The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has earmarked the budget for the government’s free bus ride program up to December this year, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said Thursday.
“We already have funds. The DBM has already set aside the budget,” Bautista said in a television interview.
He made the statement when asked if there is enough funding to cover the operating cost of the EDSA Bus Carousel until December.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) has called on the private sector to take part in providing basic services to the public, particularly the expansion of the OVP Libreng Sakay Program across the country.
In a joint press briefing on Thursday, OVP Spokesperson Reynold Munsayac said they are eyeing adding Commonwealth Avenue to their Libreng Sakay route apart from the two buses already assigned to the EDSA Carousel.
Munsayac stressed that the OVP is willing to shoulder the salaries of drivers for their buses.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairperson Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil earlier said they only have funds for the Libreng Sakay program up to September.
According to her, the LTFRB will ask for additional funds to extend the service until December.
Asked if the free bus ride program will be again extended beyond December 2022, Bautista said, “Right now, Libreng Sakay is up to December 31, 2022 only.”
Under the LIbreng Sakay program, the government hires buses to provide free rides to commuters.
“We are looking into several target routes because we are receiving reports that there are passengers along the Commonwealth area, en-route to Manila or Quiapo. So we are looking for private partners. Hopefully, there would be some kind-hearted groups so the government would not have to spend more. We will add them to our current fit, so we can help more commuters,” Munsayac said.
“Our goal is really to find private partners who will lend their buses. We will shoulder gasoline [expenses], even the salaries of drivers, if needed, repairs, and maintenance,” the spokesman of Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio added.
Initially, the OVP deployed five buses for the OVP Libreng Sakay, including two buses in Metro Manila, and one each in Bacolod, Cebu City, and Davao City.
Besides the free rides, Munsayac said they have already processed millions of pesos worth of aid for medical and burial assistance at the central and satellite offices of the OVP.
“As of yesterday, OVP has already processed claims for medical and burial assistance amounting to P36,476,494.32 and already released the amount of P11,482,023.40 for OVP NCR (National Capital Region) and the satellite offices,” he said.
The OVP also opened their seventh satellite office in Bacolod City.
Munsayac added that they have distributed relief in quake-affected areas.
“Among those given away are dining/food starter packs, bottled drinking water, and medicine,” he said.
Earlier, Munsayac said the OVP would also launch a livelihood program for women and members of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Plus) community.