DOTr chief says additional ₧1.4-B budget needed to sustain nationwide free bus ride program

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) may need an additional P1.4 billion allocation to sustain its free ride program to the public until the end of the year.

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista,  in a televised interview on Monday, disclosed they are running short of wherewithal to continue the “Libreng Sakay” or free ride program, which they are implementing at the Edsa Busway Carousel.

“If we continue that [Edsa Busway Carousel] until December, we’ll need an additional budget of around P1.4 billion, which we don’t have in our existing budget,” Bautista said.

The transportation chief said they would be seeking the intervention of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to secure the additional funding for the program.

Last month, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), an attached agency under the Department of Transportation (DOTr), said it already used 80 percent of its P7 billion budget to provide free rides to commuters at Edsa and other parts of the country.

It noted the remaining budget for the initiative will only last until June or July, depending on the region.

The government spends P10 million daily to implement the nationwide program, according to LTFRB.

As of June 20, the program already benefited over 71 million commuters.

The free ride program, together with service contracting, and fuel subsidies, were the measures used by the government to help the public transportation sector cope with the effects of the pandemic and the rising fuel prices.

Marcos Jr. earlier said he wants to continue giving free rides to students, particularly through the Light Rail Transit 2 (LRT 2) amid the proposed phased return of students’ to face-to-face classes from August to November.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said it is considering using the windfall tax from fuel to continue supporting the public transport sector through more fuel subsidies.