AFTER threatening to remove the skywalks himself if they had not been removed by this month, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama now says the two structures along Osmeña Boulevard, one near the Cebu Normal University (CNU) and the other near Fuente Osmeña Circle, will “stay” until a better solution is found, and that he is even considering enhancing them.
“My position is that will stay because if it’s going to be removed and just be destroyed, but we will now be doing some civil works that it can stay,” Rama said in a phone interview on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.
Rama said the skywalks will remain in the “interim,” emphasizing that his first stance was to remove them without destroying them.
“It turns out that they cannot remove them without destroying the skywalks, so they might as well continue to be used so they will not be put to waste,” Rama said in a mix of English and Cebuano.
Last Nov. 10, City Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the committee on infrastructure, said the beam could still be used as a footbridge, which they planned to install on White Road, Barangay Inayawan in the city.
According to the Department of Transportation, the structure, especially the beam, could be lifted and transferred to another place, Guardo said.
The removal of the skywalks had been sought to make way for the completion of Package 1 of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project in the first quarter of 2024.
Package 1 involves a segregated bus lane that spans 2.38 kilometers with four bus stations and 1.15 kilometers of pedestrian improvements from the Cebu South Bus Terminal on N. Bacalso Ave. to the front of the Capitol building on Osmeña Blvd.
During his online program “Ingna’ng Mayor” last Nov. 28, Rama had warned that if the contractor behind the CBRT project would not dismantle the skywalks along Osmeña Boulevard by the time he returned from his vacation leave this month, he would personally take charge of their demolition, saying: “Kung dili gani sila motangtang, ako’y tangtang (If they won’t remove the skywalks, I will do it). I’m not joking.”
Rama arrived unannounced from Melbourne, Australia, last Saturday, Dec. 16 and attended the first day of the Misa de Gallo at the Carbon Public Market.
He had been expected to return on Dec. 20 yet from his leave that began on Oct. 31.
On Wednesday, however, Rama said he was considering a plan for the two structures. He aimed to install industrial elevators, as he explained that the structures are not disability-friendly.
“We configure it. So, it will now be, kon sa estorya pa, (have) its usefulness. Sa pagkakaron man gud, magtan-aw ka ana dili PWD (For now, you can see that it is not person with disability-) friendly,” Rama said.
Last September, it was revealed that Cebu City North District Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar, who opposes the skywalks’ demolition, had written a Feb. 13 letter to the CBRT management arguing that the skywalks were beneficial to students and other pedestrians, and that an elevator could be installed in the skywalks to address the issue that they were not convenient for senior citizens, persons with disability (PWD) and pregnant women.
However, CBRT project manager Norvin Imbong said then that this proposal required additional funding and was impractical, as an elevator risked being damaged within three months due to misuse. He added that the skywalks would also become redundant since the CBRT management would provide signalized pedestrian crossings that would be more accessible than the skywalks.
The demolition of the two skywalks had been scheduled to begin on Dec. 8, but this did not push through due to the last-minute recommendation of Cebu City’s executive department for an executive meeting to discuss the matter further.
On Dec. 7, Guardo said a meeting had been called to discuss further the safety measures that needed to be implemented before proceeding with the demolition.
On the same day, however, workers had already begun removing the railings and flooring of the skywalk near CNU.
As early as January, Imbong had sought the skywalks’ demolition. In that month, he requested a certificate of no objection to the skywalks’ demolition from the office of del Mar, as the skywalks were projects of her father, the late deputy speaker Raul del Mar.
In September, however, Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera said only the skywalk near Fuente Osmeña Circle was of the late congressman del Mar as the skywalk across CNU was a project of former senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III.
In a letter dated Aug. 22 to the City, addressed to Rama and endorsed by Councilor Nestor Archival to the council during its regular session on Aug. 30, Imbong said the detailed engineering design consultant Kunhwa Engineering and Consulting Co. Ltd had proposed to demolish the skywalks for the Package 1 alignment of the CBRT, as these may impact the BRT design in the vicinity.
CBRT implementing unit officer Jejomar Duque told an executive session last Sept. 13 that the staircases of the skywalks obstruct the thoroughfares, their height conflicts with the bus station’s height, and the two columns in the middle obstruct the bus lane of the CBRT.
Last Dec. 4, the Cebu City Government and the CBRT proponents decided to demolish the two skywalks to comply with Rama’s request to have the structures removed before his return from his Australian vacation on Dec. 20.
The options were either to demolish the two structures, which would take 10 days, or uproot their foundation and transfer these to other locations, which would take 30 days.
Demolition was decided upon with the added factor of the religious processions that Rama wanted to be held on Osmeña Boulevard as part of the Fiesta Señor in January already looming, Guardo said.
Imbong also raised questions on the structural integrity of the skywalks if these were to be disassembled in parts and reused for another purpose, strengthening the argument for demolition.