THEY’VE been debating for some time now, since Presidential Asst. for Visayas Michael Dino publicly said he’d block the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and push for a Light Rail Transit (LRT)-subway combination.
Arguments for each mass transport plan have been traded, with Dino and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, BRT’s proponent, in the thick of the verbal fight.
What Mayor Tomas obviously wants is the formal debate: a stand-up, eyeball-to-eyeball clash on one platform. The kind one had back in high school or college.
But politicians now shun, if they can, a formal debate unless they need it to win an election or public support in a controversy.
What is this for, this formal debate Tomas has been egging Dino to accept? Not to influence Neda, Department of Transportation and the president, who decide on the big-ticket project.
It must be to score with the consumers who’d be affected by the mass transport system. Not to get their opinion: public hearings and surveys could do better. More for showing who is right: Tomas or Dino who’ve been thrashing each other even before they assumed office last year.
Mass transport was needed about 20 years when a land-use and transport study (remember McLuts) strongly urged the phase-out of jeepneys and the use of bigger, faster modes of moving people and cargoes. Commuters and drivers who experience the worsening traffic problem in recent years must agree.
They don’t care if it’s BRT or LRT and subway. They’re not even asking the cost of the city’s loan or how much riders would pay as fare. They assume their leaders, with their experts, would decide with public interest in mind. To help the decision-makers, why don’t Tomas and Dino appear before Neda and DOTr instead?
It’s going on
Though informal and intermittent, a debate has been going on. Tomas argued on the waste and cost of delay and assailed Dino’s motive in opposing the BRT. Dino bewailed “lack of transparency,” with the feasibility study allegedly being hidden from the public. That must count for a debate.
Heres the thing. If they want to inform the people, each can make a presentation publicly, even if separately: in a press-con, before the chamber of commerce or Rotary, or even online with a clear and plain visual presentation. Later, media can fact-check claims and the public can raise questions.
Need to win
One suspects that Tomas wants to do more than sell BRT to the public as the better transport system for Cebu as of now. He may also want to thrash Dino before an audience, on the same stage, and show who’s the builder and who’s the obstructionist.
A near-term decision with long-term consequences: that describes whichever will be adopted as the mass transport system for Cebu. A formal debate will help. But if that won’t happen, there are other ways to focus on the projects problems that our leaders might want to address now, instead of later.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2017.
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