The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) program providing free rides to commuters and incentivizing public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators was not given any budget for 2023. 

Transportation Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor said during the House Committee on Transportation hearing that the DOTr requested P12 billion for the service contracting program for 2023.

“However, hindi naisama sa National Expenditure Program (NEP),” Pastor said.

The DOTr has a proposed budget under the NEP of P171.1 billion for next year. The budget is 120.4% higher from the P75.8 billion in 2022.

The “Libreng Sakay” program of the DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was launched in late 2020 through Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act’s provision to help commuters and those in the public transport sector affected by the pandemic.

PUV operators and drivers who joined the government’s free ridership program will get a one-time payout and weekly payments according to the number of kilometers traveled per week. They can get the payment with or without passengers. 

 “We are apealing na mapondohan ang service contracting upang next year ay may pondo po ang Libreng Sakay,” Pastor told the House panel. — Ronald Espartinez