‘Libreng sakay’ provides relief amid ongoing transport strike

By Azer Parrocha

March 6, 2023, 2:15 pm Updated on March 6, 2023, 5:02 pm

<p><strong>LIBRENG SAKAY</strong>. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority employees ready a “Libreng Sakay” (free ride) vehicle in this undated photo. Malacañang said Monday (March 6, 2023) the national government will provide free rides during the weeklong transport strike. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

LIBRENG SAKAY. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority employees ready a “Libreng Sakay” (free ride) vehicle in this undated photo. Malacañang said Monday (March 6, 2023) the national government will provide free rides during the weeklong transport strike. (File photo)

MANILA – The national government will continue to assist commuters affected by the transport strike through its “Libreng Sakay” (free ride) program, Malacañang said Monday.

In a news release, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) assured the public that the government has enough assets and personnel to respond to the needs of the commuting public.

The PCO said the government prepositioned buses in Pasay City, Marikina City, Caloocan City and Quezon City as early as 4 a.m.

Citing reports from the various agencies, PCO said there is “no disruption” except in a handful of routes in Metro Manila.

As of 10 a.m., the PCO said the EDSA Busway Carousel has not been impacted by any transport strike activity, with operations running smoothly with a low passenger volume observed at all stations.

Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel have also facilitated the ferrying of affected passengers from Almar Subdivision in Caloocan going to Quezon City.

Vehicles are likewise being deployed to cater to passengers from Manila to Baclaran, Parañaque City.

As of 7:15 a.m., the EDSA Busway was operating normally with a moderate to a heavy volume of passengers at the southbound from north sector stations, Manila Central University in Caloocan and Roosevelt Avenue, Quezon City.

Authorities guaranteed there are sufficient buses to transport stranded passengers.

100 buses for free rides

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the House of Representatives and Malacañang took the joint initiative in providing 100 buses for the free rides to ensure stranded commuters will have available rides going to their work or on the way back home.

“Through the joint effort of the House of Representatives and Malacañang, we have fielded 100 buses to augment the number of vehicles provided by local governments and other government agencies that would provide free rides to affected commuters,” he said.

If necessary, he said additional vehicles will be provided to augment free rides for the duration of the transport strike.

Romualdez said despite President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to revisit the program’s timetable and implementation, the transport groups still proceeded with the planned strike.

Romualdez said some 1,380 commuters were already served by the first 46 buses deployed by Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to service various routes between 8:35 a.m. to 11:01 a.m. Monday.

As per MMDA's report, Romualdez said the first batch of 46 buses were deployed in the following routes: Baclaran-Sucat, Baclaran–Dapitan, SM Sangandaan-Divisoria, Buendia-Guadalupe, Zobel-Roxas-Dulo (Sta. Ana), DOST Bicutan-Sucat, Alabang-San Pedro, Alabang-Calamba, Philcoa-TM Kalaw, BFCT-Cubao, Monumento-Navotas and Monumento-Malanday.

“President Marcos has shown that he is sympathetic to the issues raised by certain transport groups over the jeepney modernization program. I appeal to those concerned to engage the government in a sincere dialogue to resolve this issue,” Romualdez said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Party-List Representative Arlene Brosas called for the junking of the jeepney modernization program, which was approved during the previous administration.

Brosas said she is not against the modernization but franchise should not be given to big businessmen.

She said public utility vehicles operators and drivers would only be buried in debt due to the high cost of modern public utility vehicles that will replace traditional jeepneys.

In Region 4-A (Calabarzon), authorities reported around 30 stranded passengers at the SM-Crossing Calamba Grand Terminal in Laguna at around 6 a.m.

However, jeepneys plying the Calamba-Biñan route and modern jeeps plying the Calamba-Pacita Complex route are in normal operation.

Daily commuters between Novaliches, Quezon City and Valenzuela City and vice versa have not been affected by the transport strike, according to reports.

At least 84 air-conditioned mini-buses or modern jeepneys belonging to two transport cooperatives continue to operate along the nine-kilometer Gen. Luis St. (formerly Novaliches-Polo Road) route from the former Novaliches town proper to MacArthur Highway in Malinta, Valenzuela City.

Fifty of the units are operated by the Novaliches-Malinta Jeepney Transport Service Cooperative and 32 units by the Novaliches Development Cooperative Inc.

In addition, about a dozen airconditioned buses under the Quezon City Government's Bus Service Program serve the local commuters from Gen. Luis St. to Quezon City Hall in Diliman.

On the other hand, the Speed Wheelers Transport Corporation also operates 26 modern jeepneys along the Novaliches-Trinoma-SM North EDSA and Cubao routes.

Hundreds of tricycles under the QC Government's Tricycle Regulation Division at the Novaliches District Center are also serving commuters along the two-kilometer section of Gen. Luis St. which passes through portions of Quezon City, North Caloocan City and Valenzuela City.

At least 11 major jeepney and UV (utility vehicle) groups in Metro Manila opposed the planned weeklong transport strike led by Manibela, an alliance of UV drivers and a party-list group.

The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board earlier announced that instead of June 30, traditional jeepneys have until Dec. 31 this year to consolidate the "first component" of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. (With reports from Severino Samonte/Zaldy De Layola/PNA)