In Duterte’s hands

By: Editorial August 14,2017 - 10:56 PM

Despite the generally upbeat mood by the Cebu City Hall administration on last Friday’s approval of the P5.69-billion additional budget for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), there are at least two more obstacles standing in the way for the full implementation of the project.

One is the finalized list of property owners who will be affected by the project that will be covered by an ordinance from the Cebu City Council. The said ordinance was authored by Councilor Joel Garganera, an acknowledged administration critic.

Aside from claiming that there were property owners who complained to him that they were not included in the initial list, Garganera was apparently waiting on whether the BRT’s approval will be finalized after Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino managed to raise enough noise to fuel his lobbying for the BRT’s replacement with his proposed Cebu LRT-subway project.

It doesn’t take much imagination to know — especially if one knows the local political landscape — that Garganera and other Team Rama/Barug Team Rama members are politically aligned and have mobilized support from barangay officials across the city to delay the BRT’s implementation.

The other obstacle, if it can be called that, lies in the final approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Unless Dino manages to convince President Duterte to suspend, cancel or review the BRT project the same way he convinced Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia to call for the suspension of the BRT project — and it is the President who has the final say — the BRT can proceed full steam ahead.

And the city government is already laying out the initial works for the project, including sending out the notices for the property owners to be affected by the project.

The first obstacle can be remedied perhaps by having another councilor allied with the administration come out with another ordinance to finalize the list of property owners.

Owing to their numbers, the councilors would likely win. The Neda Board approval is something else, and both sides will likely lobby for the President’s attention to ensure approval of or rejection of the BRT.

It’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to speculate what the President thinks and will decide on, but we would like to believe that the arguments for the continued and sustained implementation of the BRT project definitely far outweighs the arguments for its suspension and outright implementation in favor of another project that would take at least a decade to study and build and cause further agony to Cebu City commuters who already have their fill of traffic congestion.

And just who will fund the Cebu LRT-subway project? Both sides say the public deserves to know, but, right now, the BRT project’s fate lies in President Duterte’s hands.

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