It wouldn’t surprise me if some strings were pulled to make Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia pull off a sudden turnaround on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and come out publicly in support of the Cebu Light Railway Transit (LRT) subway/elevated railway project lobbied by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino.
Whether he had engaged in meetings with him and staged that “dramatic turnaround” or it only took several minutes or so of “intense” presentation from Dino to convince Pernia to support the LRT in favor of a more detailed, comprehensive and eventually finished BRT project study, one cannot know until one has personal knowledge of their meeting in last week’s development roadshow for Central Visayas.
What I do know is that Dino will likely fight tooth and nail for his pet project regardless of whether or not it sets back any prepared programs for mass transport in Cebu that had undergone several years of study and detailed engineering to make it a workable reality.
Now if only Dino can convince President Rodrigo Duterte, the World Bank and the French government over the soundness of his Cebu LRT subway plan over the BRT program that is already being primed for implementation, he can complete his “hat trick.”
Maybe Dino is convinced that he can persuade these foreign institutions to divert funding for the BRT in favor of the LRT project on an hour’s worth of presentation similar to what he did with Pernia.
And what about the Chinese and other foreign investors who Dino claimed would back his plan but whose identities he had yet to reveal? Dino wanted — no, demanded — transparency in the BRT project and yet cannot name who his foreign proponents were?
This and other developments may play a factor in today’s scheduled meeting for the additional allocation of funds for the BRT project at the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) office.
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Not a few people, including Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, said that a BRT and LRT project can coexist side by side in Metro Cebu, and in fact, a lot of traffic experts including a foreign finance institution noted that both projects should be implemented to adequately resolve Metro Cebu’s traffic problem.
So why is Dino trying to cancel out the BRT when, unlike the LRT, the Metro Railway Transit (MRT) which was already shown to be woefully inadequate to answer the commuters’ need in Manila and expensive to maintain, the project’s effectivity had yet to be truly demonstrated?
There is a certain surprise that some transport groups have come out in support of the BRT even if it would affect their livelihood. And while Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the city government will find ways to fund the BRT on its own, is Dino also prepared to find ways to fund the Cebu LRT subway project even if he does fail to convince his boss and the Cebuanos to drop the BRT in favor of his proposal?
I have to agree with Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City’s north district when he said that it’s not an “either-or” situation between the BRT and the LRT but an “and” as in BRT and LRT. Sound engineering and developmental plans that take fully into account the surrounding environs and skyline and the communities to be affected by the projects. Cebu residents shouldn’t hold their breath to find out, but it would be good for them to get actively involved in the discussion even online if only to make their voices heard and start a discussion on a matter that will directly affect how they would go about their daily business in an increasingly congested metropolis.