By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard
Recognizing the benefits of the program to millions of essential workers and commuters, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. vowed to make the free rides at the Edsa Carousel Bus route permanent once he and his running mate Mayor Inday Sara Duterte are elected in the coming May 2022 elections.
The Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer said that he is always on the lookout for programs and initiatives that will benefit millions of Filipinos and become major game changers as far as governance is concerned, just like what his father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, did for millions of Filipino workers who now get to enjoy their 13th month pay every Christmas.
The younger Marcos stressed that the government should continue the Free Ride Program at Edsa Carousel because it is “a big help for essential and frontline medical workers, especially now that there is a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country.”
“I am appealing to the government to institutionalize the free bus rides and give our kababayans a leg up in their journey towards recovery. For some, this has become a lifeline, a means to augment their income,” said Marcos.
According to the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), up to 31 million commuters have benefited from the program.
“The savings people will get from this would allow them to spend more on their daily needs such as food for their families. I hope that the government will be able to give this ‘gift’ to the people,” he added.
“Inday Sara and I really love the people of Metro Manila so we both call on the government to continue this. We promise that if we are elected, we will never stop it because it is a very good legacy for the administration of President Duterte,” Marcos said.
Last week, the LTFRB announced that the ‘Libreng Sakay Program’ for essential workers and Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) on the EDSA Carousel bus ended on December 22.
According to the LTFRB, the program has already used up the funds allocated from the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) even tried to request another P10-B fund for the continuation of the free rides and service contracting program for 2022, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) rejected the appeal.
The EDSA Carousel is a bus route with select stations and dedicated bus lanes with concrete barriers that spare them from the usual heavy traffic along Edsa.
Its regular route runs along the entire length of Edsa from Monumento to PITX-Paranaque and vice versa.
Its operation started on June 1, 2020 when the entire Metro Manila was placed under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Because it is free and convenient, the program is enjoyed by commuters who are also grateful because they can arrive in their respective destinations faster.
Each carousel bus commuter saves an average P100 in fare per day, which is an equivalent of P3,000 per month.
“If I am given the opportunity to serve as president, I will make sure that everything I think and do is only for the good of the people,” Marcos said.
“Just like my father, what was done during his tenure can still be seen and benefited by our country and countrymen until now, just like when he enacted the 13th month pay law,” he added.
To recall, the elder Marcos is universally recognized as the man who mandated and required all employers to pay their employees their 13th Month Pay by virtue of his Presidential Decree 851 which he signed on December 16, 1975.
In his explanatory note, the former president said that it is necessary to protect the level of real wages from the ravages of worldwide inflation; as there has been no increase in the legal minimum wage rates since 1970.
He added the Christmas season is an opportune time for society to show its concern for the plight of the working masses so they may properly celebrate Christmas and New Year.
As a result, millions of both government and private sector workers from then on until now are still reaping the benefits brought by PD 851.