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Masaya driver, operator! Here’s how much gov’t is paying buses for free rides along EDSA

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By Billy Begas

The government is spending around P1.5 million daily to provide free bus rides in EDSA.

During Monday’s hearing of the House Committee on Transportation, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairperson Martin Delgra said the government is paying P82.50 per kilometer for each bus.

The round trip in the EDSA route from Monumento to Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) is less than 55 kilometers.

The LTFRB has authorized 550 bus units to ply the EDSA busway but only 428 units were given special permits.

Of the 428 units with special permits, less than 400 are currently running in EDSA. Only 30 passengers are allowed to board each bus.

Delgra said on Wednesday last week the government has already paid P265 million to the operator of the EDSA busway.

Lawmakers were complaining of the long lines of passengers in bus stations in EDSA.

“Madaming nakapila ho, madaming tao o mananakay ang nakapila para sumakay sa bus pero nagkakaroon ng mahabang pila dahil kulang ang bus,” said Quezon City Rep. Jesus Suntay.

Juliette de Jesus, representative of the Mega Manila consortium operating in the EDSA busway explained that the consortium was unable to complete the 550 units allowed in the routes because they cannot secure new loans from banks to purchase low entry buses, the type of bus allowed to ply the EDSA busway.

She said bus companies were unable to pay their old loans from banks due to the challenges brought by the pandemic. “Hindi po namin nabayaran dahil walang transaction walang operation (noon).”

To solve the problem, Suntay urged LTFRB to allow traditional buses to ply along with low entry buses.

“Now I would like to appeal to chairman Delgra dahil nakikita rin natin na nagsa-suffer yung mga mananakaw dahil kulang yung bus. Kung hihintayin natin yung consortium na mapunuan (yung kulang)…. Baka matagal ang people will continue to suffer. Ang suggestion ko is to come up with a 70-30 formula sa bawat pitong low entry buses payagan na may tatlo na traditional buses that way mapupunuan natin agad yung 500,” Suntay said.

But Suntay emphasized that the use of traditional buses should be temporary.

Delgra replied that the LTFRB is “actually considering that formula, it could be 70-30 (or) it could be 80-20.”

He explained that the low floor low entry buses are intended for city routes while the coach type is for provincial trips.

Meanwhile, de Jesus said drivers are happy with the libreng sakay program.

“Malaki po ang saya ng driver kasi ang laki po ng kanilang makukuha,” de Jesus said.

She explained that if the driver can make five round trips per day, the bus will earn more than P22,687.50, of which 30% or more than P6,800 will go to the driver.