By Dempsey Reyes and Tyrone Jasper C. Piad, Inquirer News
President Marcos has approved the extension of the government’s free rides program for buses plying the Edsa Carousel Busway, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Friday.
Mr. Marcos also gave the green light for the free rides for students in MRT-3, LRT-2 and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) once in-person classes resume in August, the agency added.
The President approved the free rides recommended by Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, who said the “Libreng Sakay” (free ride) program could be extended until December 2022.
But the government discontinued free rides for all MRT-3 passengers because the government was “already subsidizing” riders by as much as P163.85 per passenger even before the program and even with passengers paying the full fare.
Focus on mobility
“Considering the welfare of students, however, whose learning outcomes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the undersigned recommends implementing a ‘Libreng Sakay for Students Program’ for the first quarter of the 2022-2023 school year or from Aug. 22 to Nov. 4 this year,” according to Bautista’s memorandum.
The government last month said the free rides on the Edsa Carousel would only last until July 31 while the “Libreng Sakay” for jeepneys would end on June 30 because of the depletion of the budget for the programs.
On his first work day at the DOTr, Bautista said he would focus on improving the mobility of passengers and goods and providing “accessible, affordable, comfortable and safe transport service throughout the country.”
“We should focus our efforts at moving passengers and goods that use our roads, airports, seaports and railways,” said Bautista, who seeks to “elevate” the country’s transport system to “global standards.”
At the same time, Bautista said they would follow through with the DOTr’s ongoing “Build, Build, Build” program. “We do not need to reinvent the wheel. These big-ticket projects truly deserve continuity to [strike] the maximum benefits for the Filipino people,” he said.
Among the big-ticket projects are the Metro Manila Subway and the 163-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway, which are both under construction.