There is no stopping the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, as far as the Cebu City government is concerned.
Following the approval of the additional P5.69-billion budget for the project by the National Economic and Development Authority–Investment Coordination Committee–Cabinet Committee (Neda–ICC–CabCom) on Friday, BRT proponents are now moving to proceed with all activities related to the project’s implementation.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said they are now “proceeding ahead full steam” on the project implementation despite expected oppositions from detractors led by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Mr. Dino will do everything he can to force the DOTr (Department of Transportation) to stop implementing the program. He will try to muscle his way in and make a fool out of (Transportation) Sec(retary) (Arthur) Tugade, just like he did with (Socioeconomic Planning) Sec(retary) (Ernesto) Pernia,” the mayor said in a post on his Facebook page.
“I am not that worried. NEDA approved the project, and DOTr is the implementing agency. They must implement. NEDA has spoken. Cebu won,” he added.
The increase in the budget for the BRT project from P10.6 billion to P16.3 billion still needs the final approval of the Neda Board, which is chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Among the immediate actions of the local BRT project implementation unit (PIU) is to continue the issuance of land acquisition notices to owners of properties along the BRT route that will be affected by the project.
BRT-PIU head Rafael Yap said they may start distributing the second batch of notices next week.
“The legal basis is already there. That is the MOA (memorandum of agreement) between the Cebu City government and the DOTr,” he said, referring to the document signed by Mayor Osmeña and DOTr Secretary Tugade in December last year.
Last week, the BRT-PIU, together with the city government’s Land Acquisition Committee, distributed the first batch of notices to owners of affected commercial properties. The total amount of offers for road right-of-way acquisition was P327.4 million.
Dino insists BRT will not work
Dino, sought for comment yesterday, declined to respond to Osmeña’s statement.
But the official Facebook page of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) uploaded a nearly four-minute video yesterday afternoon where Dino once again explained why he was opposed to the BRT project.
The video’s caption said the Cebu BRT will not help the traffic congestion in Cebu City since there are only two lanes provided for private vehicles.
“A very visual example is in Escario Street. People assumed that the roads will be widened but according to their feasibility only BUS STATION, DEPOT AND TERMINALS will have Road Right of Way expansion. This is from BRT’s own feasibility study, not ours. This is beyond politics this is the future of Cebuano and it is at stake,” OPAV said on a Facebook post.
“Kahibawo ba mo nga with the BRT naa man siyay dedicated lane. Four lanes, four lanes ang atoang dan karon kwaan og duha. What will happen to the private (vehicles)? To the public? What will happen to the passengers? Sigurado mo-traffic gyud samot diba?” Dino said in the video.
(Do you know that BRT has dedicated lanes? We have four lanes, and two lanes will be dedicated for the BRT. What will happen to the private? To the public? What will happen to the passengers? For sure this will cause more traffic, right?)
He also showed photos of failed BRT systems in Hanoi (Vietnam) and New Delhi (India) even if their roads were more than four lanes.
But in a series of posts on his Facebook page, Osmeña explained that despite the opposition of Dino and the statements of Pernia and the DOTr that the BRT should and will be put on hold, the city never stopped the project.
“Your City Government never slowed down in working towards implementation. Road markers can now be seen in Escario and Banilad, and we are in touch with all the people whose properties will be affected by the BRT’s construction,” he said.
He also slammed Dino for insisting that the DOTr will still not push through with the project and that reviews and reassessment still need to be done.
The mayor said experts in Neda have already spoken about the project and have even approved it as early as 2014.
He added that what needs to be approved by the Neda Board next is just the increase in budget.
“No one cares what you ‘believe.’ Literally zero people cast your name on the ballot. You have no mandate. You want a mandate? See you in 2019. The Cebuanos have a right to choose. I’ll even engage you in a debate, anytime, anywhere, so Cebu can decide for herself,” Osmeña challenged.
Osmeña explained that even if the BRT project is already in the implementation stage, they still have to determine the project’s contractor through a bidding process.
On the other hand, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system that is being pushed by Dino has not even started yet, but the presidential assistant already mentioned that there is a supplier for an LRT in Cebu, noted Osmeña.
It was explained during the Neda–ICC–CabCom meeting last Friday that the increase in the budget for the BRT is due to the passage of Republic Act.
No. 10752 or the Right of Way Act as well as the foreign exchange rate differential between 2012 to the current rate.
Under RA 10752, owners of properties affected by government infrastructure projects have 30 days from receiving the “notices of taking with final offer” to either refuse or accept the government’s offer.
If they refuse or if they do not respond, the project proponent will then proceed with filing expropriation cases against them.
This is also why Yap said that it is important for the Cebu City Council to approve the proposed ordinance finalizing the list of persons and properties affected by the BRT project.
“If this ordinance is not passed, it will be harder to prevent people from taking advantage of the government resettlement or (road) widening efforts,” said Yap.
The proposed ordinance was deferred indefinitely by its author Councilor Joel Garganera, who said that several property owners visited his office to complain that they were not included in the list, which was finalized by the BRT-PIU based on surveys conducted from May to December 2016.
Nevertheless, Yap said they were requesting the City Council as well as the individual councilors to refer to the BRT-PIU the complaints from those who claim to be affected by the project so that they could be verified immediately or included in the list of affected parties.