CBRT for use soon; Cuenco to stop Package 2

QUOTA BARRIER. Vehicles share the road with construction works being undertaken for Package 1 of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project in front of E-Mall and the Cebu South Bus Terminal on Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City on Nov. 7, 2023. Ellen Maghanoy, president of the Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives, said Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 that the ongoing construction for the CBRT that slows traffic has affected the ability of the cooperative’s drivers plying Bulacao to Colon, Colon to Cebu IT Park or Guadalupe and vice versa to reach their daily number of trips and quota.
QUOTA BARRIER. Vehicles share the road with construction works being undertaken for Package 1 of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project in front of E-Mall and the Cebu South Bus Terminal on Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Cebu City on Nov. 7, 2023. Ellen Maghanoy, president of the Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives, said Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 that the ongoing construction for the CBRT that slows traffic has affected the ability of the cooperative’s drivers plying Bulacao to Colon, Colon to Cebu IT Park or Guadalupe and vice versa to reach their daily number of trips and quota. PHOTO BY AMPER CAMPAÑA

THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) plans to partially operate the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) once its Package 1 is completed by the second quarter of 2024, saying preparations for the procurement of the second and third packages are already underway.

However, a local legislator is advocating the suspension of the three remaining packages of the mass transport system project, and pushing to prioritize instead the construction of an expressway that is already included in the Metro Cebu Urban Transport System Master Plan.

Norvin Imbong, deputy project manager for systems and stakeholders relations of DOTr, apprised the Cebu City Council of its plans during the executive session the council called for on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024.

“Package 1 was supposed to be done by the fourth quarter of 2023. But because of the delays and the problems during the construction, we are projecting this to be done in the second quarter of 2024,” he said.

Package 1 covers the trunk line from the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT) to the Cebu Provincial Capitol in uptown Cebu City via Osmeña Blvd., which covers a route of 2.38 kilometers, he said.

Among the challenges in the implementation of the CBRT’s civil works are the acquisition of road right of way (RROW) and the discussion on whether to demolish two skywalks on Osmeña Blvd. that are within the BRT route.

The DOTr plans to deploy 18-meter buses that can each accommodate 80 to 120 passengers.

However, the DOTr has yet to finalize the institutional arrangement as well as the mode of operation (public-private partnership or government) of the buses on the BRT route, as this is still subject to an ongoing feasibility study.

Imbong said they are now starting the procurement of Package 2 by reaching out to more companies that could participate in the bidding process, land acquisition, resettlement and social management.

Package 2 of the CBRT involves the South trunk: from the South Road Properties to Barangay Mambaling via N. Bacalso Ave., while Package 3 refers to the CBRT’s North trunk: from Capitol to North Escario to Gorordo Ave. to Archbishop Reyes Ave. to Cebu IT Park.

“We have the preliminary works on this. We are partnering with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the acquisition of the lots affected along the national road and Cebu City with the lots affected with the city roads,” Imbong said.

Imbong said once they are able to procure for Packages 2 and 3, they hope that by the third quarter of 2024, they can already start the civil works for the two packages.

Once Package 2 is completed, the CBRT will have its second partial operation.

As for the implementation of Package 4, which covers Bulacao to Mambaling, they are now negotiating with their detailed engineering design consultant.

He said the civil works for Package 4 are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2025 and be completed in one and a half years. Following a one-year defects liability period, the entire CBRT system operations are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2027.

'Stop remaining packages'

However, Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, chairman of the committee on transportation, said issues surrounding CBRT were not answered during Wednesday’s executive session.

Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera also criticized the consultancy aspect of the CBRT project, labeling it as a "waste of money."

“Dili dako ang mawala kung undangon ang (We won’t lose a lot if we stop the) project,” Cuenco said, saying the DOTr will ask for money only when there are already payables.

Cuenco told SunStar Cebu's online news and commentary program “Beyond the Headlines” Thursday, that there were still no clear details about the buses to be used, the fare, and who would manage the operations, with a feasibility study still being conducted on the matter.

“Why would they say (it’s) economically viable, if they have not even determined yet the revenue and the ridership?” Cuenco asked.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and DOTr have argued that the basis for viability is not only the revenue, but the comfort and environmental sustainability the project would bring.

However, Cuenco questioned this, citing the traffic that commuters taking existing modes of transport experience.

CBRT is just one part of the Metro Cebu Urban Transport System Master Plan.

Other big-ticket projects include a circumferential road from Naga City to Danao City, MRT that would traverse a coastal line, and the 4th Mandaue-Mactan bridge.

Cuenco said the national government prioritized the CBRT because it is the least expensive among the projects.

However, Cuenco said, they should prioritize expressways instead of the CBRT to decongest the traffic, before having the CBRT.

“Karon huot kay atong traffic, unya dungagan pa sa BRT,” Cuenco said.

(Even now there is already traffic congestion, and the BRT will add to it.)

The Cebu IT Park to Talamban route will be mixed traffic, not a dedicated lane, unlike Package 1. The current situation in the area even without the CBRT is already too congested, Cuenco said.

Cuenco also learned that of the P28.8 billion budget for the CBRT, P17 billion is from the national government through the General Appropriations Act, while foreign funding is only above P10 billion.

Waste of money

Pesquera, meanwhile, emphasized that the funds being used are taxpayers’ money and don’t belong to any government entity.

“Cebu City has been helping the National Government with the economy. Much of our income has already gone to the National Government,” Pesquera said.

Benedicto Guia, officer-in-charge program manager of DOTr, said during the executive session that P400 million has been allocated for detailed engineering design consultancy alone.

Guia said of this P400 million, less than P200 million has already been used. He said the consulting services also cover the supervision.

Pesquera said she cannot be happy with the national government taking out a loan and providing funds for an infrastructure project that is just a waste of money.

Pesquera said it is their perception that almost all of the amount allocated for the consultancy has already been used.

“Before, even with the three lanes (of Osmeña Blvd.), it (traffic) was a problem. Now, it’s more problem (s). You are not giving us a solution. You are giving us more problems,” she said.

Cuenco also asked about the consequences if Cebu City were to decide to reject the project.

Guia said he had not experienced such a situation yet but gave his opinion that there would be procedures, including the national government asking for an opinion from the project’s solicitor general on such a move.

Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival also questioned why until now the operation and maintenance feasibility study has not been done, when it should have been done in April 2017.

Archival said operation and maintenance are important for the CBRT to be operational.

Guia said the study was withheld in 2017 to give way for an unsolicited proposal for a monorail to traverse Talisay City to Consolacion.

“They want to delay it in favor of the rail,” Guia said.

The approved cost of the CBRT project has been skyrocketing since 2014.

In 2014, the project cost was P10.62 billion.

In 2017, the project cost rose to P16.31 billion due to a Republic Act 10752 provision that the right of way acquisition will be based on market value and no longer on zonal value, according to Imbong.

In 2023, the project cost rose further to P28.78 billion due to the changes made, such as the inclusion of Package 4.

Imbong said P460 million has been allocated for the road right of way, while there is also a P17.5 million budget for the greenery program.

Bus and depot

Archival also raised the concern that if the city government, based on the revised CBRT alignment, would be required to give two hectares of land in the South Road Properties (SRP) worth around P6 billion for a terminal and depot at SRP, it would be unfair if this would be used for free by a private bus provider.

“This is something that we need to know so that we can adjust how the city government will respond because right now we don’t know… Is the private sector supplying the buses?” Archival asked.

“If this contractor will be supplying the buses, then how is it that they are going to use the depot and the terminal for free?” he added.

The DOTr, however, said the feasibility study would consider the value of what the City Government donated through a usufruct.

Cuenco said he would discuss salient features that were discussed during the executive session in a privilege speech on another regular session.

He said he would make a proposal to complete Package 1, then make it a pilot project before proceeding with the other packages.

He said they could suspend the other packages, and begin the expressway, which is already in the master plan, and has already been approved, to decongest all other areas.

“Kanang kwarta nga (That) P17 billion sa (of the) National Government, diha unta dapat (should have gone to an expressway) para ma (to) lessen ang volume sa vehicles diri sa (here in) Cebu City,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said when the expressway is completed, then they can proceed with the remaining packages of the CBRT project.

‘Still viable’

A Neda official said that despite facing delays in completion, the CBRT project remains a crucial and economically viable component of Cebu’s mass transport solution.

Neda 7 Director Jennifer Bretaña informed the council that the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of its central office recommended the approval of the request for restructuring the CBRT project in October 2023 because it "still continues to be economically viable."

This was her response to Cuenco who inquired about the economic viability of the BRT despite its cost soaring to P28 billion in 2023 from the initial P10 billion approved for implementation in 2014.

Cuenco highlighted the traffic inconvenience caused by the construction of Package 1 in Cebu City, saying it would have been better if other components of the integrated and intermodal transportation master plan for Metro Cebu, like the Metro Cebu Expressway (MCE), had been implemented first before initiating works for the CBRT.

“Sana, since this is a master plan, inuna muna yung (they should have begun with the) project that will first decongest (traffic) because sabay-sabay kasi ang nangyayari ngayon eh (they are doing it simultaneously now). We already have too much traffic in Cebu City tapos dinagdagan pa ng (then adding to this will be the) BRT,” Cuenco said.

Bretaña said the MCE is already ongoing and is undertaken by the DPWH, although she admitted that there are delays in the project implementation, especially in the RROW acquisition.

Bretaña said benefits considered in the economic viability of the BRT include reductions in travel time, savings in vehicular operating costs and the monetary value of reduced gas emissions.

The DOTr’s request for the change in scope, increase in cost, extension in implementation period, extension in the validity of the loan for the project and its restructuring was approved by the ICC chaired by the Department of Finance secretary on Oct. 5, 2023.

This approval was confirmed by the Neda board, chaired by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., on Oct. 13, 2023. According to Bretaña, lenders have always been consulted whenever there are changes in the cost and term of the loan.


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.