Monday , June 25, 2018

Additional P5.7-B budget for BRT ok'd

THE National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board yesterday approved the close to P5.7-billion additional budget for the multi-billion Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

This means the project can proceed despite the opposition of some sectors, said lawyer Rafael Christopher Yap, BRT project manager.

The project's initial cost was P10.6 billion when the Neda Board approved it in 2014, but the amount jumped to P16.3 billion because of the cost of road right-of-way acquisitions.

The passage of Republic Act 10752, or the The Right of Way Act, requires government implementing agencies to offer the market value of properties to be acquired for infrastructure projects instead of the zonal value.

Yap said the approval was the culmination of the Neda’s Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee endorsement last Aug. 14, which found the project still economically viable even with the increase in cost.

"The Board’s approval signifies a confirmation of BRT’s viability for Cebu City despite recent criticisms leveled against its implementation. It also signifies the commitment of the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build program of infrastructure development which the Cebu BRT project is part," he told reporters.

Earlier, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino said the project implementation may have to wait pending its review.

Dino said BRT is not the ideal mode of mass transport in the city, considering the state of its roads.

Dino also said he would lobby for the cancellation of the project.

In a statement sent to SunStar Cebu last night, Dino said he is aware of the approval of the additional funding.

"Let's wait for the result of the review by DOTr," he said.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Council asked the BRT Project Implementation Unit (PIU) for a copy of the feasibility study of the project so its members can examine it closely.

In a privilege speech yesterday, Councilor James Anthony Cuenco said the feasibility study has been marked "confidential," when it's supposed to be a public document.

Addressing road congestion

“The way I understand it is that after its approval by a national government agency, the study ceased to be compartmentalized information and should be accessible to the public for scrutiny,” Cuenco said.

He said policymakers like the city councilors should have access to allow them to study it and if needed, create legislation to allow for a better implementation of the project.

Cuenco said the project has been modified several times since the feasibility study was completed in 2012.

Nigel Paul Villarete of the PIU said they're willing to provide the council with a copy of the feasibility study, provided that the DOTr will agree.

During his privilege speech, Cuenco also pointed out the road congestion in the city.

To address it, he said, the Land Transportation Office 7 should train traffic enforcers of the Cebu City Transportation Office on traffic management and employ stringent measures against offenders and implement mandatory re-testing of frequent violators.

He asked the Police Regional Office 7 to augment the city's traffic police force.

Cuenco also asked the executive department to buy 80 motorcycles with communication accessories that the enforcers and police officers assisting them can use.

The councilor also wants a study conducted on the possibility of removing roadside vending that includes vulcanizing shops and car washes to provide more space for vehicles.