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By: Ador Vincent Mayol, Inna Gian Mejia, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag July 03,2017 - 11:34 PM


A proposed design of the Bus Rapid Transit station follows a “flowers of the sun” theme as shown in this November 2015 photo from the Department of Transportation Detailed Engineering Design.

45 village chiefs sign manifesto to take a second look on P10B project

More than half of the 80 village chiefs in Cebu City have expressed reservations on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

At least 45 barangay captains signed a manifesto on Monday asking the proponents of the P10-billion project to consider the input of Engr. Rene Santiago, a freelance transportation and engineering expert who said that BRT would not work in Cebu City.

The manifesto didn’t explicitly ask that the project, being pushed by Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, be scrapped.

Instead, it called for a second look on the project before it would be implemented.

But Osmeña tagged the manifesto initiated by the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Cebu City as “political.”

“Do you know that there are two approved BRTs in Manila? Edsa BRT and Quezon Avenue BRT. World Bank and AFD (Government of France) is funding it after a major study,” Osmeña said in a text message to CDN.

As of 8 p.m. on Monday, 45 barangay captains had signed the manifesto that was presented during the ABC second quarterly meeting at the Bayfront Hotel.

Of the number, 15 belonged to the Bando Osmeña–Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK), the local party headed by the mayor.

Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman, ABC vice president, said they were expecting at least 65 barangay captains to sign the manifesto.

Philip Zafra, ABC president who belongs to the opposition Team Rama, asked not to “misconstrue” that those who signed the manifesto were opposed to the BRT.

“We want more public discussion and I want that to elicit more debates, arguments, discussion and so forth,” Zafra said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.

Zafra said the manifesto had nothing to do with politics.

According to the manifesto, the BRT would not solve the worsening traffic problem in the city as stated in the report of Santiago.

“The BRT project will only take away the PUJs (public utility jeepneys) but not solve the problem of traffic and the growing ridership in Cebu City,” the manifesto read.

“The creation of mixed lanes for the BRT project in area like Ayala Center Cebu to (Barangay) Talamban will shrink the road further causing more traffic as it already is. The existing roads in Cebu City will be utilized for the BRT project thereby causing the roads to become smaller as cars and the BRT buses will be traveling side by side,” it added.

Zafra said they thought of issuing a manifesto after some barangay captains were asked to issue clearances or certifications to cut trees without any consultations to pave the way for the BRT project.

At least 2,182 trees would be affected once the city implements the BRT that will span 21.5 km from Barangay Bulacao in the south to Barangay Talamban in the north.

Zafra said Santiago’s presentation during last Saturday’s Metro Cebu Transport Development Stakeholders’ Forum made him rethink his standpoint on the project.

In the forum, Santiago said BRT would not work in Cebu due to physical limitations like the city’s narrow roads.

He said a Light Rail Transit (LRT) would be the long-term solution to the traffic problem in Cebu.

Zafra said that if the BRT project won’t work, the P10-billion loan from the World Bank would only be put to waste.

“What matters most is that at least, we were able to uncover the new information before the implementation started. There will be more discussion, more debate. In the future, whether proven efficient or not, I have said something which guided me to have this decision,” he said.

Zafra said the ABC was never invited in any consultation made by the BRT project working team.

Among the areas that will be affected by the BRT project are portions of Natalio Bacalso Avenue, Osmeña Boulevard, Escario Street, Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Governor Mariano Cuenco Avenue, Barangay Bulacao, Barangay Talamban and the South Road Properties.

But Mayor Osmeña thumbed down Santiago as a “self-appointed expert.”

He said that if Cebuanos would allow local geniuses to run the city, it would end up with nothing.

Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, however, said experts like Santiago should be listened to when they said the BRT would not work in Cebu.

“Why should we pay for a multimillion dollar loan if only to replace the jeepneys for a project that is bound to fail?” he asked.

“This administration is built on the promise of change. It is my mandate to advise the President if such projects will just be a waste of government funds,” he added.

Dino said it would be better to use the loan on projects that would solve the city’s garbage and flooding problem instead on something that would not work.

Dino has earlier been pushing for the LRT to solve the city’s traffic problem.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III found no reason to scrap the BRT project since both BRT and LRT could complement each other.

Davide, who served as councilor in Cebu City before he was elected governor in 2013, said they already saw the need to improve the public transport system in the city due to traffic congestion.

Lawyer Rafael Yap, project manager of the BRT, said the BRT project was not meant to solve traffic congestion.

“We’ve never marketed the BRT as it will solve traffic. It is on its own merits a public transport project. However, cities that have implemented public transport indirectly experience improvements in traffic flow because there is a transition from people using public cars to public transport,” he told CDN over the phone.

“How we will measure success of the BRT project is the number of people it will be able to transport comfortably, safely and economically,” he added.
Yap said the BRT project is now in its implementation phase.

“This is an approved project by the Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) Board. This is for implementation under the Philippine government. This is already a loan covenant with the World Bank that is subject for implementation,” he explained.

Yap advised those who opposed the project to coordinate with them and to present their concerns in the proper way.

“We don’t know what their concerns are specifically. We urge the persons concerned to bring their concerns to us so we can point out and address them, whether they are technical or social,” he said.

A roadmap study of the Mega Cebu, a program of the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB), which envisions to make Cebu a more livable and sustainable place to live in by 2050, states that both the BRT and the LRT can be implemented in Cebu.

“There are short-term, middle-term, and long-term projects in the road map study of Mega Cebu. LRT is somewhere either in the end of the short term or middle term, while BRT is in the short term,” Yap said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), he said, also recommended that both BRT and LRT be implemented in Cebu.

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TAGS: 45, BRT, chiefs, Look, lrt, more, project, second, sign, study, take, village

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