THE Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project will have to wait.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced last night that it is putting on hold the implementation of the BRT following the recent pronouncement of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who earlier said that the BRT may have to wait while the proposed subway and LRT project for Metro Cebu is being studied.
“The DOTr believes that a review must be undertaken and that concerns raised must be addressed, so as not to cast any doubt on the integrity of the project. Rest assured that the decision to be made will be anchored on the DOTr’s aim to enhance mobility and connectivity in the country, and to put the convenience of the riding public on topmost priority,” the DOTr’s press statement read.
The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) released DOTr’s statement past 10 p.m. yesterday.
On the same day, the project implementation unit of the Cebu BRT started the process of acquiring the properties—mostly commercial—that will be affected by the P16.9-billion project.
It did so even if the Cebu City Council postponed indefinitely the approval of the proposed ordinance of Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, which provides the final list of individuals and properties that will be affected by the mass transport system.
Lawyer Rafael Christopher Yap said they started distributing the Notice of Taking with Final Offer to the property owners.
In the letter, Yap said the amount offered is based on the market data approach, cost approach and income approach as provided under the law. The properties are mostly commercial.
So far, Yap said the offer made to the property owners amount to P327,404,000.00.
He would not say, though, how much the City is offering per square meter and how many property owners are being given the offer, but the BRT project implementation unit has a P900-million budget for lot acquisition.
Although there will be no road widening for the lanes intended for the buses, the City has to acquire a portion of the properties along the route for bus stops and terminals, among other facilities.
The bus route is from Barangay Talamban to Barangay Bulacao, passing Escario St., Osmeña Blvd. and N. Bacalso Ave.
Under Republic Act 10752, or the new law on land acquisition, property owners have 30 days from receipt of the Notice of Taking with Final Offer to accept or reject it.
The BRT had a project cost of P10.6 billion when it was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board in 2014, under the Benigno Aquino III administration. The cost has increased to P16.9 billion because of road right-of-way acquisition (RROW) cost.
When asked if they are can start the land acquisition considering that the proposed ordinance on the final list of properties has yet to be approved, Yap said there is already a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the City and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that was signed in December last year.
The MOA, Yap said, allows them to start the process of acquiring the lots.
Meanwhile, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino disclosed that the private proponent of the feasibility study for the light rail system (LRT) and subway in Metro Cebu is set to submit their output to the government agencies concerned.
In a news conference yesterday, Dino said the study for the LRT-subway that a foreign contractor started over a year ago was already completed. The government did not spend for the study, he said.
Dino also clarified that Neda Secretary Ernesto Pernia did not push for the scrapping of the BRT project.
Dino said Pernia is just concerned with Cebu and only wants what’s best when it comes to mass transport.
During his visit in Cebu last Friday, Pernia said the BRT project will proceed unless Malacañang orders to suspend it.
Later that day, though, Pernia issued another statement after a meeting with Dino. He said that the implementation of the project may have to wait since there is a feasibility study on the proposed subway and LRT project for Metro Cebu, which is about to be completed.
“Secretary Pernia only wants what is best for Cebu, which is LRT and subway. I feel sad that he was dragged into this but he is just concerned about the welfare of Cebu. His reputation is impeccable. Let’s not tarnish anyone’s reputation,” Dino said. (RVC)