CEBU, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has adhered to the decision of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to put the implementation of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on hold.
In a statement issued late last night, DOTr said “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 statement reads further.
The statement was signed by DOTr spokesperson Assistant Secretary Leah Quiambao and released by Assistant Secretary Jonjie Gonzales of the Office for the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.
Last week, Pernia announced he will suspend the implementation of the BRT to give way to a thorough study on the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) system here.
He made the decision after speaking with Presidential Assistant for Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino, the proponent of the LRT, despite a statement hours earlier that the BRT project cannot be stalled.
Pernia’s decision irked Mayor Tomas Osmeña, the proponent of the BRT, who said he will file charges against Pernia for abuse of authority because the project’s implementing agency is DOTr and not NEDA.
Yesterday, Dino told reporters he has spoken with President Rodrigo Duterte about the best mass transport system here.
Duterte reportedly just said he will support whatever is best for Cebu.
Dino said the BRT will only worsen Metro Cebu’s traffic.
“The BRT will be a total chaos in Cebu City. Maybe in other countries it is successful because they have wide roads dedicated for BRT which the city does not have,” he said.
Dino also defended Pernia saying, his “reputation is impeccable”.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines – Cebu Chapter also passed a resolution urging its members to entrust their support for the LRT project.
“The LRT, whether subway or above ground been identified by LMP-Cebu Chapter as an appropriate, effective and efficient mass transportation for the Province of Cebu,” the resolution reads.
“The local officials have recognized the seriousness of the traffic congestion in the Province of Cebu as a result of rapid growth. Traffic congestion hinders economic growth and development. The LRT can accommodate more passengers and is considered a sustainable solution for the worsening traffic problem,” the resolution reads further.
Hours before the DOTr statement, the Cebu City government announced it has started issuing a Notice of Taking with Final Offer to the first batch of lot owners that will be affected by the implementation of the BRT project.
Atty. Rafael Yap, project manager of the BRT, said the city’s Land Acquisition Committee can start the lot acquisition by virtue of the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the city and the Department of Transportation.
“We have begun land acquisition procedures for properties affected by the BRT project,” Yap said yesterday.
He, however, did not disclose the number of lot owners issued with the notices.
Last Tuesday, Osmeña approved a total of P327,404,000 as offer for commercial properties.
The first batch of lot owners served with the notice was chosen based on the completeness of information and documents, Yap said.
In the notice, Yap said the city government is giving the lot owner 30 days to accept or refuse the offer.
The city has P900 million from DOTr purposely for acquisition of affected properties.
The additional P6.3 billion of the current P10.6 billion budget for the BRT project is still subject for the approval by the NEDA Board albeit having been already approved by NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee technical board.
He said the P6.3 billion additional budget would still be used for lot acquisition.
The Land Acquisition Committee, which was a requirement under the MOA between DOTr and the city government, convened last Tuesday to start land acquisition procedures.
It was on December 28, 2016 when Osmeña and DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade signed a MOA on the road right of way acquisition.
Under the MOA, the city will cause and undertake the transfer of the title of the properties acquired in the name of DOTr.
The implementation of the 23 kilometer-long corridor BRT project entails lot acquisition at the location of the stations, terminals, and depot considering the limitations of road width in certain areas.
At least 25 locations are eyed for the BRT stations.
The lot acquisition includes areas in Natalio Bacalso Avenue, Osmeña Boulevard, Escario Street, Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Governor Mariano Cuenco Avenue, Barangay Bulacao, Barangay Talamban, and South Road Properties.
Under the proposed ordinance of Garganera, there are close to 100 properties identified that will be compensated by the national government. (FREEMAN)