Two lawmakers on Thursday cited the need for the government to continue its Libreng Sakay transport program to help commuters cope with the impact of rising fuel prices.
Rep. Bernadette Herrera of Bagong Henerasyon party-list suggested ways for the transport program to continue.
She appealed to the Departments of Transportation (DOTr), and the Department of Budget and Management to realign some of the unallocated funds and cumulative savings so far to keep Libreng Sakay going and have it extended until December 31, 2022.
Herrera also said another way for Libreng Sakay to continue after June 30 is for the Department of Finance (DOF) and the DOTr to invoke the last provision on safety nets in the TRAIN Law to allocate fuel excise tax proceeds.
“If the Executive Branch needs more funds because what they need to do is not in the 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act), they can borrow maybe P250 billion to P500 billion at zero interest from the Bangko Sentral,” Herrera said.
“The Executive Branch borrowed from the BSP in 2020 when funds were needed for urgent pandemic needs. Now, the urgency to respond to is rising fuel prices and elevated inflation. The Bangko Sentral has enough funds to lend to the DOF,” she added.
“I ask incoming Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and incoming Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista to please extend Libreng Sakay through these or other means available to them.”
For his part, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte expressed hopes that the Marcos administration would be able to find ways of continuing to fund the program even at least until the end of the year.
“With transport costs now eating up a large share of the overall inflation rate in Metro Manila alone, the Libreng Sakay would prove to be a big help in cushioning the impact of the fuel price shock on the commuting public,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte pointed out that in May, inflation accelerated to 4.9 percent, owing largely to the increase of the transport index at 14.6 percent, while the food and non-alcoholic beverage index grew 4.9 percent.
The Libreng Sakay program of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) under the Duterte administration ended simultaneously with President Duterte’s last day in office on June 30.