THE budget for the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) in Davao City increased to P80 billion after the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) approved the expansion of the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project (DPTMP).

HPBS program manager Atty. Dwight Domingo confirmed this during the city council session on February 7 wherein the budget significantly increased from the initial P18 billion to P80 billion as approved by Neda.

The approval was announced by Neda secretary Arsenio Balisacan on February 3, saying that the Neda board approved the Department of Transportation’s (DOTR) request for changes in scope, increase in cost, and extension of implementation period.

“The project involves delivering a modern, high-priority bus system for Metro Davao, wherein interconnected bus services will be prioritized along (various) routes,” Balicasan said in his speech.

According to Domingo, the city government of Davao also agreed to share the cost of the HPBS project wherein the city will commit P1.5 billion.

“(This is) one of the key reasons why we were able to finally convince the national government to support this project. We committed to find ways and means to support the project financially and provide P1.5 billion to spread out in six years,” Domingo said.

The rest of the P80 billion budget, particularly around 60 percent, will be loaned by the national government from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) while the remaining 40 percent will come from DOTR’s budget.

The national government’s funding will be used for social development programs and land acquisition - which would include six major sites for the planned five depots, three terminals, and one drivers’ academy.

The loan, on the other hand, will be used mainly for the acquisition of buses. Domingo said DOTR will procure the buses using the loan from ADB.

“(The payment for the bus units) will be included in the loan... The plan now is when everything is set, the DOTR plans to turn over the assets to the city government,” he said.

In addition, Davao City’s P1.5 billion share is planned to be appropriated for non-financial assistance for drivers and operators who will be displaced because of the project.

The project will include 1,000 buses and 1,000 bus stops spread out in Davao City. Of the 1,000 buses, 300 will be electric articulated buses, 500 will be regular 12-meter buses, and 200 will be the smaller nine-meter buses.

“Based on the timeline that we have now for the project, the earliest that we can have will probably be at the end of 2024. Then from there, it would probably span around six months for us to see the entire system working in the whole city,” Domingo said.

In addition, Domingo clarified that the project, popularly known as HPBS, is officially named as the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project (DPTMP). ICM