WHERE and how to fund the Libreng Sakay program will be a challenge to the lawmakers following admission by the Department of Transportation (DOTR) that there is no budget allocated for 2023.
In the House Committee on Appropriations deliberations on the agency’s budget, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) pointed out that the free ride program is not a regular project of the government.
However, the DBM said it is under the decision of the Congress on whether or not the budget will be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
According to Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, they requested P12 billion for the Libreng Sakay but was not granted.
This prompted the DOTR to appeal to lawmakers for funds to support the program, and several solons manifested their support.
“ Kami ay dumudulog, at humihingi ng tulong para sa ating mga kababayan, kung maaaring magkaroon ng congressional amendment sa pondo ng kagawaran ng transportasyon para sa taong 2023, magkaroon ng pondo ang service contracting,” Bautista said.
Also, funding to fix the Land Transportation Office’s backlog in license plates was reduced to P4.7 billion from the requested P6.6 billion. The LTO said this amount would address only 70-80 percent of the backlog.
AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee called on his colleagues in Congress to grant the DOTR request for a P12 billion budget to continue the Libreng Sakay program and P6.6 billion to address the backlog in releasing plate numbers.
“For this year, nag-increase ang inyong proposed budget by 121 percent. Despite this, napansin ko na maraming naalis from 2022 GAA, yung budget for active transport, yung transition for transport workers, at yung isa dito yung Libreng Sakay katulad ng sa EDSA carousel,” Lee said.
“During this time na may pandemic pa rin, na sobrang taas ng presyo ng gasolina, bakit inalis itong Libreng Sakay? Without such program, ano yung alternative na naisip ng DOTr for this? Para makatulong naman tayo sa mobility at maibsan ang paghihirap ng ating mga kababayan,” Lee added.
Despite the budget cuts for several programs, the DOTr’s proposed 2023 budget is 120 percent higher than this year, which is at P167.12 billion.