuloy muli, sa lalong madaling panahon, ang programa sa pamamagitan ng paglalaan ng pondo para rito sa ilalim ng General Appropriations Act. Sa ngayon, pinoproseso na po ng DBM ang pagpapatupad into (We from the DOTr and LTFRB will do all that we can to resume the program, as soon as possible, by allocating funds under the GAA. The DBM is now processing its implementation),” Delgra said.

Despite the suspension, the LTFRB chief assured that they will continue to distribute the unpaid incentives to displaced drivers under the service contracting program.

Based on the LTFRB’s data, it has so far distributed at least P1.5 billion worth of cash assistance to beneficiaries. Aound 19,000 drivers have received initial payouts.

The agency added that a total of 8,347 drivers have received their boarding incentives worth P20,000 to P25,000 in different regions nationwide.

Meanwhile, the service contracting program’s free ride service has served over 27 million people all over the country from March 29 to June 28.

Some P5.58 billion were allotted for the implementation of the service contracting program under Bayanihan 2. Its primary aim was to aid operators and drivers who have been affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by giving them a source of income.

Under this, the government through the DOTr and LTFRB provided payouts for the public transportation services rendered by PUV operators and drivers according to a performance-based subsidy that counted vehicle-kilometers traveled as well as compliance with other indicators.