THE French Government’s agency for international development reaffirmed its commitment to provide P2.1 billion to help implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Cebu City.

The City Government, for its part, has committed to ensure that the BRT will be successfully implemented, especially by managing its social impact since the project is expected to displace some 3,000 jeepneys.

Mayor Michael Rama and City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) chief Atty. Rafael Yap met with seven Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) officials yesterday.

The officials who visited the city were AFD country director Luc Le Cabellec, incoming country director Christophe Blanchot, Director for Asia Gregory Clemente, Deputy Director Yves Gicquero, economist Bruno Vindel, and project officers Leonie Claeyman and Charlotte Gounot.

P10.6 billion needed

In an interview yesterday, Yap said the P2.1 billion that will be provided by the AFD forms part of the P10.6 billion needed for the BRT to be implemented in the city.

The other agency that will bankroll the project is the World Bank, through the Clean Technology Fund.

The P10.6 billion, Yap said, is a loan which will be paid by the National Government through the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

During their meeting, Yap said, the AFD emphasized the need for the City to manage the social impact of the BRT.

“The mayor assured them that the City’s foremost priority is to manage the jeepney industry that will be displaced and the road-right-of-way acquisition, among others.

It is the policy statement of the mayor to ensure that the potential impact of the project on the affected stakeholders will be mitigated by the City,” he said.

3,000 jeepneys to be affected

Yap said that according to a study by the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies, there will be an estimated 3,000 units of jeepneys that will be affected once the BRT system operates.

Asked how they will address this, Yap said among their plans is to reroute the jeepneys and use them as “feeders”.

This means that the jeepneys will ferry passengers from areas where the BRT cannot go, to the BRT stations.

Using the jeepneys as feeders is among the five options identified by the DOTC in their Social Management Plan Final Report for the BRT project.

The other options include allowing the jeepneys to stay in their route, open new routes for them, cancel their franchise and allow them to apply for open franchises for other transport services such as trucks-for-hire or school service, or to allow jeepney drivers and operators to participate in the BRT operations.

Not viable

DOTC said, though, that retaining the jeepneys alongside the BRT would not be viable, as it would not solve congestion on the roads.

DOTC also said competition for passengers along the corridor would reduce the viability of either or both the BRT and the jeepneys.

Using jeepneys as feeders, on the other hand, is most viable, DOTC said.

This is because jeepneys would be plying much shorter routes, which will translate to higher income and less fuel consumption.

Opening new routes, DOTC said, is also viable, saying that more areas will have access to public transportation.

Available franchises

As for awarding franchises to operate school buses or trucks-for-hire, DOTC said this can also be done because the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said there are still available franchises for these services.

DOTC also said that the conversion of jeepneys to comply with the vehicle specifications of these services is low-cost.

As for allowing the jeepney drivers and operators to participate in the BRT operations, DOTC said this is also an option that can be considered, adding that it will eliminate the view that they have replaced or displaced.

DOTC, however, said this will require a large degree of social preparation so there will be proper coordination.

The BRT is a 16-kilometer project that will run from Bulacao to Talamban. It will have a total of 33 stations with 176 buses.

Jeep drivers

Sun.Star tried several times to contact Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide Cebu coordinator Gregory Perez for his comment, but calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

In random interviews, some jeepney drivers expressed opposition to the BRT system, which the National Economic Development Authority’s Board recently approved.

“Para namo mga driver, wa gyud na’y ayo kay maapektaran man among trabaho (Drivers oppose it because our jobs will be affected),” said Vergilio Gabales, a 14D driver (Ayala Terminal to Colon). He prefers to remain as a jeepney driver since he owns the vehicle.

Terso Suico, a 17B (Apas, Lahug to Carbon) driver, shared the same sentiment. He has been driving for six years now.

“Mawad-an ta ug panginabuhi. Ganahan ko magpabilin sa akong routa kay suhito na man ko ani (We will lose our source of livelihood. I prefer to stay in my route since I already know it well),” he said.

Vicente Maruya, a 13C driver (Talamban to Colon), says he is worried about losing his job. “Unsaon man ta na nga mao man naa sa balaod? Wa gyud ta’y mahimo ana (But there’s nothing we can do if that’s going to be pursued),” he said.

If given the option to change routes, Maruya said, “Kung di na kabuhi sa atong pamilya atong routa, balhin gyud ta sa laing routa kay importante man nga mabuhi ang pamilya (If I can no longer earn enough to sustain my family, I will transfer to another route. The important thing is to keep my family alive).” (With Andrea Denise H. Chua, USJ-R Mass Com Intern)