ONE Cebu gubernatorial candidate Winston Garcia questioned Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III’s “delayed reaction and utter lack of preparation” in addressing heavy traffic caused by repairs on the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge.
“It is sheer incompetence on the part of the governor that he will only meet the Mactan-Cebu Bridge Management Board (MCBMB) this week as a knee-jerk reaction to the anguished cries of Cebuanos whose lives are being made miserable by heavy traffic,” said Garcia in a press release.
He quoted Cebu Association of Tour Operators (CATO) President Edilberto Mendoza as saying there has been a 50-percent decrease in tours, with bookings for Mandaue-Mactan Island Tours getting cancelled.
When told about his challenger’s comments, Governor Davide said that as early as November last year, the MCBMB already anticipated heavy traffic during the bridge repairs.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), he recalled, assured the board that it had set up measures to help ease traffic on and near the bridge, knowing that the repairs would take time.
“When we saw the actual work, nakalitan ang tanan (everyone was surprised). We need to come up with other measures, alternatives and one of that is to revive a barge service,” said Davide, referring to an operation that can ferry both people and vehicles from one island to the other.
For now, a passenger ferry travels to and from Cebu City’s Pier 2 and Muelle Osmeña in Lapu-Lapu City.
As chair of the MCBMB, the governor, said Garcia, should have asked the board to find ways to preempt traffic long before the repairs started.
The former Government Service Insurance System manager noted “with dismay” a report on the Capitol website that said “traffic concerns are primarily a responsibility of the local government units.”
“This is another example of the governor’s inaction, buck-passing, and of his penchant for providing lip service,” Garcia said. He added that, for three years, the governor did nothing to put in place a mass transport system.
Davide, however, said he hopes that their meeting this Friday will yield solutions to ease the traffic. “That meeting will be productive. We want to hear stakeholders’ suggestions, as this will take the cooperation of everybody,” the governor said.
“In fact, we thought of that before. Wa pa na si Winston Garcia gayawyaw, nakahuna-huna na ta ana (Even before Winston started ranting, we have thought of that already),” Davide said.
Davide said the meeting that was supposed to take place yesterday was rescheduled to Friday, Feb. 19, upon the request of Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, who wants to attend it.
For its part, local DPWH officials said they will consult their Central Office to find out if affected structure owners under the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge should be given financial assistance.
Officials of DPWH, Mandaue City Government, Jegma Construction and other agencies took up the issue of families living under the first bridge, where rehabilitation work started last Feb. 8.
Tony Pet Juanico, head of Mandaue’s Housing and Urban Development Office, said that Jegma Construction, contractor of the bridge repairs, has identified 33 affected structure owners, instead of 47, which the City Government earlier identified.
The families need to be relocated because of falling debris from the repair works.
Aside from this, City Planning and Development Officer Florentino Nimor said these are the families that are also affected by the widening of the U-turn slot under the bridge for vehicles passing U.N. Ave.
During the meeting at the DPWH 7 office in the South Road Properties, Juanico asked for a list of the affected structure owners to check if they are among the beneficiaries of the 6.5-hA. relocation site in Mandaue City.
If the families are not beneficiaries of a relocation site, structure owners will be given financial assistance if they lived in the area for the number of years required under Republic Act 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, said Juanico.
“This is a national project. Usually, if there is a national project and there are informal settlers that are affected, it’s the national government that extends financial assistance,” he said.
The DPWH is spending P129.6 million for the first bridge’s rehabilitation.
Currently, Jegma Construction is repairing the bridge sidewalks.
The contractor cannot rehabilitate the deck slabs yet because the Metropolitan Cebu Water District still needs to strengthen the support for their water pipes attached under the bridge sidewalk.
DPWH Legal Officer Manuel Elijah Sarausal said they will comply with the requirements for the demolition of structures.