Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte has welcomed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)’s “timely release” of P1.4 billion for the continued implementation of the “libreng sakay” or free rides program until the end of December 2022.
“The timely release of the P1.4 billion for the extension of libreng sakay will let President [Ferdinand “Bongbong’] Marcos [Jr.] deliver on his directive on his first full day in office to [Department of] Transport[ion] [DOTr] Secretary Jaime Bautista to continue with this free-ride project in the metropolis,” said Villafuerte in a statement Friday, Aug. 19.
The solon, who serves as majority leader of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) in the House of Representatives, appealed to the then President-elect Marcos to extend the program as soon as the latter assumed the presidency last June 30.
“With the recent increase in transport fares, the extra P1.4-billion allocation for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will be a blessing for commuters in Metro Manila, as the government will be able to provide free rides from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 to ordinary Filipinos, especially students who are to return to school beginning Aug. 22,” noted Villafuerte.
“This is certainly good news for commuters in the NCR (national capital region),” he added.
For this free riide project to keep going in 2023, Villafuerte hoped that “The DBM had factored in an adequate funding for libreng sakay in the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) amounting to P5.268 trillion, which President Marcos is set to submit to the Congress on Monday (Aug. 22).”
The NEP is the annual expenditure document submitted by Malacañang to lawmakers. It serves as basis for the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or national budget.
Bautista sought the release of P1.4 billion from the DBM as soon as President Marcos approved last July 1 the recommendation of the DOTr secretary for the extension of libreng sakay until the end of the year.
Villafuerte said last July that the President’s move to extend the program on his first full day in office was “A harbinger of the better days ahead on his watch for our people, particularly the masa (common folk) who have been hit the hardest by the economic crisis touched off by the over two-year Covid-19 pandemic plus the oil price shock, food supply squeeze and other ill effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.