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Transport groups decry ‘Libreng Sakay’

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
Transport groups decry âLibreng Sakayâ
PUJs ply their route along EDSA-Aurora Boulevard intersection in Quezon City on Thursday, June 9, 2022. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has recently approved the P1 provisional fare hike for jeepneys in Metro Manila, Regions 3 and 4.
THE STAR / Miguel Antonio De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Transport groups are decrying the government’s Libreng Sakay program for public utility vehicles (PUVs), which they claim is killing the routes of public utility jeepneys (PUJs).

Mar Valbuena, chairman of the transport coalition Manibela, said jeepney drivers who have not been included in the government’s Service Contracting Program (SCP) are now earning as low as P200 per day amid skyrocketing fuel prices.

Valbuena said they have to contend with tight competition on the road as commuters prefer the free rides since the government rolled out the Libreng Sakay program.

“There are more drivers not included in the SCP. This is killing the routes being plied by those not included because commuters who are already aboard jeepneys and UV Express units would alight mid-transit to transfer to PUV units giving free rides,” he said in an interview on One News' "Agenda."

“Of course, commuters are being frugal. They will alight even if the PUJ has already moved. We’re already consuming fuel and then they will alight and transfer to a PUV offering free rides,” he added.

Under the SCP, operators and drivers will be providing free rides to commuters and would be compensated by the government on a weekly basis. Under the program, the government will also cover fuel expenses, disinfection, monthly amortizations and other overhead expenses.

While transport groups welcomed the program, they earlier decried how the SCP was “selective,” with only a few units of PUJs being chosen as the program prioritizes modern PUVs.

Modesto Floranda, national president of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should not allow modernized minibuses to ply routes being operated by traditional PUJs.

Floranda said that given the losses drivers are facing right now due to high fuel prices, the most that drivers can take home on a daily basis is P300.

Meanwhile, transport groups welcomed the government’s decision to raise the minimum fare to P10, but appealed for additional fare hikes considering how the P1 increase “barely” compensates for the hefty price hikes on petroleum products.

While the LTFRB approved the P1 provisional increase in minimum fare, it has yet to address the petition for a P5 increase in the minimum fare now that the price of diesel – which fuels the common jeepney engine – has gone as high as P90 per liter in some areas.

The hearing on the petitions is set later this month.

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