A House leader has asked his congressman-colleagues to realign funds to the government’s “libreng sakay” or free ride program in order to keep it going beyond 2022.

(Photo from DOTr)

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte made this appeal at the start of the House Committee on Appropriations’ deliberations on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 on Friday, Aug. 26.

“We need to provide budgetary support to libreng sakay for the government to sustain it next year as DOTr (Department of Transportation) and DBM (Department of Budget and Management) officials have confirmed that there was zero outlay in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) that was submitted to us by Malacañang last Monday (Aug. 22), Villafuerte, president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said in a statement.

He said the service contracting program (SCP) for public utility vehicles (PUV), which fueled the free ride program, was “just a one-time, non-recurring expenditure, and not a regular item, that was included in the 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act) based solely on the initiative of the 18th Congress”.

The NEP is the precursor of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which becomes the GAA after it passes through Congress (House and Senate) and gets signed by the President.

“We have to winnow out in the NEP submitted by Malacañang for 2023 the items for specific programs or projects whose outlays can be slashed, if not taken out completely, and realign such funds for essentials like the libreng sakay for Metro Manila commuters in the proposed GAA for next year,” Villafuerte said.

“We don’t know yet if the P12 billion that the DOTr had ostensibly asked for libreng sakay is even enough for the department to make good on its plan to increase the number of buses offering free rides along the EDSA Carousel route,” he said, referring to statements made by the DOTr during a recent House Committee on Transportation hearing.

For common Filipinos, the libreng sakay program has become their primary means of conveyance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DOTr said that it has the funds to continue the program up to Dec. 31, 2022.

Villafuerte argued that this libreng sakay transport subsidy for ordinary commuters is a must, given that in its Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2022 report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has concluded that the poorest Filipinos need continued policy intervention and support to escape poverty because Covid-19 had adversely affected their lives and livelihoods.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2022/08/27/realign-funds-for-budget-less-free-ride-program-villafuerte-asks-house/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=realign-funds-for-budget-less-free-ride-program-villafuerte-asks-house)