The Department of Transportation has asked lawmakers to fund its Libreng Sakay program for next year after its request for a P12 billion allocation was excluded in the proposed 2023 budget submitted to Congress.
Transportation Undersecretary for Road Transportation Marke Steven Pastor said the Libreng Sakay program is not included in the 2023 budget of the DOTr.
“We requested P12 billion for [the] 2023 budget. However, it was not included in the National Expenditure Program,” Pastor said during the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Transportation Thursday.
In a separate statement, Budget Undersecretary Goddes Libiran explained that the Service Contracting Program, more popularly known as Libreng Sakay, is a “non-recurring or one-time expenditure item.”
“It is not a regular program. Hence, similar to previous years, no funds were allocated for it under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP),” she said.
Libiran said the ball is now effectively with Congress as it was also the one who introduced the item in the 2022 General Appropriations Act.
“Hence, we will defer to the wisdom of our honorable lawmakers the decision on whether or not to allot appropriations for the said program. We shall likewise defer to the direction of the Department of Finance (DOF) as to policies concerning the sustainability and continuation of programs related to financial assistance,” she said.
“It is important to note that the SCP was originally implemented by the DOTr at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide assistance to the road transport sector badly hit by the pandemic. This year, it was intended to mitigate the impact of the fuel surge. We expect oil prices to stabilize next year,” she added.
Pastor appealed to the members of the House committee to allocate funding for the program.
“We are appealing of course to our legislative branch of government, if you could please still set aside funds for service contracting. so that the free rides could continue,” Pastor said.
According to Pastor, the DOTr has already utilized the P7 billion allocated for the program under the 2022 GAA.
President Marcos approved on July 1 the recommendation of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to extend the free rides program for buses plying the EDSA Carousel Busway until end-December along with the free rides in the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), Light Rail Transit 2 (LRT-2) and Philippine National Railways (PNR) for students, at least for the first quarter of schoolyear 2022-2023 from August 22 to November 4.
The program was part of the third phase of the government’s service contracting program that ended on June 30.
The first phase of the program was launched in November 2020 as authorized by the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 law, a stimulus package designed partly to help the economy recover quickly from the pandemic.
ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro echoed the appeal of Pastor.