Rama to allow redesign of Capitol bus station

CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.Photo by Arkeen Larisma

IN A seeming softening of his stance toward Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has voiced plans to redesign the controversial bus station fronting the Provincial Capitol building that is part of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project, to preserve its heritage value.

He also hinted at a possible change in the route.

“With respect to the BRT... I will be directing my City Administrator, and with the concurrence of DOTr, that we will be removing that structure in front of Capitol and hopefully putting an earmark of still a station, but the design has to be so that it’s not going to be too imposing that it will destroy the heritage value,” Rama said during a press conference at the Nustar Resort and Casino on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Rama said he had met with Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista earlier that day and they had talked about the CBRT project as well as City Hall’s dispute with the Cebu Port Authority.

It is unclear how Rama can move forward with this redesign, however, as CBRT project manager Norvin Imbong told SunStar Cebu, also on Friday, that the design of that bus station would remain the same due to the difficulty of redesigning it.

Bautista also told the media Friday that modifications in the CBRT project, including the redesign of the bus station, must be approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the foreign project funders.

Rama also said that perhaps they would also pursue the original route of the CBRT project, without elaborating on which original route he was referring to.

Rama mentioned former mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was the first to propose a BRT in Cebu City.

In 2017, SunStar Cebu reported that Osmeña described the then P10 billion, 16-kilometer BRT project as stretching from Barangay Talamban in Cebu City’s north to Barangay Bulacao in the south.

The CBRT’s Package 1 is designed to have four stations: the Capitol, Fuente, Cebu Normal University and Cebu South Bus Terminal stations. It is unclear what will happen to the design of the other three stations that the DOTr is already putting up.

Rama also hinted at reverting to the original role of the city government in the project when he was still lobbying for its approval, without giving specifics.

The CBRT is a national project with the DOTr listed as its proponent and implementer. But signing the memorandum of agreement for the project in 2016 were the DOTr and the Cebu City Government.

Last Wednesday, Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, in a privilege speech, said transportation expert Rene Santiago had proposed for the Cebu City Government to take over the project with the Neda and the DOTr observing.


Rama had sued the governor, and sought her suspension, last March 20 for meddling in the DOTr project built in the highly urbanized and independent Cebu City, after Garcia ordered contractor Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Co. Ltd. to stop CBRT construction activities on Province-owned lots on Osmeña Blvd., causing the delay in the completion of Package 1 of the project.

On Feb. 27, Garcia issued Memorandum 16-2024 ordering the contractor to stop the construction of the bus station in front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd. for its lack of authorization from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, a violation of Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

Garcia took issue with the large leaf design of the bus station, which would obstruct the view of the pre-war era Provincial Capitol building.

At around the same time, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, her nephew, also gave a privilege speech during the Cebu City Council’s regular session on Feb. 28, voicing concerns about the visual impact of the CBRT project on the Cebu Provincial Capitol and seeking a better design for the project’s four bus stations that could be submitted to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the council for review.

The release of the memorandum by the governor displeased Rama, prompting him to file an administrative case against her with the Office of the President on March 20, 2024, in which he cited as grounds the governor’s alleged abuse of authority, oppression, grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In his complaint, Rama blasted Garcia for only belatedly complaining about the bus station’s design, saying that the governor said nothing about this when she attended the project’s inauguration in February 2023, and that she also did not object to the center islands on Osmeña Blvd. hosting “several tall pine trees with the same height or even taller than the aesthetic canopies of the CBRT Project which undoubtedly covered or blocked the view” of the Capitol for decades.

Before Garcia issued her memorandum, CBRT manager Imbong had said Package 1 of the project was expected to be completed by early July 2024.

Following the filing of the complaint against Garcia, Rama explained that the City is committed to preserving Cebu’s heritage sites, citing them as a source of great pride; however, he was still displeased with the governor’s meddling in the affairs of the city.

Original route

On reverting to the original CBRT route, Rama did not specify what exactly he meant by that.

But in a privilege speech last Wednesday, Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, who chairs the committee on transportation and who has been a critic of the CBRT project, said that in an executive session last April 3, mass transportation expert and consultant Rene Santiago and urban planner Nigel Paul Villarete said the current BRT routes primarily connect commercial centers like the Ayala mall and Cebu IT Park, rather than residential areas as originally intended.

Cuenco said they also questioned the request for a depot in the South Road Properties (SRP), which was not aligned with the BRT’s original purpose.

The P28.78 billion CBRT, which spans 35.28 kilometers, is currently divided into four packages.

But Package 4 was not originally part of the plan. It was added only in October 2023, when major changes in the design of the project prompted Neda to raise the project cost from P16.3 billion.

Package 1 covers the route from Osmeña Boulevard to the South Bus Terminal (2.38 kilometers); Package 2, route from the SRP, Barangay Mambaling, and Escario St., Capitol, and Gorordo Ave. (10.8 km); Package 3, routes from the Cebu IT Park to Barangay Talamban and from the SRP to Talisay City.

Package 4 will feature a dedicated lane from barangays Bulacao to Mambaling, extension of the alignment from Ayala to Cebu IT Park, a rotunda underneath the Mambaling flyover, and the conversion of a mixed traffic lane along the coastal road at the SRP and F. Vestil St.

Prior to this, the original P10 billion project was modified into a P16.3 billion project when it became a 13.8-kilometer project with 17 stations, one depot, and one trunk terminal from SRP in the south to Cebu IT Park in the north of Cebu City.

The City Council last Wednesday called for the suspension of Packages 2, 3 and 4 for six months, to observe first the operations of Package 1, as well as to explore the possibility of streamlining the route to a direct path from Barangay Bulacao to Ayala or Talamban by conducting a trial run for the Barangay Bulacao to Ayala route.


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