TOMAS QUESTIONS EXCLUSION IN THE TUGADE-WB MEET
“What is Tugade hiding from the Cebuanos?”
So was the question of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña upon learning that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade met with five representatives of the World Bank on Friday without inviting the city government.
Osmeña said that Tugade’s decision to exclude the city government was a “clear manifestation of deception.”
“What is he hiding? Does he also have financial interest? The project is already approved by the President but he does not want to push through,” said Osmeña.
Tugade met with World Bank officials at The Forum, a poolside dining outlet of the Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu in Lapu-Lapu City early on Friday morning, in a last ditch effort to resolve concerns on the stalled P17-billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
DOTr Communications Director Goddess Hope Libiran said that the officials from World Bank briefed the DOTr officials on the BRT system.
“We’ve learned other useful insights to better understand the BRT project. And so, all those insights will be discussed with the concerned sectors, concerned agencies,” Libiran told Cebu Daily News by phone on Friday.
Others present during the one and a half hours meeting, which started at 7 a.m., were DOTr Road Transport and Infrastructure Sector Assistant Secretary Mark Richmund De Leon and National Economic and Development Authority Central Visayas (Neda-7) Director Efren Carreon, among others.
World Bank and the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the international lending arm of the French government for international projects, granted a US$198 million in 2014 to fund the BRT project.
Keeping it neutral
Libiran, however, clarified that the decision not to invite Osmeña was meant to keep the discussion neutral and focused on the project itself.
“We only wanted it to be a close-door thing. Ayaw kasi namin na mapulitika (We don’t want the meeting to be politicized),” Libiran said.
Libiran also denied that Osmeña’s non-invitation was due to a hidden agenda of Tugade.
“Secretary Tugade went there with all the purity of intention. Kaya hindi rin kami nag-invite nga kung sino kasi ayaw namin ma-politicize. We came there to work and to understand the project better. We just wanted it to pure work,” Libiran explained.
But Osmeña believed that the transport department is only delaying the BRT implementation further.
Osmeña said that the “further studies” that Tugade wanted for the BRT has long been accomplished.
“Of course, he is delaying. That is a fact. I’m not even speculating. It is already for implementation. It has been approved by the President. But he would not want to push through the hiring of consultants,” said Osmeña.
Osmeña said that he is banking on President Duterte and the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (Neda-ICC) to realize the implementation of the project.
Osmeña added that he would not mind whoever will take charge of the BRT implementation as long as it will be realized.
Libiran revealed that after the meeting, the team drove across the 17-kilometer main route of the BRT, from Barangay Bulacao to Talamban and the 4-kilometer connecting route to IT Park in Lahug.
“We had an inspection doon sa alignment ng BRT from Bulacao to Talamban. We inspected that with the World Bank kasi we wanted to see the alignment and the route kung saan siya dadaan,” said Libiran in a phone interview with CDN.
However, Libiran said that transportation department and the World Bank officials did not arrive at any decision.
“Bini-brief lang nila kami about the project. Wala pa sa ganoong usapan,” Libiran added. (They only briefed us about the project. Nothing else was
Meanwhile, a CDN source who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said that the World Bank officials told Tugade that the “indecision” of the Philippine government has been causing delays in their implementation of BRT.
But the five-man team assured Tugade that the project was still within schedule and budget estimate, said the CDN source.
“Several discussions were made during the inspection,” the CDN source said.
At one point, Tugade asked for the total length of the BRT project route.
World Bank officials told him that it is about 21 kilometers long, of which 17 kilometers was devoted for the buses use. Another four kilometers will connect to the IT park.
‘I like that’
The CDN source said that Tugade asked if the four-kilometer link to the IT Park can be removed from the route design so that this can be devoted for other transport modes.
World Bank officials replied that this was possible. But they warned Tugade that this may not be a wise idea because the four-kilometer road link to IT park may not have as much passenger demand as the rest of the BRT route.
Tugade also asked if it was possible to link the BRT with another transport system that will bring passengers to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
The World Bank officials gave an affirmative reply, according to the source. They further explained that a mass transport system for the airport was part of the BRT’s original design.
“I like that. I like that,” Tugade was heard telling the group.
Earlier in the day, World Bank officials who met with Tugade made a brief presentation of the BRT project.
They showed Tugade four key actions which they wanted to incorporate into the project design. These are widening of narrow roads, terminal improvements, the need to improve the BRT route located at the stretch from IT Park to Barangay Talamban in the city’s northern corridor and the need to redesign bus stations along Osmeña Boulevard.
The DOTr Secretary asked World Bank officials if their feasibility study was already complete, to which the World Bank officials replied by saying that this have not been fully completed “because of the apprehensions of the Philippine government.”
They further explained that the proposed BRT, on its own, will not fully address congestion problems in Cebu City and Metro Cebu areas. Instead, this will form part of the “basket of solutions” to problem.
The five-man team from World Bank explained that other modes of transportation like the Light Rail Transit (LRT) can co-exist with the BRT,” said Libiran.
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