LTFRB: With 'exhausted' funds, Libreng Sakay needs supplemental budget to continue past June

LTFRB: With 'exhausted' funds, Libreng Sakay needs supplemental budget to continue past June
The LTFRB said it expects more PUV routes to be opened in the coming weeks.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board's Libreng Sakay program offering free public transportation rides will need a supplemental budget from the incoming administration if it is to continue past June, the agency said Wednesday.

LTFRB executive director Tina Cassion made this statement over the Laging Handa briefing Wednesday as she pointed out that the LTFRB's funds had been "exhausted" after spending P10 million per day under the Libreng Sakay program, which is set to end by June 30. 

"Our total budget all over the country is P7 billion and we're already at 80 percent of payables. They're continuing to run even until now in some regions until June 30 and in other regions their implementation is until July," Cassion said in mixed Filipino and English.

"This was a nationwide program all over the country with other regions participating. There was also a surge in units [that we deployed.]"

As it currently stands, at least 135 routes being serviced by public utility jeepneys under Libreng Sakay will no longer see the King of the Road giving out free rides starting mid-June. Cassion said that 118 jeepney routes have stopped operations as of June 16, while 28 others will cease by the end of the month. 

Meanwhile, the EDSA Carousel busway will also continue giving free rides to commuters until July 31. 

"[Libreng Sakay] really caused an exhaustion of our funds, but what is good also is that because many routes and units were participating, we were able to serve many passengers," she also said. 

According to Cassion, the board has not received any petitions from groups representing Transport Network Vehicle Services calling for fare hikes. "We haven't officially received anything from taxi operators," she said. "We can't act without any petitions for fare hikes from taxis."

Cassion added that the LTFRB was still studying the petitions calling for further fare hikes up to P14 to P15 minimum to come up with an "equitable decision" for all parties involved. She added that the board had already received petitions for raising the minimum fare on public utility buses.

"The situation on the ground tells us that they're really having a hard time. What we're looking at in balancing the interests is of course the economic viability of our operators amidst the rising cost of fuel and then of course the side of the commuters because the burden will be passed on to them and their ability to pay fares," she said in Filipino. 

"Hopefully the incoming president will be able to focus on transportation. Many are hoping for an extension to Libreng Sakay, and the LTFRB is ready to do this as long as there is a supplemental budget for it."

Marcos has yet to name his nominee for transportation secretary. — Franco Luna




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