TO contribute to the whole-of-nation approach in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and to help essential workers get to their respective workplaces, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade ordered the nationwide implementation of the agency’s Free Ride Service Program for Health Workers and Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs).
Tugade directed the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to expand the implementation of the Free Ride Service Program, not just in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, but also to other parts of the country, regardless of the community quarantine level in place. The program will also include other essential workers or APORs, not covered by the previous program.
According to Tugade, the program aims to help essential workers get to their destination safely and more efficiently by providing much-needed transportation without any cost.
“Para ito sa mga tao. This is like a socialized transport system. Gobyerno ‘ho ang nagbabayad, sakay lang nang sakay ang tao. Ito ay tulong sa mamamayan. Sa atin ‘hong magigiting na essential workers, libre ‘ho ito dahil napapailalim po ito sa tinatawag na Service Contracting Program,” Tugade said.
The initiative was made to cushion the adverse impact on the income of workers due to the enforcement of community quarantine restrictions, especially the strict levels wherein there are a significant decrease in public utility vehicle (PUV) operations.
It also helps public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers earn extra income, an incentive inherent in the Service Contracting Program.
“Ginagawa rin ho natin ito upang madagdagan ang kitang maiuuwi ng ating mga kababayang tsuper sa kani-kanilang tahanan. Malaking bagay ito upang makatulong sa pang-araw araw nilang gastusin gaya ng pagkain, tubig, kuryente, at iba pang mahalagang pangangailangan,”Tugade said.
The Free Ride Service for Health Workers and APORs shall be implemented until such time that the Bayanihan to Recover As Once (Bayanihan II) funds for the Service Contracting Program are fully utilized and disbursed.
Under the law, critically-impacted transport sectors are funded with P9.5 billion, the bulk of which will be used for service contracting efforts to assist PUV drivers and operators, whose livelihood was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From this budget, more than P5.5 billion was allocated for the temporary livelihood of displaced workers in the transport industry through the Service Contracting Program.
Moreover, the LTFRB Board may also hire additional personnel, as necessary, to effectively expand the said program.
As of April 12, 2021, the Free Ride Program for Health Workers has recorded more than 2.2 million total ridership in Metro Manila and the different regions since it started operations on 18 March 2021. From the total number of ridership, 597,873 are from the National Capital Region (NCR) and 1,651,722 are from other regions. There are also 20 routes servicing in the Greater Manila Area under the program.
Apart from the free ride for health workers, the DOTr and the LTFRB had likewise implemented recently the provision of free ride service for essential travelers or APORs in 50 jeepney routes under the Service Contracting Program.
Meanwhile, with the expanded coverage of the Free Ride Service, Tugade reiterated his directive for transport operators, drivers, and passengers to strictly implement the 7 Commandments in Public Transport, the health and sanitation protocols recommended by medical experts, inside public transportation.
“Dapat pa ring ipatupad ang basic health protocols. Public transportation should not be a transmission vector of the virus. Isa pa, kaya ko inutos ang nationwide expansion ng free ride ay para maiiwasan na ang colorum at paraan na rin ito na sumali sa programa ang mas marami pang driver. Sa inisyatibo rin ‘hong ito, na kung saan libre ang sakay para sa mga APOR, hangarin namin na tuluyang masawata ang mga mapagsamantalang nagpapatakbo ng mga kolorum na sasakyan,” Tugade added.
Tugade has repeatedly urged public utility drivers to participate in the government’s Service Contracting Program to aid in their source of livelihood, which has been greatly affected by the pandemic.
Under the Service Contracting Program, the DOTr through the LTFRB is giving payouts to participating operators and drivers of Public Utility Buses (PUBs) and Public Utility Jeepneys (PUJs). They are provided with a performance-based subsidy, based on the kilometers traveled by the vehicle.Publication Source : People's Tonight