THE proposed permanent closure of a portion of the Osmeña Blvd., the area near the belfry of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, drew several concerns.

The proposal to permanently close the area to motor vehicles and create a pedestrianized zone instead was raised in an ordinance drafted by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.

Labella explained that banning the vehicles in the area is needed for the preservation of the Basilica, adding that constant vibration and the chemicals emitted by the passing vehicles may cause the deterioration of the coral stone walls of the church.

During the public hearing of Labella’s proposed measure yesterday, City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) Executive Director Rafael Yap said the closure of Osmeña

Blvd. is “not the proper response to the danger being described.”

Yap, who appeared before the legislative body, said there are modern road engineering

techniques that can be used to implement traffic calming measures to reduce speed and disperse vibrations from the passing vehicles.

“These can be implemented without necessarily disrupting the normal flow of traffic through Osmeña Blvd.,” he said.

Aside from that, Yap said the City Council can pass traffic ordinances that will prohibit the entry of large vehicles to minimize vibrations.

At present, Yap said Citom is implementing a truck ban in the area from 6 a.m. to 9

a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

As an alternative, Yap said a total truck ban can be implemented.

On the issue of vehicular emissions, Yap said it is a matter of enforcement, adding

that the Land Transportation Office conducts emission testing before vehicle registration and renewal.

He said Citom conducts roadside emission testing to ensure gas emissions do not reach harmful levels for the public and infrastructure.

“Should the City wish to reduce vehicle emissions in the vicinity of Osmeña Blvd., it can consider prioritizing the capital outlay for smoke emission testing machines so that Citom can step up in its apprehension of smoke belchers,” he said.

While Citom recognizes the importance of the Basilica to the city, Yap said Citom is restrained from raising the points because its mandate is to manage the traffic not just within the vicinity of the Basilica but the city as a whole.

“The plan to pedestrianize Osmeña Blvd., is a good first step towards the promotion and protection of heritage. Since it is the first step, it becomes all the more important that this be done right,” he added.

Impact study

If what prevails is the road’s permanent closure, Yap said there is a need to conduct a traffic impact study.

Yap told the legislative body, though, that the Citom doesn’t have the technical capability to undertake the study.

Yap said there is a need to conduct consultation among the establishments that may be

affected by the closure.

Sto. Niño Barangay Captain Pancho Ramirez, for his part, expressed concern on the permanent closure proposal, saying that it will result to heavy traffic in neighboring areas.

However, Basilica rector Fr. Jonas Mejares and Arch. Melva Java believe it would be better if the road near the church’s belfry will be closed as it will protect the church from physical deterioration.

Java said they have scientific studies to prove that vibrations and emissions from passing vehicles affects the coral stone walls of the church.

The belfry collapsed during an earthquake last Oct. 15.

Mejares, for his part, said it is important that the Basilica will be preserved because of its importance to Cebu.

“The Basilica needs us. If we don’t preserve it, we will lose it,” he said.