Hanging by a thread
The 10 day deadline given by the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) to the Department of Transportation (DOTR) to find an alternative solution to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may or may not be met depending on the creativity and efforts of those opposing the project.
That the BRT’s fate is hanging by a single, fragile thread—some say it is on “intensive care”–is a tribute to the efforts of Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Michael Dino, who’s just about pulled every string he can find to cancel the project that he believes will not solve Cebu City’s mass transport problem.
Both Dino and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena, chief BRT proponent, put a positive spin on the NEDA-ICC decision which came on the heels of a Department of Transportation (DOTR) recommendation to cancel the project on the basis that the city doesn’t have the road network infrastructure to accommodate the buses.
But that assessment will have to be further validated by a technical consultant to be hired by the DOTR to re-examine the BRT’s viability in Cebu
City’s streets owing to changes in the population, number of vehicles used in the road and other “smart alternatives” and so on, ad nauseum.
The mayor’s adamant stance that it’s BRT or nothing—”there’s no alternative to the BRT but the BRT—may even be challenged by Dino and his allies in the DOTR in light of the government’s transport modernization program for passenger jeepneys.
We won’t be surprised if—and this is just theory or wild speculation—Dino and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugarde can somehow convince the DOF and NEDA-ICC to divert the P16 billion allocated to the BRT to fund the acquisition of modern jeepneys for transport groups unable and unwilling to acquire these units unless the government and the taxpayers pay for it and issue it to them for free or with zero obligation on their part.
But that would mean radically changing the terms and conditions of the loan contracted by the national government in behalf of Cebu City to the international finance institutions who will undoubtedly frown and question the judgement, not to mention the sanity of those who lobbied for the loan restructuring.
Even if the DOTR fails to justify their rejection of the BRT and the NEDA-ICC lends its support to the project, it is still up to President Rodrigo Duterte to give his seal of approval and who knows what last minute steps can be cooked up to cancel it.
That the BRT’s fate has reached this point is a telling indication of how projects can be snuffed out on the say-so of those close to the powers that be.
Even with the carefully worded support of the Cebu business community and some transport groups, it remains to be seen if the BRT can actually be implemented full speed ahead four years after it should have taken off the ground.
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