More transport woes as gov't free ride contracts end

June 22 ------ The transportation woes of commuters in Metro Manila are expected to become worse in the coming days as the government’s contract with transport groups for free rides have either expired or about to expire this month.

Data from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) disclosed that the Service Contracting Program for around 60 jeepney operators and companies have already expired on June 16 while around 10 more contracts will end on June 30. The free rides cover almost all passenger jeepney routes in Metro Manila. LTFRB Executive Director Tina Cassion said that by the end of June, there will be no more free rides for passenger jeepneys. Cassion said that there are some contracts for free rides through the passenger buses but all of them will also end by next month. This means that by in the middle or at the end of July, there will be no more free rides in all modes nationwide.

The national government, through the Department of Transportation via the LTFRB, has allocated billions of pesos of funds for the free rides. It started at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic for medical health workers and essential workers. This was later extended and expanded nationwide amid the series of big-time oil price hikes starting last quarter of 2021 and was further aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that started in February. The government’s Service Contracting Program for free rides reached three phases, the Third Phase either ended on June 16 or by end of June and any time of July this year. The end of the free ride contracts is expected to severely impact on Metro Manila commuters who have been depending on the program to save money amid the increases in the prices of basic goods and services.

Based on the LTFRB data, more than 98 million riders benefitted from government’s free ride program from April 11, 2022 to June 6, 2022 alone. Amid the lack of transportation as a lot of drivers and operators decided to stop their operations, a number of commuters would line up at free ride stations. Despite the LTFRB’s approval of the P10 provisional minimum fare for passenger jeepney, transport operators and drivers said it is not enough to cover their losses due to diesel prices. on June 21, the price of diesel went up anew by almost P3 per liter. Since the start of the oil price hikes late last year, the net increase in diesel prices is now at more than P42 per liter. Diesel is commonly used in passenger jeepneys and buses. A net increase of more than P28 per liter was also recorded for gasoline prices since late last year.