SUMMER in December?

That is what Pagasa is saying: the rainy season, which set in a few days ago, is not going to last long. Later in October to December this year we will be experiencing another dry spell.

Holy cow! What’s the world coming to? We used to say “as sure as the sun rises in the east” when we wanted to emphasize how absolutely certain we were about something. Will it come to pass that we could not be so confident anymore because the sun might just actually rise in the west?

It’s the El Niño, a weather phenomenon marked by rising temperatures in the sea surface in the Pacific Ocean, that is bringing about this aberration, the weather bureau said. So enjoy the wet season while you can. In four months, we will be experiencing the drought once again.

By then, there will be less rainfall, if at all, in many areas in the country. Water in major dams and river basins will reach critical levels, Pagasa predicted.

Those of us who complained about the scarcity of water during the last two months should start getting used to the reality that that was child’s play and the full impact of El Niño is yet to come.

Of course, I worry about going through waterless days again. But I find comfort in the thought that my friend and Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) chairman Rene Mercado and his directors are back from their European study tour. Surely, there were lessons that they learned that will come in handy when Abejo and the other suppliers cannot pump enough water into the MCWD system.

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Traffic was heavy at the intersection of Osmeña Blvd. and V. Urgello St. early Tuesday morning. The scene was anarchic, with every driver trying to outsmart the other because there was no Citom eenforcer to establish order.

Yesterday morning when I saw the same long line of vehicles in the same stretch, I thought that it was again because of the absence of a traffic enforcer. I was wrong. There were in fact two of them but their presence did not prevent the traffic buildup in both roads. There are simply too many vehicles competing for space in our narrow streets.

It was thus a pleasant experience to read later yesterday morning that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). We’re a step closer now to the operation of a mass transit system.

Now called TransCebu, the BRT is a brainchild of former mayor Tomas Osmeña, whose vision also led to the creation of what is now known as the South Road Properties (SRP). It was supposed to start operating in 2014 but they pushed the timetable to 2015. Now we’re being told that the earliest that we can see buses rolling up and down the middle of Natalio Bacalso Ave., Osmeña Blvd. and Escario St., among others, will be in 2018.

There are a number of trees lining up these roads and the DENR has made it clear that the ECC that it issued was not a license to cut these trees. A separate application to cut which tree has to be filed, according to the DENR.

We have seen, of course, how environmental activists vehemently objected to the cutting of trees in Naga and Talisay for the road widening project. Will we be seeing a reprise in the BRT?

I hope not. Saving the trees is a legitimate concern but there are other – and more urgent – priorities that have to be addressed, one of them being the need to establish a mass transport system.

This early, the government should already talk to the environmentalists and make them understand why some of the trees have to be cut. I hate to see the day when someone ties himself to a tree or when the priest Robert Reyes runs from Bulacao to Talamban to stop a project that we know is badly needed.

(frankotherside@gmail.com)