Untangling the gridlock

By: CDN TEAM September 29,2018 - 12:05 PM

PART 1

by Ador Vincent S. Mayol
Reporter

 

For more than two decades since the ‘90s, the streets of Metro Cebu have been his second home.

“Usa ka kahig, usa ka tuka gyud ni akoa (I have a hand-to-mouth existence), said 55-year-old jeepney driver Justiniano Abad, a father of 10 children.

On most days, Abad manages to bring home at least P500, after rigorously plying the route between Cebu City’s Barangay Labangon in the south district and the North Reclamation Area (NRA), some seven kilometers away.

The amount is barely enough to buy food for his family and provide for all their other needs; while circumstances on the road have become increasingly difficult.

“Sa una 30 minutes ra man ang biyahe gikan sa Labangon to SM. Karon, mga duha ka oras na man. (Before, travel time from Labangon to SM was just 30 minutes. Now, it would take about two hours),” lamented Abad.

He said traffic in Cebu has gone from bad to worse.

“Sige lang ta og traffic. Kapoy na kaayo (Traffic has become a usual thing. I am so tired of it),” he added.

MAJOR CONCERN

Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic situation is not just a major concern for jeepney drivers like Abad.

The effects of roads congestion are now embedded in Cebuanos’ day-to-day life that it has become quite difficult to untangle from the current mess.
As of the first quarter of 2018, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) pegged Metro Cebu’s losses in economic opportunities due to traffic at P1.1 billion a day.

The amount is around one-third of the losses due to traffic in Manila which Jica pegged at P3.5 billion a day last February.

It was Jica which said in a 2015 study that the capacity of existing roads in the metropolis would not be suitable for its traffic demand in 2050.

The agency cited Metro Cebu’s rapid population growth and highlighted the need for new and modern infrastructure to ease road congestion.

Records of the Land Transportation Office in Central Visayas (LTO-7) showed that there are now about 800,000 public and private vehicles plying the streets of Cebu and other areas in the region.

The number is 85,000 more than the 715,000 vehicles registered a few years ago in 2012.

LTO-7 Regional Director Victor Caindec

“We can’t do anything about the volume. The only recourse now is to manage the existing road arteries,” said LTO-7 Regional Director Victor Caindec in an interview.

Caindec admitted that the massive pileup of vehicles in the streets of Metro Cebu has become very alarming.

“At present, there are no high-capacity, high-speed transport modalities in Cebu. Also, we do not have forward-looking infrastructures that could progressively address the transport system,” he explained.

Caindec called on local government units to unite and find ways to address the problem before it goes totally out of hand.

“What needs to be done is for the local government units to harmonize their directions. Cebu needs to get its acts together,” said Caindec.

UNIFIED PLAN

Except for Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, all the local chief executives of cities and towns in Metro Cebu support plans for a unified traffic approach by having synchronized traffic laws as a way to address the worsening traffic congestion.

Osmeña withdrew Cebu City’s participation in the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB) in 2016 and refused to participate in a traffic summit organized by the Cebu provincial government this year.

During the summit, the mayor also did not send any representatives to speak on behalf of Cebu City, the largest highly urbanized city among all the cities composing Metro Cebu, which are the cities of Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, Mandaue, Naga, and Carcar.

Metro Cebu also includes the municipalities of San Fernando, Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla, Compostela and Cordova.

“It’s a waste of time. I’m just making it clear — I don’t go under them (Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board). They cannot claim to be Mega Cebu without Cebu City,” Osmeña said.

The conspicuous absence of Cebu City in the summit put plans for a unified traffic scheme at a quandary.

Instead, Osmeña continues to push for the implementation of the P17-billion Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as Cebu City’s way of solving traffic.

The BRT project is among four “basket of solutions” lined up by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to address traffic congestion in the metropolis.

The others are the Light Rail Transit (LRT), the point-to-point (P2P) bus system, and a monorail project — all under what is called as the Integrated Intermodal Transport System (IITS).

In identifying areas for IITS, transport officials considered Metro Cebu’s road profile and the fast-growing need for an efficient mass transport system in bigger and inter-connected cities, such as Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay, as well as neighboring municipalities.

The DOTr plans to have a monorail system in Lapu-Lapu City which will connect Mactan- Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to the different hotels and resorts on the island.

The LRT system, another major component of the IITS, is going to traverse Carcar City in southern Cebu to Danao City in the north.

A Singaporean-Chinese and Filipino consortium has submitted a $3 billion proposal to construct the LRT system which will include a subway in Cebu City and an airport line from Mandaue City to the MCIA in Lapu-Lapu City.

According to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, the IITS could achieve “partial operability” within one and a half to two years.

In the meantime, LTO’s Caindec said local government units must review their routes to maximize the use of the roads to lessen vehicular congestion.
“The government must now seriously consider high-capacity transport public modalities in Cebu — whether bus or train system,” he said.

Caindec blamed the lack of vision of many government leaders in the past for today’s traffic mess.

“We have experts (in the past) telling us what we should do and we did not follow it. If you ask me, it’s a failure of governance,” said Caindec.

 

Part 2

by Jose Santino S. Bunachita
Reporter

 

Traffic jams are believed to be a sign of economic progress.

But when Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic condition becomes a daily occurrence, even that thought is not enough to ease the stress of sitting helplessly in a car or jeepney while waiting for the roads to clear.

Cebu’s booming economy is evident in the growing number of vehicles on the road and buildings being built; not to mention, a rising demand for energy from the island’s increased population.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reports a 5.1 percent growth in Central Visayas’ Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) for 2017.

And while the figure is lower than the 8.6 percent GRDP growth recorded in 2016, Central Visayas remains to be the fourth largest economy in the country next to the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon.

Business, across sectors, in Cebu felt this growth; but at the same time noted that Metro Cebu’s traffic conditions had worsened.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) President Stanley Go said that traffic congestion in the metropolis has affected the productivity of Cebu businesses.

“All your businesses need logistics, distribution. If you have traffic, your trucks which used to deliver to three customers, can only deliver to one,” Go explained.

And while Cebu’s increased economic activity has led to numerous opportunities, public infrastructure such as new, bigger and better roads had yet to keep up — a major blow for business.

“If your productivity is limited, your cost will be higher. You will need more trucks, more people, and you would need to buy more fuel. And with the increasing prices of fuel, it really has a huge impact on business,” added Go, who is also the vice president for sales and marketing of Virginia Foods Inc.

Aside from traffic bottlenecks and fuel price hikes, Cebu businesses also have to contend with the country’s rising inflation.

But while there is hope that the prices of oil and basic commodities will go down in the coming months — Metro Cebu’s traffic scenario remains bleak.
For the traffic problem to be solved, Go said that a lot of time was needed.

“At the end of the day, traffic is inevitable especially if there is progress and economic activity. But there should be foresight and proper planning,” he said.

Proper planning

While in other countries roads are designed to be expandable by up to four to eight more lanes, in the Philippines, roads are narrow.

Given the long and arduous process of expropriation for right-of-way acquisition, road widening often becomes a huge issue.

Cebu Business Club (CBC) President Gordon Alan Joseph, agrees that the lack of planning has greatly contributed to Cebu’s worsening traffic condition.

Citing data from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which initially pegged Cebu’s economic losses due to traffic at P1.1 billion a day, Joseph believed that the number could still increase.

“Can we afford this kind of traffic and this kind of non-planning? What we’re experiencing today is a result of poor planning,” he said.

Joseph, also the co-chairperson of the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB) representing the private sector, lamented that government infrastructure projects were usually implemented without consultation.

He cited projects like the ongoing P683-million underpass in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City criticized by business leaders for its lack of consultation resulting to monstrous traffic jams in the south district.

A similar project, the P711.8-million underpass project on U.N. Avenue, Mandaue City, is also set for implementation by the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7).

Public transportation

As soon as he assumed the post early this year, newly-installed Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Antonio Chiu cited the traffic problem as a major concern that needed to be addressed.

Chiu is backing projects aimed to improve public transportation like the Integrated Inter-Modal Transport System (IITS) Program for Cebu planned by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

The project involves the construction of mass transit systems such as the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and a proposed light rail transit (LRT).

“This multi-faceted set of infrastructure investments when complemented with non-infrastructure initiatives can hopefully ensure the smooth flow of people, vehicles, goods, services and investments in the island of Cebu,” Chiu said.

Heavy traffic has also taken its toll on Cebu’s vibrant tourism industry with the opening of the new Terminal 2 of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) last July.

As more international tourists are expected to visit the island, Hotels, Resorts, Restaurants, Association of Cebu (HRRAC) President Carlo Anton Suarez called on government to immediately attend to Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic problem.

“Before, we can do city tours in one day. But now, we have to do it per area. It would be nice to have alternate routes especially on the heavy congested routes in Cebu or (see an) improvement of the traffic system,” said Suarez.

 

MORE CARS, MORE WORRIES

by Jose Santino S. Bunachita
Reporter

 

ALONG with Cebu’s growing economy comes an increase in the purchasing power of its people.

With cheaper downpayments and monthly payment schemes offered by banks, more Cebuanos are now buying cars.

Gateway Motors Cebu Inc., the largest multi-brand car dealership in Cebu, has seen a substantial increase in their car sales over the last five years.

Gateway Executive Vice President Michael Goho said that demand has opened up further to a broader market, now catering to younger client profiles such as fresh graduates and call center workers.

“This would not have been possible even ten years ago. This is due to more support from banks, more flexibility in financing schemes, and more choices for clients with more compact and affordable car models in the market today,” he said.

Gateway Motors is the local distributor of car brands including Kia, Nissan, Suzuki, BMW, and Peugeot.

Practicality, affordability and design are among the main considerations cited by customers when buying a car, he said.

“Our car sales have been steadily increasing. Although there are some months where the increase in sales is not as high, but that is normal in the car industry, there are periods of fluctuation,” he said.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) listed around 800,000 vehicles in Central Visayas. In 2012, the number was around 715,000.

But the increase in the number of vehicles on the streets has resulted to more problems.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Vice President for External Affairs Steven Yu said that aside from transportation infrastructure woes, car drivers themselves cause much of the problem.

“The attitude of our drivers needs refinement. We should strictly implement testing of drivers before releasing any license,” he suggested.

Illegal parking has also become prevalent, he said.

Yu pointed out that while in other countries, vehicle owners are required to own a parking space; in the Philippines, many people park their cars on public roads making the streets almost impassable.

Yu added that while local government units and the LTO have better traffic management over the years, there is still room for improvement.

He cited the lack of equipment to remove heavy trucks involved in accidents which immediately causes a traffic gridlock.

 

 

Part 3

by Morexette Marie B. Erram
Reporter

 

If there is an obvious solution to the traffic problem in Metro Cebu that urban planners, traffic experts, local officials, and the private sector could agree upon, it would be the urgent need for a public mass transport system.

Next to Metro Manila, Metro Cebu is the second largest metropolis in the Philippines.

Based on a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2015 census, Cebu province has a population of 2,938,982.

The figure does not include those living in three of Cebu’s largest cities namely it’s capital Cebu City which has a population of 922,611, Lapu-Lapu City (408, 112), and Mandaue City (362, 654).

All in all, the total population of Cebu island is 4,632,359, according to PSA.

More than half of this number or 61.5 percent live in the cities and towns of Metro Cebu.

PSA also found that Cebu had the fastest rate of population growth in Central Visayas at 2.2 percent as of 2015.

An area’s population is a vital factor used by urban planners, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in mapping out a traffic system to optimize road use.

JICA’s Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development in Metro Cebu estimated the population of the metropolis to balloon to 5 million by 2050 when an Urban Mass Rapid Transport (UMRT) with routes along the coast and Central Metro Cebu, should have already been in place, said JICA.

But as early as 2015, or 35 years before 2050, Metro Cebu’s total population has neared the three million mark at 2,849,213.

Each day, the need for an efficient mass transport system is becoming more pronounced.

MASS TRANSIT

In 2002, JICA released a study on Metro Cebu’s infrastructure development highlighting the correlation between rapid population growth in the metropolis and traffic congestion.

JICA found out that while the population of Metro Cebu was rapidly increasing, infrastructure developments to ease traffic had failed to keep up with it.

“Development of urban infrastructure, however, did not keep pace with increasing demands, leading to traffic congestion. Road conditions were poor, and unpaved and narrow roads impeded vehicular traffic, especially during the rainy season,” JICA said.

In its 2015 report, JICA — together with the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB) — concluded that traffic problems remained an issue, and decongestion was a goal that still needed to be achieved.

The report emphasized the need for a public transport system that can accommodate a large volume of passengers.

Results of a current JICA study on the development of an urban transport system in Metro Cebu are expected to be released later this year.

The study will serve as a guide for local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders on the type of transport system to implement at the right time based on a set of indicators.

JICA discourages a monocentric type of urban development where commercial and infrastructural growth are limited to certain areas only notably, the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu.

The agency, instead, proposes a polycentric urbanization, which was found to be more sustainable since resources and chances of commercial growth would be distributed across a larger area.

For Metro Cebu to completely achieve a polycentric form of urban development, an effective transport system is needed to bring commuters from one point to another without hampering social and economic activities, JICA said.

“Since urban sprawl has already begun in the suburban areas in Metro Cebu, rapid urbanization should be controlled until a sufficient transport network is provided to avoid the deterioration of traffic congestion,” the JICA report added.

MORE VEHICLES ON THE ROAD

An increase in the number of private and public vehicles on the streets of Metro Cebu has been identified as one of the causes of the worsening traffic condition.

Data from the Land Transportation Office in Central Visayas (LTO – 7) showed that the number of cars registered in Cebu City alone increased at a rate of 21.85 percent since 2013.

JICA also found that in 2017, privately owned cars shared 22 percent of Cebu City’s traffic volume — a figure bigger compared to other cities and towns in Metro Cebu.

The bulk of Cebu City’s traffic volume or 48 percent came from public utility vehicles while motorcycles were at 23 percent, and trucks and tricycles at six percent.

With Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic, Central Visayas’ largest transport group, Cebu Integrated Transport Service Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Citrasco), backed the calls for LGUs to provide an effective transportation system to the public.

“The need for a mass transport system is now an urgent call. It’s one of the most efficient and convenient solutions to traffic congestion. If it has been implemented before, we may never have to go through the struggle we’re experiencing today,” said Ryan Benjamin Yu, president of Citrasco
Businessman Glenn Anthony Soco, head of the Regional Development Council – Infrastructure Development Committee (RDC – IDC) in Central Visayas, agreed on the urgent need for a mass transport system in Metro Cebu.

“We have to find the most economical and most viable way to move people from Point A to Point B, and we have to maximize the use of our road space,” Soco said.

BRT, LRT

To alleviate the growing traffic problems, JICA and MCDCB classified Cebu City’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a short-term project.

The Cebu BRT has funds amounting to US$ 198-million both from World Bank (WB) and the French government, through the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) — two of the world’s largest financial institutions that grant loans for the realization of a country’s capital projects.

However, stakeholders expressed reservations on the BRT since Cebu City’s existing narrow roads may render the project a failure.

The BRT project which was given the go signal for implementation by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in 2017, has incurred multiple delays that could cost the Philippine government P14 million a year, according to a report by the Commission on Audit (COA).

While the Cebu BRT project still has to operate, unsolicited proposals have poured in from private entities suggesting other types of mass transport.

Last March, Manila-based Philtram Transportation Consortium Inc. unveiled plans to build the Metro Cebu Monorail line from Mandaue City to the South Road Properties (SRP) with a budget of US$1 billion.

Philtram’s Chief Operation Officer (COO) Jose Guardo Jr., said that the project, targeted for completion in 2021, may extend all the way up to Consolacion town, north of Metro Cebu, to help ease traffic in that area as well.

The proposed project will feature a Bombardier Innovia Monorail 300 vehicle, with a speed of up to 80 kilometers per hour, which can carry up to 750 passengers within a six-coach train.

Guardo said the monorail project is designed to coexist harmoniously with the Cebu BRT.

Its “economically viable” routes would include SRP going to N. Bacalso Ave., to S. Osmeña Road, all the way north to Mandaue City.

The 16-kilometer route will also pass through different establishments like City Di Mare, the proposed development in Kawit Property and SM Seaside City– all in the SRP; the Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U); Cebu South Bus Terminal, Robinsons Galleria Cebu; SM City Cebu; Parkmall; and Pacific Mall.

Aside from the monorail, Metro Cebu is also being eyed by two foreign firms as a potential area for a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.

Japan-based Tranzen Group Inc. and several LGUs in Metro Cebu signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last March to allow the firm to conduct a feasibility study for an LRT system.

Tranzen’s P 80-billion LRT project will have 15 stations, including two located underground. It will go all the way up to Mactan Island.

A few months after Tranzen inked its agreement with the LGUs, a Chinese-dominated consortium consisting of at least five local and foreign companies proposed an LRT project estimated to cost US$3 billion or roughly P155 billion.

Similar to that of Tranzen, the proposal also covers the entire Metro Cebu.

Most of the proposals promised that it will cost the partner government agencies from little to nothing under a private-public partnership (PPP).

A ‘BASKET OF SOLUTIONS’

Ryan Benjamin Yu of the transport group, Citrasco, called for a more careful and thorough study.

“It is good to know that there are a lot of solutions being offered to alleviate traffic congestion in Metro Cebu but let’s not forget to scrutinize these projects as well as carefully plan out how we should go about on making them happen,” he said.

“It has to be a combination of solutions. When you talk about transport, you also talk about walking, having safe and good pedestrian lanes, improved sidewalks, and where PWDs (persons with disabilities) can have good access,” RDC’s Glenn Soco, for his part, said.

Meantime, a debate on which transport mode was best suited for Metro Cebu emerged with issues ranging from efficiency, cost, and how fast the project can be implemented.

“It’s not surprising that big-ticket projects, such as those involving mass transport, will be used as political mileage by some politicians. Politics is also one reason why we are yet to implement one,” said Yu.

Yu and Soco, remained hopeful that Metro Cebu’s vision of providing an effective mass transport for the public would soon be realized.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), meanwhile, plans to put all proposed modes of mass transport in Cebu into one integrated system.

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said that the Integrated Inter-Modal Transport System (IITS) in Metro Cebu is the “basket of solutions” which government has promised to alleviate traffic congestion in the metropolis.

The IITS will include the BRT in three-lane roads, a point-to-point (P2P) bus system, a monorail in Lapu-Lapu City; and LRT lines from Carcar to Danao, and Mandaue to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Last September 19, DOTr said that the Technical Support Consultant (TSC) for the BRT component of the IITS has been mobilized raising hopes that a functioning mass transport system in Metro Cebu would soon be enforced.

 

Part 4

by Rosalie O. Abatayo
Correspondent

 

With the growing count of vehicles on the streets of Metro Cebu and the daily economic losses due to traffic comes the demand for bigger and better roads.

Three big ticket projects with an accumulated cost of P1.75 billion are currently being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) in hopes of alleviating Cebu’s road congestion problems.

Among these projects are the P638-million Mambaling underpass in Cebu City, the P946-million tri-level depressed (underpass) project at U.N. Avenue in Mandaue City and the P165-million road rehabilitation project of Mandaue’s 8-lane Ouano Avenue.

The underpass project in Barangay Mambaling, which began in August 2017, is now on its fourth phase and is expected to be completed by the end of the year or sooner by 720 days than its initial completion date set in March 2019.

Upon completion, the underpass will have two lanes — one going southbound and another, northbound to accommodate vehicles going from Cebu City to the south and vice versa while passing through N. Bacalso Avenue.

On each side of the depressed portion are existing two-lane streets which can accommodate the traffic to and from F. Llamas Street.

The entire project will be 700 meters long; but the actual underpass will be only 620 meters with a vertical clearance of 5.2 meters.

The underpass will have a sump tank which will store runoff water so that rainwater will not flow into the depressed portion.

The stored water will then be pumped into a drainage line which is among the components of the project.

Although the construction has brought agony to southbound commuters due to monstrous traffic jams within the area on peak hours, Engr. Nonato Paylado, chief of DPWH-7 Planning and Design Division said that once completed, the underpass will reduce travel time to and from the south by about 20 to 30 minutes.

Businessman Glenn Soco, chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC-7) Infrastructure Development Committee, in an interview, called the underpass as one of the “right projects only at the wrong time and sequence.”

Glenn Soco, chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC-7) Infrastructure Development Committee.

“That should have been done a long time ago. It was really not prepared because you need to add the capacity first before you subtract the capacity. It is not as simple as just putting up an underpass there,” said Soco referring to the bulk of commuters and motorists inconvenienced by the project due to the absence of good alternative routes.

During its third phase, the southbound portion of N. Bacalso Avenue covered by the project was closed to traffic, prompting the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) to redirect vehicles to small interior roads.

Soco said that the situation would have been avoided had there been a road widening project before the actual underpass construction.

U.N. Avenue

Soco expressed the same concern over the tri-level project at the U.N. Avenue in Mandaue City.

“While we look at more infrastructure projects, we have to do the right projects and do them right,” said Soco.

Soco noted that infrastructure projects such as underpasses and flyovers could only worsen traffic if additional capacity routes are not provided before the actual construction.

Stage 1 of the U.N. Avenue tri-level depressed project which involves the clearing of obstructions began last July.

The 952-meter project will consist of a four-lane underpass that will connect directly to the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, a two-lane service road, and a flyover.

The underpass will span 600 meters with entry points at the intersection of U.N. Avenue and Plaridel Street, and at the base of Marcelo Fernan Bridge.

Vehicles bound to and from Mactan Island via Marcelo Fernan Bridge will traverse through the tunnel while those crossing U.N. Avenue from nearby streets will use the service roads and the flyover.

The project is expected to be completed in June 2020 or within 910 calendar days from the design phase last December 2017.

Ouano Avenue

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of the 1.9 kilometer Ouano Avenue is now on the second out of six phases.

The reconcreting of the road that started in February this year involves filling in 35-centimeter thick concrete on the existing asphalt.

While the three major projects are in progress, another infrastructure development that stretches from Naga City in the south all the way to Danao City, northern Cebu is also underway.

Last July, DPWH-7 began civil works for segment three of the 70-kilometer Metro Cebu Expressway at the junction of the Naga-Uling Road in Barangay Pangdan, City of Naga.

The project is divided into three segments: Talisay City to Mandaue City (segment 1); Consolacion town to Danao City (segment 2); and Naga City to Minglanilla town (segment 3).

The expressway will traverse Metro Cebu’s upland areas with distribution roads connecting to the main highways of each city that it passes through.

The expressway which will serve as a complementary road to the existing N. Bacalso Avenue and South Coastal Road is aimed to decongest traffic as it will distribute the number of vehicles traversing through these roads.

An initial P300-million budget was appropriated for the project; but DPWH is looking into completing the expressway through a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) agreement.

Paylado said that an international Chinese firm has expressed willingness to partner with DPWH in the construction of segments one and two which will follow upon completion of segment three.

Aside from the major projects that are currently in progress, Paylado said DPWH-7 will focus its resources on the acquisition of right of way for the projects that they plan to do in 2020.

“We would do the projects in alternating schemes. This year we focus on the acquisition of property then for the next year we do the road works on those areas that are already settled,” said Paylado.

DPWH-7 was initially given a budget of P18 billion for 2019, of which P7 billion will be used for projects in Cebu.

Soco slammed the allocation saying that this would not be enough to sustain all the projects intended to mitigate Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic situation.

“It is really small. It is a far cry from the plans and programs that we endorsed in the RDC and we discussed it with the DPWH officials. We challenged them for 2020 that they have to do better,” said Soco.

roperty then for the next year we do the road works on those areas that are already settled,” said Paylado.

DPWH-7 was initially given a budget of P18 billion for 2019, of which P7 billion will be used for projects in Cebu.

Soco slammed the allocation saying that this would not be enough to sustain all the projects intended to mitigate Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic situation.

“It is really small. It is a far cry from the plans and programs that we endorsed in the RDC and we discussed it with the DPWH officials. We challenged them for 2020 that they have to do better,” said Soco.

Part 5

by Jessa Mae O. Sotto, Norman V. Mendoza, John Aroa, Morexette Marie B. Erram and Delta Derycka Letigio

 

Solving Metro Cebu’s worsening traffic situation is not just a problem for the cities and towns of the metropolis but for the entire province of Cebu, as well.

For the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB), which spearheads a program known as Mega Cebu, the problem is a shared responsibility between the public and private sector.

Partnership and cooperation among all stakeholders is encouraged while LGUs are called on to collaborate and coordinate policies, plans, programs, projects, and practices to address common and trans-boundary assets, issues, and challenges.

Metro Cebu consists of the seven cities of Carcar, Cebu, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Naga, Talisay, and six municipalities of Compostela, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla, and San Fernando.

“The current population of 2.5 million of Metro Cebu is anticipated to double by 2050, and challenges of rapid growth and urbanization will be constrained by the resource and infrastructure limitations,” said a report from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The major urban issues and challenges are “transboundary” in nature, therefore, extend beyond the geopolitical boundaries, the report added.

“Now, more than ever, it is necessary for the 13 local governments, national government agencies, private sector, and civil society to come together in a collective effort to collaborate and cooperate in defining the future of Metro Cebu,” said JICA.

In the Mega Cebu concept, the total island population will rise to 12 million by the year 2050, making the need for strategic, unified and concerted development efforts not only necessary but urgent.

The urgency of a unified approach to Cebu’s urban problems has become even more apparent with Metro Cebu’s P1.1 billion losses in economic opportunities daily due to traffic as estimated by JICA in a 2018 first quarter report.

MCDCB Chairperson and Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III has called on members of Mega Cebu to find ways to alleviate the worsening traffic congestion in the metropolis under the Mega Cebu perspective of looking at governance and development from a big picture and not on an individual LGU-specific scale.

Except for Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña who withdrew Cebu City’s participation from the MCDCB in 2016, all the local chief executives of cities and towns in Metro Cebu support plans for a unified traffic approach.

Unified traffic approach

In Mandaue City, Mayor Gabriel Luis ‘Luigi’ Quisumbing, whose family owns the Cebu-based motorcycle manufacturer and distributor Norkis Group of Companies, views traffic from both from the perspective of the private and public sectors.

The mayor welcomes the creation of more road networks and other infrastructure by the Department of Public Works ang Highways (DPWH) and supports a mass transport system.

Mandaue City is currently the recipient of two big ticket projects from DPWH: A Tri-Level Depressed Project along U.N. Avenue designed to ease traffic in areas leading to Marcelo Fernan Bridge; and the rehabilitation of an eight-lane expressway along Ouano Avenue which connects the cities of Cebu and Mandaue through the North Reclamation Area.

“It would really help solve road congestion. We feel the support from the national government. Unfortunately, while the road works are under construction, it will cause further traffic; but after that, it will be so much better,” he said.

Quisumbing hopes to open sea travel between Mandaue City and Mactan Island, especially when the actual construction of the P946-million UN Avenue Tri-Level Depressed Project begins.

He notes the growing number of vehicles on the streets of Metro Cebu and the lack of proper urban planning.

“Unfortunately, mas paspas ang pagbaligya ug pagpalit sa mga awto (the selling and buying of cars is faster) compared to the legal process of road widening. Usa sa nakadakong problema (This is one of the biggest problem we have now),” he said.

“There is really a lack of urban planning. But this is not unique to Cebu. It happens throughout the Philippines,” Quisumbing added.

A study conducted by JICA’s project team for the Master Plan Study and Institutional Development on Urban Transport System found that private cars made up 21 percent of Mandaue City’s total traffic volume.

Mandaue came next to Cebu City which registered a total private car volume of 22 percent.

In Lapu-Lapu City, Mayor Paz Radaza points to the city’s rapid urbanization as the source of its traffic woes.

Radaza proposes for the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) to consider adjusting their workers’ schedules.

Radaza notes that workers are taking the brunt of the effects of the city’s traffic congestion which are associated to stress.

Lapu-Lapu City’s export zones are home to tens of thousands of employees working in over a hundred companies mostly engaged in assembly and manufacturing from jewelry to electronics.

“I already mentioned (to PEZA) to place the workers’ schedule in different shifts not in one shift only for every company,” said Radaza.

Radaza also stresses the need to discipline drivers as another way to decongest traffic.

“Traffic would not be as bad if people were more disciplined,” she said.

In Talisay City, Mayor Eduardo Gullas hopes to solve traffic in the city by educating his constituents to buy cars only if appropriate for their lifestyle.

Gullas encourages Talisaynons to support moves for a mass transport system.

Similar to Mandaue, Gullas notes an increasing number of vehicles in Talisay.

Gullas longs to have a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in the city, and has been lobbying for it before Congress since 1998.

Gullas’ wish may soon come true after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) proposed to include Talisay City in an LRT project which is a component of the proposed Metro Cebu Integrated Inter-Modal Transport System (IITS).

The LRT project will cover Carcar City in the south up to Danao City, northern Cebu.

In Cebu City, Mayor Osmeña pushes for the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to solve the city’s growing traffic problems.

Osmeña also issued an executive order (EO) with stiffer penalties for traffic violations as a way for the city government to improve traffic management.

Under the EO, any vehicle caught counterflowing in the city’s major thoroughfares will be impounded for 30 days and 60 days if these vehicles are within the critical area of N. Bacalso Ave. where a P638-million underpass is being constructed along Barangay Mambaling.

Last April, the National Economic and Development Authority – Investment Coordinating Committee (Neda-ICC) has placed the P17-billion BRT project for Cebu City under further deliberation when DOTr initially expressed intentions to scrap it.

Neda-ICC asked DOTr to provide the body with a short-term alternative to the BRT in lieu of the project.

Future cooperation

In a traffic summit held last May by MCDCB, officials and experts expressed hope that Cebu City will align with the group’s traffic plans even if its mayor was not keen on joining any future events of MCDCB.

Although he respected Osmeña’s decision not to participate in the summit, Gov. Davide said that he was looking forward to the cooperation of all LGUs especially in coming up with a unified plan to solve traffic issues in Metro Cebu.

“Ato na i-compare tanan (We will compare all) ordinances sa municipalities and cities related to traffic and we will find out where we can unite,” Davide said.

 

Part 6

by Ador Vincent S. Mayol and Nestle L. Semilla

Reporters

 

Even before sunlight pierces through the dark sky at dawn, Magdaleno Borces is already up and ready to go.

“Gusto kaayo ko mo-trabaho (I’m excited to work),” he said.

With a reflectorized vest and a whistle, Borces hops on his hands from one spot to another as he moves toward a pedicab parked outside his small shanty in Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City.

Unlike your regular traffic enforcer, Borces was born without lower legs and with his hands, deformed — a rare congenital disorder known as Amelia.

He has but one finger on his left hand, and three other little fingers on the right.

But the disability did not stop Borces from living a full life.

From his humble abode, the 60-year-old man drives his three-wheel handbike, which was modified to enable his right hand to do the pedaling, while he painstakingly maneuvers the contraption through steep and rocky paths on the way to his work area all by himself.

Borces does not mind the daily struggle.

By 6 a.m ., he is already at his post along F. Cabahug Street where he is assigned to man the traffic.

“Dili ko gusto nga magpuyo lang sa balay. Buot ko motrabaho og makapangalagad sa katawhan (I just don’t want to stay idle at home. I want to work and be able to serve the people),” he said in his soft voice.

For six years now, Borces endures the smoke and dust-filled highway.

He braves the heat and searing temperatures, and works even during heavy rains from Monday to Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two breaks in between.

As honorarium, Borces receives P2,000 from the village, and another P4,000 from the Cebu City government every month.

The amount, he said, is enough to buy food, water, and other basic commodities.

Although he has learned to live with his disability and has not experienced much discrimination, Borces said there had been times when he wondered why he did not have the limbs that most people had.

While he had every reason to feel sorry for himself, he simply refused to give in to despair.

Borces caught the attention of Kasambagan Barangay Captain Franklyn Ong who personally requested him to man the traffic along one of the barangay’s major streets.

Ong recounts that Borces used to just stay on the pavement and from there, help man the traffic by himself.

“He loves to be on the streets to help maintain an orderly traffic flow. It exposed him to so much risks and so I got him,” Ong said.

Ong said Borces’ dedication was exemplary.

“He’s determined, very passionate, and very hardworking. Though he doesn’t have legs, he wants to contribute something to the community. He simply wants to serve,” he said.

Perched on an outpost specially made for him, Borces does his work with pride and determination as he passionately directs traffic to maintain an orderly flow.

Traffic enforcers from the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) flaunt their snappy parade drills during the 81st Charter Day celebration at Plaza Sugbu.

No matter what the job entails, he said that he is determined to lead a life of purpose.

Though hard-pressed on every side, Borces said begging money from people was never an option for him.

“Dili ko anang magpakilimos. Gusto ko nga ang akong kuwarta, hinaguan gyud (I will not beg. I want the money that I have to be the fruit of my
labor),” said Borces who refuses to receive money from passersby.

He reminded mendicants that poverty and disability are not obstacles to earn a decent living and serve the community.

Though he’s just about a meter in height, Borces stands tall in his unwavering determination and commitment to service.

Like Borces, traffic enforcers spend much of their time under the sun which makes them prone to heat stroke and even hypertension, said Herbert Nuñez, a 60-year-old member of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (TEAM).

A traffic enforcer for 20 years, Nuñez could well attest to the difficulties that come with the job.

“Dili sayon kung anaa naka sa field. Pero tungod sad lagi sa ka-busy sa dalan ug ganahan ka dili ma traffic imong area, ma sakripisyo gyud nimo imong lawas (It’s not easy being on the field. But because the streets are always busy, as a traffic enforcer you don’t want congestion in your area that’s why you really have to sacrifice your health),” said Nuñez.

In 2016, moments after successively apprehending three erring drivers, Nuñez suddenly collapsed in the middle of traffic.

He was rushed to a hospital and later told that he suffered from a heat stroke. His doctors advised him to rest for one month to gain back his health.

For Ramon Rusiana, a member of the Cebu City Traffic Office (CCTO) for almost 15 years, it is not so much the health hazards that make his job difficult, but the attitude of the public when dealing with them.

He shared that not a single day goes by without verbal tussles with drivers and commuters.

“Nakadungog na guro ko tanang balikas tungod ani atong trabaho (I must have heard all kinds of curses because of this job),” said Rusiana, admitting that hours of exposure under the heat could also make traffic enforcers irritable too.

“Kung motrabaho na ko, magbaon g’yud ko og taas nga pasensiya. Mao ra gyud ni makapaluntad nato.

(That is why every time I go to work, I always see to it that I bring with me a lot of patience. That’s the only way for me to survive my day),” said Rusiana.

 

Conclusion

by Rosalie O. Abatayo and Morexette Marie B. Erram and Futch Anthony Inso

 

A decade and two years from now in 2030, the roads of Metro Cebu will be wider and travel time will be a whole lot faster.

Cebu will also see the beginnings of an efficient mass transport system which will bring the metropolis on its way to a completely sustainable growth by 2050.

Such is the vision of Mega Cebu, a multi-sectoral consortium of private sector and government stakeholders created in 2011 that envisions sustained urban growth in Metro Cebu in the next 30 years.

Traffic experts and transport groups in Metro Cebu remained optimistic that while solving traffic congestion is an uphill climb, Cebu’s future generation may no longer have to endure horrendous traffic jams that have become the current norm.

“We have to look forward to our future, and doing that means our actions of today must be aligned for what’s ahead – in terms of short-term, medium-term, and long-term approaches,” said Ryan Benjamin Yu, leader of Central Visayas’ largest transport group, Citrasco (Cebu Integrated Transport Service Multipurpose Cooperative ).

Glenn Soco, chair of the Infrastructure Development Committee of the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas (RDC – IDC), also called for the cooperation of private individuals to help solve traffic.

“The solutions have to start with us. The people are part of the solution, Undeniably, if you want to live in Cebu, you will have to experience Cebu – both the bad and good in its progress. Traffic, that is one of the bad parts,” Soco said.

But as the government and the private sector work hand in hand in creating solutions to Cebu’s urban problems, there is much hope for the future.
Sustainable growth

In a study crafted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), together with the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB) and Mega Cebu, the agency said that for sustainable growth to be achieved, the problems that come with rapid urbanization such as flood control, waste management, energy, and traffic and transportation have to be
addressed.

Jica projected that employment in Metro Cebu will reach two million by 2050, and demand for land use needed for urban development will be at 12,120 hectares.

“GRDP of Metro Cebu will grow at 8.3% per year between 2010 and 2020, 7.8% per year from 2020 to 2030, then 5.8% per year from 2030 to 2050.

As a result, the magnitude of economic activities in Metro Cebu will be almost 15 times as large as their 2010 level, where it is almost the same as Korea’s as of 2010,” Jica added.

Increasing population, an increase in employment, and a rise in other demands would translate to more and more people using the roads.

This is why it is important to assess and determine the volume-capacity (v/c) ratio of the streets in Metro Cebu, the study said.

The v/c ratio is used to measure the total number of vehicles plying through an area in a given period of time. It serves as an index to determine the quality of the traffic volume.

For instance, traffic is considered smooth when the v/c ratio is greater than 1.00; it is moderate when it is greater than 1.20, and heavy when the ratio is greater than 1.50.

According to the Jica study, three local government units in Metro Cebu are experiencing moderate to heavy traffic.

These are the cities of Mandaue with a v/c ratio of 1.26, Cebu (1.20 and 1.10), and the town of Cordova ( 1.33).

The agency predicted that the v/c ratio of all 13 LGUs comprising Metro Cebu will exceed 1.50 by 2030, if nothing is done to ease traffic. Such is considered alarming.

“If all the priority projects were implemented together with the existing arterial road widening and the intersection improvements in Metro Cebu, traffic condition would drastically improve in 2030,” JICA explained.

Metro Cebu masterplan

In its masterplan for Metro Cebu, JICA proposes five major infrastructure projects: a 4th Mactan-Cebu Bridge, a Mandaue Coastal Road, the Urban Mass Rapid Transit (UMRT), the Metro Cebu Circumferential Road (MCCR), and a modernized Area Traffic Control (ATC) System.

All these, along with the completion of the 3rd Mactan-Cebu Bridge will reduce the v/c ratio of Metro Cebu to 0.94 by 2030 and to 0.84 by 2050, according to Jica.

The five projects are expected to cost P209 billion.

The MCCR is a 21-km bypass road from Naga City in the south to Danao City in the north, that overlaps the 70-kilometer Metro Cebu Expressway.

The civil works for the expressway started last July with an initial budget of P300 million. Both the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) , which is the implementing agency for the expressway and MCDCB are expected to meet and merge the two projects as one.

The UMRT system, on the other hand, consists of two railway projects — one going to the central line or around the urban center and another along the coastal line of Metro Cebu.

A feasibility study on the central line railway will start in 2019 and will be completed in one year, the Jica study suggested.

Based on the tentative timeline for the P106 million project, the detailed engineering design of the central line railway could start in 2021 while its construction phase could be from 2023 to 2027.

The UMRT Central Line would traverse Talisay City in the south to the northern town of Consolacion.

It is expected to be ready for test run in 2027 and fully operational by 2028.

The Coastal Line, however, will take a little longer since its feasibility study is not eyed to commence until 2022 and its detailed engineering design in 2024.

Jica proposed that the construction phase of the P47-billion Coastal Line could start in 2026.

The project, which will cover the coast of Cebu mainland to Mactan Island, is expected to be completed in four and a half years.

In the meantime, the P10 billion ATC system, composed of a synchronized traffic signaling system and traffic information system for Metro Cebu has been endorsed by the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas (RDC-7) to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) so that a budget for its feasibility study can be included in the 2019 budget of DOTr.

Fourth bridge

A preliminary study for the fourth Mactan bridge by Jica recommended that the bridge be built at the Mandaue Coastal Road traversing 640 km to the National Highway near the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City.

This bridge is expected to cost at least P6.9 billion and will be operational by the middle of 2023.

Based on the timeline presented by Jica, a feasibility study for the bridge can be conducted in the last quarter of 2018 and finished before the fourth quarter of 2019.

The detailed engineering design will immediately follow and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 so that the construction phase can begin in January 2021.

The demand forecast included in the Jica preliminary study showed that about 190,000 vehicles per day will be plying the three bridges by 2030.
At present, there are two bridges linking mainland Cebu to Mactan Island.

The Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), better known as the third Mactan Bridge, started construction last Thursday.

The three bridges have a combined capacity of 118,800 vehicles per day – or about 72,000 vehicle spaces short of the projected demand.

Faster travel time

If all the projects are implemented, not only will the existing roads be decongested but the average travel speed of vehicles will also be significantly increased from 30 to 40 km per hour, according to Jica.

With more roads and travel options available, the volume of vehicles in major highways can also be reduced by less than 80 percent of the roads’ actual capacity and a travel of 73 kilometers from Naga City to Danao City will only take an hour or threefold faster than the present average of three hours, the study added.

“If all the projects will be carried out according to the timeframe set by the master plan, this would bring the traffic congestion to the minimum,” said Engr. Lynn Madrona of MCDCB’s Transport and Traffic Management subcommittee.

“Cebu has become very progressive and it’s growing at a rate that infrastructure development is catching up. That’s our biggest challenge and when you talk about infrastructure you talk about years of planning. Conditions change very fast. So projects which we think are effective five to 10 years ago are no longer the same at present,” Soco, for his part, said.

Gordon Alan Joseph, president of Cebu Business Club and executive committee chairman of the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB)

Mega Cebu

For Gordon Alan Joseph, President of the Cebu Business Club and co-chairperson of MCDCB cooperation among local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders should transcend boundaries.

The concept of working together, he said, should also reflect how countermeasures on traffic congestion, identified by experts, will be implemented.

Joseph stressed the need for a unified traffic management plan in Metro Cebu as well as a traffic authority to govern the metropolis.

“It’s not a question whether traffic can be solved. It’s a fact that traffic needs to be solved, and everyone must cooperate,” said Joseph.

“It has to be solved in stages. The first stages in the report of Jica have low-hanging fruits, and my lowest hanging fruit is traffic management.

Implemented accordingly, it will reduce traffic by between 15 to 20 percent,” he said.

Joseph called on leaders and even private individuals to heed the advice given by experts like Jica on how urban development must be put into place in order to avoid, if not lessen, the negative consequences it will bring.

“These infrastructures must be identified by experts. If you look at the Mambaling underpass in N. Bacalso Ave. that has caused chaos there, that is an example of a poor infrastructure project that’s not going to increase the capacity of the roads,” explained Joseph.

Jica is about to release their report on the Master Plan Study for Metro Cebu’s Urban Transport Plan anytime this year, and there, according to Joseph, lies a picture of how the metropolis will be if nothing is done soon.

“That is what Mega Cebu is trying to do, to have a more competitive Cebu. In today’s modern world, however, you cannot be competitive without being livable,” Joseph said.

He said, MCDCB is coordinating with Jica and all LGUs in Metro Cebu, except Cebu City, which backed out of Mega Cebu in 2016 .

“When we started conceptualizing Mega Cebu in 2009 with all the mayors, traffic was already the most prominent issue. Yes, there is still hope in solving it but if we don’t do anything today, it’s not going to get any better,” said Joseph.

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