Link-to-port excluded from original CBRT plan

Link-to-port excluded from original CBRT plan
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THE link-to-port feature was not part of the original Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) route plan.

This was confirmed by former Cebu City administrator and urban planner Nigel Paul Villarete, who was part of the team that conceptualized the CBRT project some years ago.

Villarete said Tuesday, July 2, 2024, that the link-to-port feature was only an addition to the whole project. He said the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) added the feature as the latter found it necessary to expand the BRT concept not just to the lanes and stations but also to improve the areas around and beyond the stations and corridors.

He said the Urban Realm Enhancement, which improves accessibility to the surrounding area, including the Fuente Osmeña Circle, was proposed during the Neda Investment Coordination Committee Board meeting.

It was Neda that decided to implement the link-to-port feature of the project.

Under the proposed link-to-port project, the four-lane Osmeña Blvd. in the downtown area will be reduced to two lanes. This change aims to accommodate a higher number of pedestrians and reduce the volume of motor vehicles, which is now the pedestrianization project.

Villarete added that he supports the decisions of Neda.

“Of course, I support it. Neda board na gud na ang ni propose and approve (It was proposed and approved by Neda board). And it was approved, too, by the World Bank and AFD (Agence Française de Développement),” he said.

“I give my full trust to the Neda Board -- it’s the highest and ultimate planning body of the country,” he added.

Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña also confirmed to SunStar Cebu on Tuesday that the link-to-port feature was not part of the original BRT plan. “No. Not one bit,” he stressed.

When pressed to comment on the link-to-port and pedestrianization projects, Osmeña said, “As a general idea, something is better than nothing. I prefer not to disturb what is there.”

“My experience with [government] is really a case of the blind leading the blind,” he added.

Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, in a SunStar Cebu interview on Monday, July 1, said the excess budget from the first CBRT package is being used to fund the pedestrianization project.

She pointed out that the money came from a loan whose purpose did not include the pedestrianization project.

“What kind of mindset do they have that they’ll use it all up just because there is money? That is why some people ask, ‘Why are they pushing?’ Why is it necessary to spend?’” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

But CBRT project manager Norvin Imbong was unfazed, adding that the link-to-port project is part of the first package.

On Tuesday, Imbong clarified that the project is not being funded by the excess budget of the first package. However, he did not elaborate further on the details.

Meanwhile, Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia told “Beyond the Headlines,” SunStar Cebu’s news and commentary program, that the CBRT is funded by the National Government and not the local government unit.

Garcia said the link-to-port project was only recently presented to the City Government. According to him, it fits well with their desired plan to pedestrianize the downtown area.

“Tinuod nga ang Cebu City Government, not even under me but also under Mayor Mike, naa gyud tay plano sa whole downtown (It’s true that the Cebu City Government, not even under me but also under Mayor Mike, already had the plan for the whole downtown),” said Garcia.

“The direction is really the preservation of our heritage sites, which is the downtown, mao ng naa tay ordinansa (that’s why we have an ordinance),” he said.

The said ordinance also includes the creation of the Heritage District Council.

Garcia said the Heritage District Council will make the policies, not the City Council.

When the pedestrianization plan was presented to him, he said he also immediately agreed with it but noted that it must comply with all the requirements.

“In principle, okay ko ani, mao naman ni atong direksyon. Mao na nga sunda ang proseso (I’m okay with this, this is our direction. But we follow the process),” he said.

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