PB wants CBRT project halted

PB wants CBRT project halted
File photo

THE Cebu Provincial Board (PB) has expressed its opposition to the ongoing implementation of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Cebu City.

During its regular session on Monday, March 4, 2024, the PB passed a resolution calling for the project to be stopped, citing the inconvenience and negative effects it has brought not only to the constituents of Cebu City but also to Cebu Province and the rest of the island.

The resolution entitled “A resolution recommending the stoppage of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) in Cebu City due to its contribution to the worsening traffic condition thereby causing great inconvenience to the people of Cebu and causing negative economic effects to the entire people of Cebu” was authored by Sixth District PB Member Glenn Soco, Fifth District PB Member and committee on infrastructure and public works chairman Red Duterte and Third District PB Member John Ismael Borgonia.

Feasibility questioned

In his privilege speech, Soco questioned the project’s feasibility due to the proponent’s failure to divulge details regarding the operation such as the type of buses to use, who will be the operator and the potential fare.

Duterte, who also chairs the tourism committee, said he received reports and concerns that tourists on their way to the south experienced heavy traffic due to the CBRT project, which runs through two major thoroughfares.

Borgonia said they are in unison with the recent call of the Cebu City Council to suspend the CBRT project. However, Borgonia’s question as to “why now” (why only a year after the groundbreaking did the council object to the project) remains addressed to the Cebu City Council.

The Cebu City Council, through a motion pushed by City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, called for the suspension of scheduled civil works for CBRT Packages 2 and 3 last Feb. 21.

Cuenco also pushed for the CBRT management to first resolve pending issues hounding the construction of Package 1, and its proposed partial operation this year.

Last Feb. 28, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia also requested the Office of the Building Official to issue a cease and desist order against the CBRT contractor, Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Ltd., for its building of bus stations on Osmeña Blvd., for the threat it posed on the integrity of the city’s heritage and culture.

A day earlier, the Provincial Capitol had warned that the bus stations appeared to be located within the buffer zones of the Capitol building and the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, both of which could easily qualify as heritage zones. The warning appeared in Memorandum 16-2024 issued by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia ordering a stop to all civil works within Capitol-owned lots on Osmeña Blvd. for possible violation of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

Vice Mayor Garcia also said CBRT management should come up with a better design for the stations that can be submitted and proposed to the appropriate bodies, including the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the Cebu City Council.

‘Countless’ complaints

PB Member Soco, in his manifestation on Monday, said they received “countless” complaints on how the project, since its inception, had caused “great inconvenience” in some parts of Cebu City and Cebu Province.

Aside from the riding public, he said the project had affected the livelihood of commuters and motorists alike. Soco said many commuters also have to wait long to catch a ride because many public utility vehicles are stuck in traffic.

He pointed out that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., during the groundbreaking ceremony in February 2023, announced that the project would be operational by December 2023. However, it was pushed to June 2024.

“How much more economic losses do we have to suffer and endure? How many more canceled meetings, late mornings coming in to work and even our school children are greatly affected by the inconvenience? Thousands and even millions of pesos were lost in logistical and transportation expenses, and this is greatly felt by our businesspeople,” he said.

“We are not against progress and development, but we are for what is right, just and what could benefit the greater majority, which is the Cebuanos,” he said.

Soco said the project’s cost has ballooned also to P28.8 billion from the original cost a few years ago.

Soco also questioned why the roads were not widened before the project was implemented. He said Osmeña Blvd.’s six lanes have been reduced to four lanes to accommodate a dedicated bus lane for the project.

He said similar proposed BRT projects in the country remain unimplemented due to various issues raised in the planning stages.

Lack of consulation

Soco said various countries with proposed BRT projects have already abandoned them due to their unfeasibility.

He said project proponent Department of Transportation (DOTr) could have consulted the Cebu Provincial Government for a seamless and timely implementation of the CBRT project, but the latter failed to do so.

A copy of the resolution will be furnished to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Governor Garcia and DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista.

The PB also passed a resolution calling for the stoppage of the CBRT project in front of the Capitol building, saying the project violates Republic Act (RA) 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, which mandates the protection, conservation and preservation of the national cultural heritage.

Last week, the governor issued a cease and desist order halting the construction of bus stations in front of the Capitol and in the vicinity of Fuente Osmeña due to their alleged violation of RA 10066.

With the current design, the bus stations will potentially block the view of the Capitol building from the rotunda.

The resolution, authored by Borgonia, also said the bus stations’ design clashed with the neoclassical and art deco style of the Capitol building. / EHP, JJL

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