THE fate of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system continues to hang in the balance as top officials of the Duterte administration cannot seem to get their act together on a project that has become the subject of a tug-of-war between an elected local official and a presidential appointee.
The National Economic Development Authority - Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) was expected to decide whether to kill or implement Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s pet project when they met the other day but came up short, agreeing instead to hire a consultant to study whether the BRT is good or bad for Cebu City.
Osmeña appeared or tried to appear happy with the NEDA-ICC’s order which, he said, “allows both sides to present their cases” before a final decision is made on the BRT.
“NEDA did not grant DOTr’s request to cancel the BRT today,” Osmeña wrote on Facebook. “Instead, they ordered DOTr to (finally) get the technical experts that they should have hired years ago.”
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino also said that he supports the recommendation to hire a consultant “in order to take a second look whether or not to cancel the BRT project.”
In a press release issued by his publicist, former The Freeman section editor John Rey Saavedra, Dino, who attended the meeting even if he was not a committee member, revealed that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade defended his recommendation to cancel the BRT because it “may not be the holistic solution to Cebu’s traffic problem.”
But while Tugade was determined to cancel the BRT, NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia was just as firm in his recommendation to push through with it, going by Dino’s recollection of what transpired during the meeting.
Pernia, according to Dino, told the ICC that the BRT is caught in a political quarrel between Osmeña and Duterte’s point man in the Visayas. Pernia’s description of the situation apparently does not sit well with Dino, who in his press statement said: “With all due respect to the NEDA Secretary, I am not a politician. Two years in OPAV does not transform me to become a politician. I never run for public office before and I do not even have the slightest intention to run for public office.”
It is obvious that Osmeña and Dino have champions in the Cabinet in the persons of Pernia and Tugade, respectively.
Unfortunately for the mayor, it is Tugade who will hire the consultant and you can therefore almost predict what his recommendation will be.
This is the first time, as far as I can remember, that Cabinet members have shown extraordinary interest in a local traffic problem.
Maybe, we, Cebuanos are simply special, if you’ll pardon the apparent contradiction.
Let us see.