Tuesday , June 19, 2018

Seares: BRT on hold, not scrapped. Yet.

IS THE Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project for Cebu canceled or just put off? Did Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia flip, in a matter of hours, on his decision, from BRT to a hybrid of Light Rail Transit (LRT) and subway?

Consider that the decision on the two projects involve huge amounts of money (P16.9 billion for BRT and $3 billion for a LRT-subway mix). Think of multi-government agencies (Neda, Department of Transportation, and the local governments) and the World Bank take part in planning and review, not to mention the office of the president that weighs in on big-ticket programs.

Who’ll decide

Is it Pernia alone who decides? How about the Neda board whose resolution approved the BRT and, the World Bank that released P10 billion fund?
Besides, Pernia said that BRT will be put on hold, meaning they’ll study the LRT-subway first and see if it’s feasible “before they will decide.”

Is it a setback? Of course it is. The freeze raises the probability of BRT being discarded.

And it suspends motion and lengthens further the almost-nine-year preparation for it.

The merit

But BRT’s merit, if it’s really the better plan, will survive the new scrutiny.

Arbitrary and political, said Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña on Pernia’s announcement last Friday (Aug. 4). It would be arbitrary if he decided to cancel it. Pernia did not. And political if Presidential Asst. for the Visayas Michael Dino pushed for LRT-subway solely to spite Tomas and spoil the mayor’s own political motive in BRT. Dino did not, or at least there’s no evidence of it. And it would be unfair to say Pernia doesn’t have the interest of Cebu and the country in making his moves.

Dino and Tomas hate each other’s guts but that alone doesn’t prove they’re solely driven by their personal interests.

Cebu’s interest

And there’s no turnaround yet by Pernia.

His announcements were qualified: the first, for BRT, “if there’s no other mode of transportation in the city”; the second, for LRT-subway, “if it’s feasible.”

What must be annoying to Tomas, is that as head of the local government he is being shut out--and Dino takes this round as the mayor hits the canvas.

Cebu’s interest is not in who eventually wins in the Dino-Tomas scrimmage but in what transportation mode would finally ease the rapidly increasing traffic problem.