No budget for 'Libreng Sakay' in 2023; DOTr asks lawmakers for funding


The continuation of the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) program to provide free rides to commuters and incentivize public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who participated in the initiative did not receive an allocation in the agency's 2023 budget.

During the House Committee on Transportation’s hearing on Thursday, Transportation Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor said the DOTr requested P12 billion for the service contracting program for 2023.

“However, hindi naisama sa [it was not included in the] National Expenditure Program (NEP),” Pastor said.

Under the NEP, the DOTr has a proposed budget of P171.1 billion for next year, up 120.4% from P75.8 billion in 2022.

Sought for clarification, Budget Undersecretary for Media Affairs, Community Relations, and Internal Audit Goddes Libiran told GMA News Online that the service contracting program 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),” Libiran said.

The service contracting or “Libreng Sakay” program of the DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was launched in late 2020 under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to help commuters and those in the public transport sector affected by the pandemic.

Under the service contracting program, PUV operators and drivers who participated in the government’s free ridership program will receive a one-time payout and weekly payments based on the number of kilometers traveled per week, whether they have passengers or not.

The DOTr has since continued the implementation of the program in 2021 and 2022.


“We are apealing na mapondohan ang service contracting upang next year ay may pondo po ang Libreng Sakay,” Pastor told the House panel.

(We are appealing that the service contracting program be funded so that next year the Libreng Sakay program can continue.)

ACT-Teachers party-list Representative France Castro expressed support for DOTr's appeal.

“Allow us to note further that the inclusion of the SCP in the FY 2022 General Appropriation Act (GAA) is congress-introduced. Hence, we will defer to the wisdom of our honorable lawmakers the decision on whether or not to allot appropriations for the said program,” Libiran said.

“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,” the Budget official said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) amounting to P1.4 billion, which will cover the additional funds needed for the extended Libreng Sakay program from September 1 until December 31, 2022.

“It is important to note that the SCP (service contracting program) 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,” Libiran said.

Libiran was the former assistant secretary for Communications and Commuter Affairs of the DOTr during the previous administration. —KBK/BM, GMA News