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By Daphne Galvez, Inquirer News

Free rides on public transportation at the Edsa Busway Carousel will continue until July 31 although the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) “Libreng Sakay” program will expire on June 30.
“We want to extend the program,” LTFRB executive director Tina Cassion said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel. “But, of course, we [will] need some supplemental budget on this.”
Cassion said about 80 percent of the allocated funds for the program had already been spent, but the program now covers 942 routes, up from 546 last year.
The number of units used also jumped to 16,691 from 5,734, while the number of operators and cooperators grew to 761 from 378.
“Even if we say that the funds are exhausted, but because of the widespread participation, we can say that more and more commuters were served, especially high-volume routes were served, that’s why people are really clamoring for the extension,” Cassion added.
Cassion said some routes will be extended until July 31, including the Edsa Busway Carousel and the Montalban to Quezon route.
203M passengers served
According to an LTFRB statement, 118 routes in Metro Manila under the program’s third phase already ended under the 2022 budget law and 28 other routes will end on June 30.
The extended free ride program will start at 4 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. daily, the LTFRB said.
The agency said a total of 203,639,626 passengers benefited from the program since its first phase. That phase had a total of 65,256 participating public utility vehicles (PUVs), 4,461 open routes, and 2,197 participating corporations and cooperatives nationwide.
Under the program, operators and drivers received benefits based on the number of trips they made weekly, regardless of the number of passengers on those trips.
Cassion also said the LTFRB would prosecute PUV operators who did not pay for the services of their drivers and asked the affected drivers to file a formal complaint at the LTFRB.
She said that under the contract, operators are obliged to take care of their drivers’ salaries, wages and benefits so operators can be held accountable if ever there is a breach of contract.
“We can go after [the operators] for breach of that contract if only [the drivers] will file something before us,” she said. “How can we go after your operators if you do not even name who the operators are?”
She said the LTFRB received liquidation report from operators stating that drivers have already been paid in full, so drivers should take their grievances to the agency if the report is false.
“If this is really not true and drivers are saying that it is not true, then we will go after the operators,” she said. INQ

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