The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) has predicted that more than two million students are expected to benefit from the Libreng Sakay Program that will run from August 22 to November 5, 2022.
Meanwhile, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the release of P1.4 billion in additional funds to support the extended grant of free rides at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Carousel Busway.
LRTA administrator Hernando Cabrera said an estimated 2.2 million students will benefit from the free ride program since LRT-2 (Antipolo-Recto) runs along a corridor with 80 schools including Universities and colleges.
A typical average ridership of LRT-2 before the pandemic was 90,000 to 100,000 per day.
The “Libreng Sakay Program”, which aims to ease the burden of Filipino families amid the rising costs of fuel and essential commodities and the COVID-19 pandemic, was recommended by Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the second Cabinet meeting.
“We have prepared a system to ensure the safe, smooth, and efficient implementation of the program in compliance with the directive of the Department of Transportation” Cabrera said.
The program will cater to students enrolled in nursery/kindergarten, elementary/primary, high schools, technical-vocational, and college students daily from Mondays to Saturday.
The program does not cover students taking graduate studies.
To avail of the free ride, students must present their original school ID or original registration form at the Passenger Assistance Office (PAO) for the issuance of the Free Ride Ticket. The Free Ride Single
Journey Ticket is non-transferrable and valid only for one day.
Students who will avail of the free ride shall be subjected to the usual security inspection procedure and health and safety protocols at the stations and the trains.
Cabrera added that the free ride will be offered the first quarter of the school year 2022-2023 in time for the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes, and will revert to the grant of 20 percent discount to students after the program.
In a press statement released on Tuesday, DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the agency approved the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) to cover the additional funding requirements for the extended implementation of the Service Contracting of Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Program.
“This deposit of additional funds is our support for President Marcos’ desire to extend the Free Ride program of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board until December,” Pangandaman said.
The extended free bus ride program was set to end on July 31, but President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., on his first day in office, announced its extension until December this year.
“Free rides are a great help and comfort in the pockets of commuters, especially for students and those in the labor force,” Pangandaman said.
The program will support up to 50 million riders from Sept. 1 until Dec. 31.
It will also benefit around 628 units of onboarded public utility buses (PUBs) on the EDSA Busway Route in Metro Manila as it provides financial support to transport service providers through performance-based payouts.
“This will be a great help to the livelihood of EDSA Busway drivers who are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and are affected by the continuous increase in fuel prices,” she said.
The free bus ride program was conceived to ensure efficient and safe operations of public transportation under the new normal.
It currently helps mitigate the financial burden on consumers severely affected by the rising costs of goods and services.