The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) – Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) Cabinet Committee (CabCom) has approved the additional budget request for the Cebu BRT project in a meeting in Manila on Friday afternoon.
According to BRT-Project Implementation Unit (PIU) head Rafael Yap, who was in the NEDA-ICC CabCom meeting, the additional budget proposal will still be referred next to Neda Board.
The NEDA Board is chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte. The approved Cebu BRT budget increase is from P10.6 billion to P16.3 billion.
Yap said it was NEDA Director General and Socio-Economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia who moved for the approval of the additional budget during the NEDA-ICC CabCom meeting.
Pernia’s motion was seconded by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Sec. Ramon Lopez.
It was Pernia who earlier announced that the Cebu BRT should be put on hold pending a feasibility study for a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in Cebu which is being pushed by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino.
“The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will still work to have the NEDA Board approval but the ICC CabCom endorsement or approval is already a huge step because it shows that the project is very much economically viable,” Yap said.
Yap added that the approval was a “confidence booster” for them.
The Cebu BRT project has been the center of recent issues after calls for the suspension of its implementation surfaced.
Dino has been opposing the project saying it will not work in Cebu City where the roads are narrow, as was also recommended by a transportation engineer.
Although the DOTr issued a press release on Wednesday evening that they will put the BRT project on hold, Yap said they have not received any formal memorandum to this effect.
“I was told that in the absence of a formal memo, proceed with implementing the project,” Yap said.
He said it was DOTr Assistant Secretary Arnold Fabillar who gave him this instruction.
Cebu City north district Rep. Raul Del Mar were among those who defended the BRT project during the NEDA-ICC Cabcom meeting, according Yap.
South district Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa, also gave his support to the project, he added.
Cebu City Administrator Nigel Paul Villarete, who was tasked by Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to oversee the BRT project implementation was also present during the NEDA-ICC CabCom meeting.
“It is very unlikely that the NEDA Board will disapprove an increase in cost approved by the ICC-CabCom of a project NEDA itself already approved in the first place,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
“The recommendation of the ICC-CabCom to the NEDA Board is increase in cost, not project approval.
It was specifically mentioned in the ICC meeting that it’s extremely difficult to stop a project with existing loan agreements from three entities and already in the implementation stage,” Villarete added.