The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is spending another P150 million to P180 million to extend its free ride program for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 until the end of President Duterte’s term.
In a virtual news briefing on Wednesday, MRT 3 Director Michael Capati said the agency has decided to extend the free ride program from its original closing date of May 30 to June 30. The program started on March 28.
“We estimate that revenue loss from the program from March 28 to May 24 is P286 million in subsidy, an amount funded through the P7.1-billion budget from the general appropriations. For the one-month extension, we are projecting it to be between P150 million to P180 million,” Capati told reporters.
The government started the free ride program to help commuters who are affected by the rising fuel costs. It also allowed the government to further test its capacity.
“This will allow the MRT 3 to further test its capacity and performance in accommodating up to or more than 350,000 passengers,” Capati said. “We are now in the stage of testing the performance of our subsystems following the success of our full-scale rehabilitation. We hope to cater to more passengers with the extension of the free ride program, as well as showcase the improved services of the MRT 3 and restore the public confidence in our mass transport system.”
So far the program has benefited 15.73 million passengers.
When asked why the DOTr limited the free ride program to the MRT 3, Philippine National Railways (PNR) General Manager Junn Magno said the PNR is affected by the rising prices of diesel. “We are affected by the volatility of fuel prices. We might not be able to sustain our operations if we offer our services for free,” Magno said.
For his part, Light Rail Transit Authority Administrator Jeremy Regino explained that the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 is under a private concessionaire, which has the right to charge commuters, while the LRT Line 2’s budget “can only be used for specific purposes.”