BRT project’s approval

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Monday, June 2, 2014


The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), after taking its sweet time, has finally approved the P10.6 billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project pushed by the Cebu City Government. I actually thought the administration of President Noynoy Aquino would stuff the proposal into the garbage bin altogether. The city now has a mayor, Michael Rama, who is aligned with the opposition.

Pardon my pessimism. But I have realized that there are instances in the Aquino administration where politics trumps its adherence to its “Daang Matuwid” mantra. Especially when it comes to Cebu City where former mayor Tomas Osmeña remains a big influence even if he lost to Rama in last year’s elections. He has a link with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas.

Consider Rama’s major project, the reconstruction of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC). The latest word is that the Aquino administration, supposedly through the Department of Health (DOH), has refused to give the needed financial assistance to the project. It now looks like the city will have to do the CCMC rebuilding on its own.

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So the Aquino administration’s approval of the BRT project came as a surprise to me. I don’t know, however, if we will ever get the inside story regarding this. Still, this is a good development although implementing it is rather tricky. A BRT system, after all, is a jealous lover. BRT vehicles will have the best roads all to themselves.

***

This was several years ago.

When I reported for work, I used to ride south Cebu multi-cabs going to Bulacao St. in Cebu City where I would disembark and take another ride to P. del Rosario St. I usually preferred the front seat where, when I couldn’t doze off, I would have a chance to talk with the driver.

One time, I could sense the worry in the faces of the drivers. A bus company had gotten a franchise to follow the shorter route from Minglanilla town to Mandaue City passing by SM City mall. Multicab and passenger jeepney drivers feared that they would lose passengers and eventually their livelihood.

This didn’t happen, of course, because the number of vehicles used by the bus company was very limited. But I heard that at one time, the worry gave way to anger in some drivers, who threatened the bus firm’s personnel with harm. This prompted the buses to transfer their base to the next local government unit, Naga City.

I don’t how drivers of passenger jeepneys will react once government decides to ease them out to feeder routes to give way to BRT vehicles. There will surely be a struggle.

***
I am not surprised that Tommy O is now beating his breast over Neda’s approval of the BRT project. He obviously didn’t want the credit to go to Rama, whose administration will now have the unenviable task of implementing the initial phases of the project.

But to be fair, Osmeña was indeed the first one to push for the project when he was mayor. He went to Curitiba in Brazil where the BRT system was successfully implemented. He made noise about it, although I don’t know why it wasn’t realized during his term. But he was convincing enough that Rama picked up the plan from where he left it off.

But I always have a problem with leaders claiming ownership to a major project. Look at what is happening now to the South Road Properties. Osmeña claimed to be its father and now wants to control its operation even if he is already a public citizen. Rama could not realize his plans for the area because of this. (khanwens@gmail.com)

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

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