BBM extends free bus rides

On EDSA Carousel til yearend, free transit for students on trains

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday approved the memo presented by Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista extending the free EDSA Carousel bus rides until December, as well as free rides for students who will be using the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3), Light Rail Transit-2 (LRT-2), and Philippine National Railways (PNR) when in-person classes resume in August.

STILL FREE. In this file photo, passengers alight at the Roosevelt station of EDSA Carousel bus route, which President Ferdinand Marcos said will remain free until December, as well as free rides for students who will be using Metro Manila’s train systems when in-person classes resume in August.

This developed as the increase in the minimum fare in public utility jeepneys (PUJs) to by 2 pesos to P11 took effect yesterday after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) granted the petition of public transport groups.

The new administration will also have to deal with the impending hike in fuel surcharges for airline travel, and current petitions to raise fares for provincial buses as well.

The memo on the free bus and train rides came after the President’s meeting with Bautista and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez at Malacañang.

“Considering the availability of budget for Service Contracting under the General Appropriations of 2022, the undersigned recommends the continuation of the Libreng Sakay (Free Ride) program for all passengers of the Edsa Bus Carousel,” a portion of the DOTr memo from Bautista read.

The move will ease the burden on rising living expenses and help Filipinos save money, especially with the impending return of face-to-face classes after more than two years.

The DOTr said current MRT-3 fares are already heavily subsidized, which was vital in its decision to recommend discontinuing the free rides for all passengers.

“Considering the welfare of students, however, whose learning outcomes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the undersigned recommends implementing a Libreng Sakay for Students Program for the first quarter of School Year 2022-2023 or from 22 August 2022 to 04 November 2022,” another portion of the DOTr memo read, covering MRT-3, LRT-2, and PNR.

The Department of Education, now under Vice President Sara Duterte, estimates that more than 38,000 schools are set for the resumption of face-to-face classes.

Meanwhile, in an order released on Wednesday, the LTFRB said the new minimum fare—up from P9—is applicable during the first four kilometers, with no increase in succeeding kilometers.

For modern PUJs, the minimum fare was increased to PHP13 for the first four kilometers.

The Duterte government had received petitions for a fare increase for jeepneys, transport network vehicle services (TNVS), and buses, LTFRB Executive Director Kristina Cassion said in June.

This was hundreds of jeepney units offering free rides on behalf of the government stopped running, with their operators feeling the bite of skyrocketing gas prices.

Juliet de Jesus, managing director of the Samahan ng mga Transport Operators ng Pilipinas said that something would have to give to keep buses on the roads despite long-winding delays on their petitions to both increase the minimum fare and a grant for a subsidy.

Drivers of public utility buses, many of which serve the EDSA Carousel in the metro’s busiest thoroughfare, had protested delayed payment of the Duterte government’s Libreng Sakay program under service contracting and harsh treatment by their employers.

Petitions filed by groups representing provincial bus drivers and operators pushed for a P4 to P7 fare increase that would increase the minimum fare from P15 to P20.

On the fuel surcharge for air travel, the Civil Aeronautics Board had said fuel prices continued to spike in June, which warranted another surcharge increase this month.

CAB said the applicable fuel surcharge is determined based on one month’s average of jet fuel MOPS (Mean of Platts Singapore) prices in its peso-per-liter equivalent.

According to CAB, July rates may reach Level 11 from the current Level 7 in the fuel surcharge matrix.

Under Level 11, airlines may collect a fuel surcharge of P355 to P1,038 per passenger for a one-way domestic flight and from P1,172 to P8,714.84 for international flights originating from the Philippines. The rates depend on the distance of the flights.

For a Manila-Caticlan flight with up to 400 kilometers, a passenger may be charged a fuel surcharge of P507. The current fuel surcharge under Level 7 for the same route is P346.

The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) said they are waiting for CAB’s announcement so that the airlines can file their respective petitions.

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