Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Tuesday said the House contingent in the bicameral conference committee meetings on the 2023 national budget will push for the retention of funds allocated for fuel subsidy and “Libreng Sakay” (free ride) programs under the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
“This is one of the pro-people provisions of the proposed national budget. Our countrymen need this,” Romualdez said.
The Senate contingent, led by finance committee chairman Sen. Sonny Angara, is receptive to the idea, the Speaker added.
The House of Representatives decided to earmark P5.5 billion for the Pantawid Pasada Fuel Program (P2.5 billion), Libreng Sakay (P2 billion) and bike lanes construction (P1 billion) as part of the P77-billion institutional amendments for pro-people programs in the national budget.
“Itong Pantawid Pasada at Libreng Sakay, diretsong ginhawa ito sa ating mga kababayan. Ayuda ito sa mga drayber at operators sa panahon ng pagtaas ng presyo ng produktong petrolyo. At ang libreng sakay naman ay malaking tulong sa ating commuter na nahihirapang pagkasyahin ang kita sa isang araw,”
Romualdez said these programs give direct relief to Filipinos, in particular public vehicle drivers and operators who are already groaning under high petroleum prices.
The free-ride program, meanwhile, benefits commuters trying to make ends meet amid high inflation.
Rising oil prices continue to batter the public transport sector, and Romualdez said the fuel subsidy program remains one of the government services that drivers and operators look forward to in times of need.
“The House believes that the Libreng Sakay program will really help commuters. We funded it because it is needed,” Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said.
The service contracting program of the DOTr and LTFRB started in 2020 and was mandated under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. It was continued in 2021 and 2022.
Bike lanes, meanwhile, encourage citizens to use bicycles to go to and from work.
“It is a way to be physically healthy and at the same time reduces vehicles on the road,” Co added.