Espinoza: What will become of the CBRT?

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Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free Zone

The Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System (CBRT) was proposed by former mayor Tomas Osmeña during his tenure as Cebu City mayor, perhaps inspired by the Rede Integrada de Transporte in Curitiba, Brazil. In 2010, the then Department of Transportation and Communications, now DOTr, began the planning.

The World Bank supported the scheme financially and technically through its Clean Technology Fund. The National Government initially disapproved the project, but it later supported the project financially as then President Benigno S. Aquino III made it a priority through a public-private partnership.

The CBRT was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority on May 29, 2014. The project was supposed to be funded by a P10.6 billion ($228.5 million) funding package, consisting of a World Bank loan of $116 million (P6.4 billion), $25 million from the World Bank Clean Technology Fund, and €50.89 million from the French Development Agency and the balance to be provided by the Philippine government. (Wikipedia)

The Cebu Interim Bus Service (Cibus) was launched in 2020 to provide a modern bus transport service to Cebu City, and was also aimed to mimic the CBRT while the latter was still being formally planned and worked on. Cibus runs largely the same route as the CBRT, from South Road Properties to Cebu IT Park. (Wikipedia)

The CBRT was supposed to be implemented in 2016, but due to numerous delays, it only broke ground on Feb. 27, 2023 in a ceremony attended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. Mayor Rama even invited former mayor Tomas Osmeña to the ceremony. If I remember correctly, Osmeña did not go.

The civil works on the CBRT route from N. Bacalso Ave. to Osmeña Blvd. have caused heavy traffic that motorists endure even up to now.

What is so concerning is the move of the Cebu City Council and the Provincial Board (PB) to stop this CBRT project after civil works on the route to Capitol and its bus station in front of the Capitol building are about to be finished. Why the opposition this late?

Even before the PB passed the two resolutions during its March 4, 2024 session recommending to stop the BRT project, Gov. Gwen Garcia, on Feb. 27, issued a cease and desist order to the CBRT project management, particularly halting work on the bus station fronting the Capitol building.

Naturally, Mayor Rama was upset by the feisty governor’s order. Rama called her out for her lack of coordination and basic courtesy and for meddling in the City’s affairs.

“We have leaders acting like spoiled brats,” said former mayor Osmeña in a press conference he called in relation to the move to stop the CBRT project. “It is very important not to insult the funders of a major assistance project because you’re asking for trouble. Never mind trouble for yourself, it’s the people that suffer,” he said.

If the CBRT project is stopped, Osmeña said, Cebu City, even worse the Philippines, could be blacklisted by the donor nations, including Japan and Germany. He explained that the National Government would not permit the cessation of the CBRT project, as it is integral to an international bilateral treaty.

But if it is halted, will the CBRT become another white elephant project, just like the underpass at the intersection of UN Ave. in Mandaue City?

By the way, did the governor really sue officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways 7 regarding the mess they left at UN Ave.?


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