The Libreng Sakay program along the EDSA Carousel busway ended at the start of 2023. The free bus ride service was invaluable to many commuters while it was still being implemented, but with the release of the new fare matrix, everyone will have to fork the money to get a ride. The LTFRB is looking for ways to be able to provide free rides again, though, and they hope they can make it happen soon.
Libreng Sakay might be able to resume sometime in Q2, but hopefully in Q1 of this year
As of January 1, commuters using buses along EDSA had to pay for their rides. This was met mostly by disappointment, given the added expense of daily fare to an already struggling commuting public. In a recent interview with LTFRB Technical Division Head Joel Bolano, it was mentioned that a new budget has already been allocated for the Libreng Sakay program for 2023.
When asked when they see the project’s resumption will happen, Bolano responded, “Baka we’re looking at second quarter. Hopefully, kung makakahabol ng first quarter, the better. Pero kung sakali, baka second quarter [We’re looking at the second quarter, maybe. Hopefully, if it can be done in the first quarter, the better].”
In a later and separate statement, LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz reinforced that they are, indeed, just waiting for the release of the 2023 budget for Libreng Sakay which amounts to PHP 1.4B from the Department of Budget and Management. Guadiz, though, has a more optimistic estimate that the program might be able to resume by February.
The current allocated budget is significantly smaller than what was originally given for the program to operate. It’s in this light that Guadiz said that the Libreng Sakay program might be able to sustain itself only until July. Should the program burn through the allocation, the LTFRB plans to ask for a supplemental budget for it to be able to continue.
Given this smaller, limited budget, the involved government agencies will have to determine which areas will be covered by the Libreng Sakay program.
Just how helpful was the program? According to the LTFRB, a total of 80,832,186 passengers were able to enjoy zero-fare transportation before the end of December 2022. By the end of the past year, a couple more thousand were added to that number, no doubt.
We’ve mentioned time and again that the daily struggles of the commuting public are already immeasurable. Add to that the added expense of taking public transport to and from their intended destinations, and their economic and financial status, and it really is going to be a burden. There’s no such thing as a free ride, everyone gets that. But every bit of help goes a long way.
The Filipina and Filipino commuters deserve more. A lot of public transport infrastructure projects are in the pipe, and that’s well and good. But if there’s just a little bit more that the government can do to address not just transportation, but the employment and financial and economic sectors as well, then perhaps we won’t need free rides because we can afford them easier in the future.
In the near future, we all hope.