(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the release of PHP1.4 billion in additional funds to support the extended grant of free rides at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Carousel Busway.

In a press statement released on Tuesday, DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the agency approved the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) to cover the additional funding requirements for the extended implementation of the Service Contracting of Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Program.

"Ito pong paglagak natin ng additional funds ay suporta natin sa hangad ni President (Ferdinand) Marcos (Jr.) na i-extend ang programang Libreng Sakay ng Department of Transportation at ng Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board hanggang Disyembre (This deposit of additional funds is our support for President Marcos' desire to extend the Free Ride program of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board until December),” she said.

The extended free bus ride program was set to end on July 31, but President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., on his first day in office, announced its extension until December this year.

"Malaking tulong at ginhawa po ang Libreng Sakay sa bulsa ng mga commuter, lalo na para sa mga estudyante at mga kabilang sa labor force (Free rides are a great help and comfort in the pockets of commuters, especially for students and those in the labor force)," Pangandaman said.

The program will support up to 50 million ridership from Sept. 1 until Dec. 31.

It will also benefit around 628 units of onboarded public utility buses (PUBs) on the EDSA Busway Route in Metro Manila as it provides financial support to transport service providers through performance-based payouts.

"Magiging malaking tulong po ito sa kabuhayan ng mga driver ng EDSA Busway na hanggang ngayon ay bumabangon mula sa epekto ng pandemya, at apektado sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina (This will be a great help to the livelihood of EDSA Busway drivers who are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and are affected by the continuous increase in fuel prices)," she said.

The free bus ride program was conceived to ensure efficient and safe operations of public transportation under the new normal.

It currently helps mitigate the financial burden on consumers severely affected by the rising costs of goods and services. (PNA)