Del Mar vows to block moves to divert budget

By Morexette Marie B. Erram |June 12,2018 - 10:29 PM

Del Mar

CEBU BRT

Cebu City officials are ready to wage war if only to ensure that the budget intended for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will not be diverted to a similar project in Metro Manila.

Cebu North District Rep. Raul Del Mar vowed that he will block any proposal before the House of Representatives to realign the money meant for the
Cebu BRT.

This developed after Del Mar learned that Marikina Rep. Bayani Fernando is planning to file a resolution before the lower chamber to divert the funds of the Cebu BRT to the twin BRT projects in Metro Manila.

However, he said he is not yet aware of any related proposal filed before the House.

“I am not aware of any moves in Congress, particularly from the committee on transportation. So being the case, we have nothing to worry about. But I don’t understand why Cong. Fernando said that,” del Mar said.

“But if there is such a move by anybody, rest assured, it will not pass because I’m there to oppose it,” he added.

Key ally

Del Mar’s pronouncements meant that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña has an ally in Congress to make sure that the P17-billion Cebu BRT funds will not go anywhere.

“We’re going to fight for it. It’s all like that. (But) this is already approved. You don’t need congressional action. It’s already funded and you don’t need congressional approval. They’re trying to use congress to realign everything, and we can fight that especially if we have friends like Raul (Del Mar),” Osmeña said.

The alleged plan to divert the funds of the Cebu BRT project has the mayor worried. The BRT, which spans 21 kilometers, from Barangay Bulacao in the south to Barangay Talamban in the north, is a brainchild of Osmeña.

But its implementing agency, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), had been hesitant as of late on its implementation as well as with the BRTs in Metro Manila.

On June 1, the transportation committee of the House of Representatives learned that the DOTr wanted to shelve the three BRT projects.

On the other hand, the National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee (Neda-ICC) gave DOTr until June 30 to come up with a short-term alternative to the Cebu BRT, and a stronger justification as to why they wanted it scrapped.

The World Bank, together with the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the international lending arm of the French Government for development projects, granted the Philippines a loan in 2014 amounting to US$198 million for the BRT project.

Impossible

But Cebu City Administrator Nigel Paul Villarete, in a separate interview, said transferring funds, and loans, from one project to another is impossible.

“It’s very ridiculous and it cannot be done. We have to understand that the Cebu BRT is a foreign assisted project, funded by a loan. I think more than 80 percent is the loan. In other words, you cannot transfer those funds. Those are loan proceeds. It can happen if the owner of the money, the donor, will just cancel the loan and take it back. It cannot be used,” explained Villarete.

The city administrator cited the shelved NorthRail project as an example wherein funds and loan proceeds from a foreign-assisted project cannot be used nor transferred even if it was already cancelled.

“NorthRail was funded by China so did NorthRail proceed? Gi undang (It was stopped). Did they transfer the money? No, they cannot, because these are loan proceeds and you cannot transfer them,” Villarete said.

A flagship project of the Arroyo administration, the proposed 80-kilometer railroad was to link Caloocan City with an international airport in the former Clark airfield in Pampanga.

When he took over in 2010, former President Benigno Aquino III ordered a review of the contract between NorthRail and the China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. Group (CNMEG) to build the railway due to allegations of overpricing.

From an initial budget of $503 million, it rose to a staggering $2 billion, according to reports. A 2005 study by the UP Law Center showed that the NorthRail contract had been improperly packaged as an executive agreement to evade public bidding. /with INQUIRER.net

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