‘BRT must be tree-friendly’

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014


MORE important than the technical issues, social issues like the protection of heritage sites and the environment must be addressed by proponents of Cebu’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to ensure the project succeeds, a World Bank official told Cebu City officials yesterday.

Social concerns that need to be addressed include the preservation of heritage sites and trees on the BRT route, as well as the livelihood and properties of people who might be affected by the mass transport project.

“Social concerns have to be addressed to make sure there is full support from the general population. More than the technical aspect, which is also not easy, social issues are more important,” Michel Kerf, transport and ICT practice manager of World Bank in East Asia and the Pacific, told Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.

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Kerf and other World Bank representatives visited City Hall yesterday to discuss the status of the P10.6-billion BRT project.

Negative impacts

He later told reporters that the key to ensuring the success of the BRT is minimizing the negative impact of the BRT and maximizing its benefits.

How this can be done will be determined when the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) undertakes the study on the detailed engineering design of the BRT starting this January.

In the study, the DOTC, which will implement the project, will re-evaluate the proposed route and determine the overall design of the BRT and its supporting infrastructure.

“The next step is to do the detailed engineering design, which will determine exactly what the project will look like. This is the point where other studies are done to make sure that the project is optimum from a social and environmental point of view, to make sure that all of the impacted parties get benefits from the project,” Kerf told reporters.

The study will take six to 12 months to complete, he said, and will be followed by the bidding for the construction of the required infrastructure and the buses.

Loan

In an interview, he told reporters that the World Bank may release up to $116 million or roughly P5.2 billion to fund the project.

The loan amount and financial terms are subject to the World Bank Board of Directors’ approval on Sept. 26.

Aside from the World Bank, the Agence Francaise de Development was also named as another possible fund source for the BRT.

When the BRT is implemented, some 2,000 trees on the center islands and sidewalks along the BRT route stand to be affected.

The Fuente Osmeña circle, a heritage site, is also along the BRT route.

In a separate interview, Citom Executive Director Raphael Yap said that public utility vehicle drivers who stand to lose their jobs and other individuals who might be displaced by the acquisition of the road right of way will also be considered when the engineering design of the BRT is crafted.

Kerf said that in the study on the detailed engineering design, the proponents will find ways to minimize the project’s impact on the environment, heritage sites and stakeholders.

“I think that all options will have to be looked at. I can’t tell you what the result will be but this is precisely the phase where all of these things will be looked at carefully and the best possible solutions will be designed… The goal is to try to optimize the design of the project so as to maximize its benefits and minimize its negative impact,” he added.

As a result of the pre-feasibility study, the Bulacao-Talamban route for the BRT was identified. It will pass through Natalio Bacalso Ave., Osmeña Blvd., Escario St. and Gorordo Ave.

But Yap said that the proposed route will be re-evaluated to determine if it is still feasible, especially since the route was identified two years ago yet.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 03, 2014.

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