CEBU -- A proposed P10.6-billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project for Cebu City finally gained the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) board’s go signal.
The BRT is one of nine major projects, worth P62.3 billion combined, which President Benigno Aquino III approved last Thursday in a marathon meeting from 1 p.m. to nearly midnight.
“This is a huge milestone in terms of providing public transportation for Cebuanos in Cebu City, as well as for the Filipinos, because we will finally be able to have public transportation that is safe, efficient, comfortable and for the best,” said Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) executive director Atty. Rafael Yap.
Yap attended last Thursday’s meeting with officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)-Central Visayas.
It’s been two years since the BRT was first endorsed to the Neda board.
Bohol project, too
At the time the Regional Development Council (RDC) first endorsed it in 2012, the BRT was expected to cost US$195 million, including $15 million for resettlement and environmental mitigation costs.
The other Neda-approved projects include the P653-million Malinao Dam improvement project in Bohol; the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project and the P5.8-billion Angat Dam water transmission project for Metro Manila’s water needs; the P4.1-billion improvement of Busuanga airport in Palawan; and the P1.2-billion Laoag airport road link project.
At first, the Neda board deferred approval of the BRT in 2012, then asked the DOTC to submit a proof of concept.
At that time, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama asked Yap, who is part of the technical working group, to work with DOTC in pushing for the project’s approval.
Now, Yap said, DOTC hopes to bid out and award the detailed engineering work within the year.
Construction is projected to take two years.
The BRT will cover 16 kilometers and will be built in two phases. The first phase will be from Bulacao to the Cebu Business District, with links to the malls Ayala Center and SM City Cebu, while the second phase will be from Ayala Center to Talamban.
Earlier, project proponents of the BRT had targeted to start its implementation in October 2013, for the system to become operational by 2015.
The BRT, which will have 33 stations with 176 buses, is expected to serve 330,000 passengers per day.
It will be funded by Agence Francaise de Development and the World Bank, through the Clean Technology Fund.
Upon learning of the BRT’s approval, former mayor and former Cebu City congressman Tomas Osmeña said it was something he will celebrate.
“The seed I planted sprouted. Do you know what it feels like to see a dream come true? This is it,” he said in a text message. Preparatory work on the BRT started when Osmeña was mayor.
Also on Friday, Yap said the approval of the BRT means that the DOTC and the City Government can start managing the project’s anticipated social impact.
This will include consulting drivers of public utility jeepneys who will be affected by the project.
“We will need to talk to DOTC and come up with a good social impact mitigation project for the affected sectors. I cannot stop emphasizing how important it is to cushion the impact that the BRT will have,” Yap added.
The Cebu City Development Council chaired by Mayor Rama had endorsed the BRT through a resolution passed last February 21, 2012.
The Infrastructure Development Committee of the RDC then endorsed the project less than a month later, recalled committee chairman Emmanuel Rabacal. The RDC full council passed its resolution endorsing the project last March 26, 2012.
In its pre-feasibility study for the project, Integrated Transport Planning Ltd., commissioned by the World Bank, had pointed out that the BRT could make an estimated US$15 million a year.
It also said that road right-of-way acquisition would be “very limited” because the system will use existing routes. (With SDR of Sunnex/Sun.Star Cebu)