This will be the program’s last extension.
On Friday, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. approved the extension of free EDSA Carousel bus rides through December.
This government initiative has helped Filipinos save a lot of money on commuting. It also lessened the strain brought about by the cost of living crisis. The Duterte administration established the EDSA Bus Carousel during the pandemic. The Marcos Jr. administration extended the program until this year.
The “Libreng Sakay” program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Starting December 15, free rides will be accessible 24 hours a day until December 30. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said additional 100 buses would be deployed to make this possible.
LTFRB board member and officer-in-charge Riza Marie Paches said these buses would augment the existing 550 bus fleet to accommodate the increased number of passengers. “In terms of volume projection, we believe this is optimal, meaning this will cater to the graveyard shift, especially those working in the malls that extended their operating hours,” Paches explained.
The EDSA Bus Carousel’s budget problems
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista recently commented on the extension of the program. He said that their remaining budget allows free rides for half of December. The organization stated that its limited budget prevents them from prolonging the program. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) recently abolished the proposed P12 billion budget for free rides for 2023.
“Gusto sana namin magkaroon ng ganitong service contracting (free ride service). Nung hinihingi namin ‘yan sa DBM ay hindi inbinigay samin. Siguro because of limited budget also. Posible pa rin ang Congress at Senate ay mag-allocate ng certain amount. Kung bibigyan kami ng ganitong budget itutuloy namin ang programa namin,” Bautista stated.
The government pays bus concessionaires around P12 million per day for daily operations. Bautista revealed that they need to catch up with the payments. But he promised to resolve the delays by the end of 2022.
Featured Image Paulo Correa