Seares: Redesign by DPWH might save two skywalks. But BRT managers seem bent on demolition. A roundabout route is for Cebu City to accept and briefly own the skywalks, then order them torn down.

CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Councilor Jerry Guardo, Representative Cutie Del Mar, and DPWH Cebu City District Engineer Ramon Devanadera. (File photos)
CEBU. (From left) Cebu City Councilor Jerry Guardo, Representative Cutie Del Mar, and DPWH Cebu City District Engineer Ramon Devanadera. (File photos)

ONE of two things may happen to the two skywalks on Sergio Osmeña Sr. Blvd. in Cebu City -- the first near Fuente Osmeña fronting a bank and the second near Cebu Normal University -- which managers of the ongoing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project want to be demolished:

[1] Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will come up with a redesign aimed to retain the skywalks and the design will be accepted by the BRT project unit of Department of Transportation (DOTr), or

[2] DOTr will insist on the removal of the skywalks and DPWH will donate and turn them over to the City Government, which will in turn order or allow, through the City Council and the city mayor, their demolition.

Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the Sanggunian committee on infrastructure, told me Tuesday, September 26, 2023, that Option One will break the stalemate but that will require DOTr's agreement through the BRT managers. Earlier, the BRT managers gave four reasons why the skywalks must be removed; the redesign has to convince them those reasons will no longer hold.

PACKAGE ONE OF P1B BUS LANE will run 2.38 kilometers from Cebu City south bus terminal to Capitol and is scheduled to be operational partly in the last quarter of this year 2023. While the BRT managers aren't blaming the skywalks' non-demolition as cause of delay, the project has suffered so many hitches already that officials fear the unresolved issue would cause another one.

FASTER AND HASSLE-FREE. A much quicker way to solve the skywalks paper-work snag appears to be this: DPWH, as skywalks owner/administrator, will file the statement of ownership with OBO and give the go-signal for the demolition. Earlier, DPWH's regional office reportedly issued a "no-objection" certification.

Councilor Guardo agreed that breaking the impasse over the two skywalks at the DPWH-DOTr/BRT level will spare the City the hassle of accepting ownership of the skywalks and then giving its consent to their removal. Almost like accepting custody of a person about to be killed and then presiding over his death.

RESPONSES. Two public officials didn't see it that way. Representative Rachel Marguerite "Cutie" Del Mar has been trying to save the skywalks his late father, congressman Raul V. Del Mar, had conceived and secured national funds for. Aside from honoring her dad's memory, the skywalks have been "useful to countless pedestrians." City Administrator Collin Rosell, on behalf of Mayor Michael Rama, assumed the City Government's ownership of the skywalks, "interposed" no objection to the demolition, and additionally asked that the scraps be used as footbridges in some parts of the city.

As to the City Council, it had also expressed "no objection" to the demolition but later, to the BRT unit's request for declaration of ownership and the order to demolish, the Sanggunian, refused, saying, with Councilor Rey Gealon's principal argument, that it cannot legally do so because it has no proof of ownership.

There must be an owner, it's not "res nullius," said Gealon, but the City is not the owner. Former city administrator Nigel Paul Villarete, in deadpan one-liner the BRT managers may not publicly chuckle over, said he's the owner and he assumes ownership.

WHERE THE PAUSE IS. Councilor Guardo said the waiting is for DPWH to produce the design that would spare the skywalks and yet not impair or impede plans of the BRT managers.

Earlier, DPWH district engineer for Cebu City, Ramon Revanadera, was reported as saying the department has recommended "to forego with the demolition plan" and instead "to redesign the original structure." He promised "best effort" to "convince them" that they spare the skywalks, saying his office will recommend many redesign proposals.

BRT'S SPECIFIC OBJECTIONS. Revanadera has to address the specific reasons BRT managers want the skywalks taken down and out, namely:

[] The additional cost of redesigning and the toll on time for project completion;

[] Obstruction of the sidewalk by skywalk stairs, thus impeding pedestrians' access;

[] Two columns at the skywalk's middle, obstructing the lanes the buses will traverse; and

[] The skywalk's height, "conflicting" with the bus station's height.

Councilor Guardo, who has been trying to solve the skywalks glitch by bringing DPWH and DOTr officials together, said Congresswoman Cutie must have persuaded DPWH to help spare the facilities, which cost a lot of money to build and have been proved through the years to be useful to the public.

BACK TO 'LET'S WATCH.' For Wednesday's (September 27) session, Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr. filed a resolution requesting OBO to lift the suspension of the permit to demolish the skywalks. The resolution argued that the BRT project is "long overdue" and the skywalks have not been issued an OBO building permit and thus can be demolished. Last Tuesday, Archival told me that "since we received notice that DPWH already assumed ownership," he'd withdraw the resolution.

That would take back the Sanggunian to just watching from the sideline. It would take an active part again if DPWH would turn over the two skywalks and the City Council would grapple with the question of to accept or not to accept.


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