NCCA to CBRT proponent: Wait for our nod

Cebu Bus Rapid Transit;
Cebu Bus Rapid Transit;File photo

THE National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has asked the proponent of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project to secure its approval first before resuming civil works on Capitol-owned lots.

Chairman Victorino Manalo, in a letter addressed to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) dated Monday, March 25, 2024, requested Transportation Undersecretary Anneli Lontoc to submit two documents for the NCCA’s assessment and approval.

The letter was posted on the official social media page of the Cebu Provincial Government on Wednesday, March 27.

In the letter, Manalo asked Lontoc to submit an Archeological Impact Assessment (AIA) and development plans for the project to ensure that the CBRT complies with the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, or Republic Act 10066, and the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The AIA is required by Section 30(d) of RA 10066 and the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Memorandum Circular 005, series of 2014.

The project’s development plan includes mitigation activities to protect the sight line with regard to built heritage, as required under Section 37 of the general provisions of the GAA.

“In the meantime, we enjoin the DOTr not to conduct any work or changes in the area, especially excavation works, until we approve your AlA and development plans,” Manalo said.

The Provincial Government met with NCCA officials recently to formally express concerns over the potential impact of the CBRT on the visual sight lines and buffer zones of the Cebu Capitol building.

Meanwhile, CBRT implementers have started complying with the NCCA requirements.

CBRT project manager Norvin Imbong, in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, said the DOTr has coordinated with the University of San Carlos (USC) to help formulate the AIA.

However, they will find out only on Monday, April 1, if USC can assist them, he said.

Joint meeting

Imbong said their team will also have a joint meeting with the NCCA and the Philippine Historical Commission on Tuesday, April 2, at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila to discuss the matter.

He said he will know by then if there are other requirements they need to comply with.

Rama’s clarification

In a statement on Wednesday, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to preserving heritage sites, while emphasizing the positive impact of the CBRT project.

Rama said he had to say this so “neighbors, especially the politicians, will fully understand.”

The mayor said he already raised the Capitol’s concern in a meeting with DOTr officials in Manila and the financing agencies, World Bank and French Development Agency.

He also clarified that filing the complaint against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia before the Office of the President had nothing to do with her stance to protect the Capitol building and its buffer zone. It was because of her “meddling” in suspending CBRT construction on Capitol-owned lots, he said.

“We agree that we must protect the Capitol. There is no dispute there. The issue is the governor’s meddling, ordering the suspension of the CBRT. She has no right to do so. This is the reason why we have brought the issue to President (Ferdinand) Marcos (Jr.),” Rama said.

Rama said the government is only striving to provide the public with “spacious, comfortable and safe transportation” through the BRT.

Last February, the governor issued a cease and desist order (CDO) to the contractor of the first package of the CBRT project and directed it to cease civil works on a bus station with a leaf-like structure in front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd.

Rama responded by filing a complaint against Garcia before the Office of the President over her “meddling” in the CBRT project.

Rama asked the President to “discipline and suspend Governor Garcia.”


Last Monday, March 25, Imbong said they continued to work on other parts of the CBRT despite the governor’s CDO, which applies only to civil works on Capitol property.

However, he said the CDO would probably delay the project anew, adding that the first package may not be operational in July as committed earlier.

The CBRT project has been marred by several delays since its targeted implementation in 2016. It was only on Feb. 24, 2023 that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. finally led its groundbreaking ceremony.

The DOTr also moved the completion date of the project from 2025 to 2027 due to design changes.

A priority project of the Marcos Jr. administration, the CBRT has a budget allocation of P28.78 billion funded through a loan package from the World Bank and French Development Agency with the National Government.

Package 1 of the CBRT covers a distance of 2.38 kilometers from the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Ave. to the front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd.

Interviewed on Wednesday at the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT), Governor Garcia urged the CBRT proponent to expedite civil works in front of the bus terminal. Garcia said the project has already inconvenienced southern commuters.

“Mayta mahuman na nang pagkubkob sa CBRT (I hope they will finish the excavation for the CBRT). Hinay kaayo ang turnaround sa atong mga buses (The turnaround of our buses has been really slow) and it affects the waiting time of our passengers,” she said.

Garcia said they are thinking of transferring the CSBT to the Talisay City side of the Cebu South Coastal Road and converting the facility into an integrated multi-modal bus and ferry terminal that can also accommodate jeepneys and taxis.

However, she said the Province is waiting for a private firm to submit an unsolicited proposal to build the facility. / EHP, JJL


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