A public utility bus plying the Edsa Carousel route (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation's service contracting program (SCP) will be indefinitely suspended beginning Thursday while its continued funding is negotiated under the new 2021 budget.

In a statement on Wednesday, the DOTr and its attached agency the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said the service, which includes the “Libreng Sakay” program, will be suspended as it is funded under the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” which effectively ended Wednesday, June 30.

“Ito ‘ho ay sa kadahilanang ang pondo na ginagamit pambayad sa mga tsuper at operator na kasali sa SCP at Libreng Sakay Program ay nagmumula sa Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (This is because the funds used to pay drivers and operators under the SCP and Libreng Sakay are from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act),” the DOTr-LTFRB said.

Both programs have been found to help the public, especially the public transportation sector, amid the pandemic so its continued funding will be sought under Republic Act 11518 or the General Appropriations Act of (GAA) 2021.

“Makaaasa ang ating mga kababayan na gagawin ng DOTr at LTFRB ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang maipagpatuloy muli, sa lalong madaling panahon, ang programa (The public can rest assured that the DOTr and LTFRB will do what it can to resume the program as soon as possible),” the DOTr-LTFRB said.

In the meantime, the LTFRB will continue the distribution of payout and incentives for drivers and operators who have not yet received their due.

To date, around PHP1.5 billion have so far been distributed to drivers and operators under the program—around 19,000 drivers have received their initial payout while another 8,347 drivers have received their PHP20,000 to PHP25,000 incentives all over the country.

From March 29 until June 28, 2021, it said a total of 27.9 million free rides have been provided to the public under the program. (PNA)