Rama: Fire CBRT project manager
Photo by Amper Campana

Rama: Fire CBRT project manager

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has called for the ouster of Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project manager Norvim Imbong due to alleged mismanagement of the project.

In an interview on Friday, March 1, 2024, Rama said he already communicated with Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista regarding his “decision” to remove Imbong from the project.

Over Cebu City Hall’s online program “Ingna’ng Mayor” on Thursday, Feb. 29, Rama also said if needed, he would personally bring up his decision to remove Imbong from his position to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Rama attributed the delays in the CBRT project to Imbong’s “mismanagement” and alleged lack of coordination with the City.

Rama expressed displeasure when Imbong allowed the contractor to work without considering its impact on traffic.

In a separate interview with radio dyHP on Thursday, Rama said he already told Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell that he had enough of Imbong.

“Taga-an lang ka’g smile-smile (He just keeps on smiling). I’m sorry, I want him out,”Rama said.

Original route

Rama was also displeased that the original route of the CBRT project was altered, particularly on the exclusion of Barangay Bulacao.

“Tan-awa giunsa ninyo, dayon moingon mo nga wala mo’y kalibutan (Look at what you’ve done. And then you will say you know nothing about it),” Rama said.

Last November, SunStar Cebu reported that the project’s completion date had been pushed to 2027 due to changes in the design, including the inclusion of Package 4, which is a dedicated lane from Barangay 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 South Road Properties (SRP) coastal road and along F. Vestil St.

Rama said he will push for the CBRT’s original concept and sit down with concerned national officials to discuss the matter.

Rama denied allegations he was responsible for the changes to the CBRT route, arguing that he fought for the original plan, but some officials dipped their hands into the project.

Imbong’s side

Sought for comment on Rama’s call for his ouster, Imbong said on Friday that it would be up to the discretion of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Central Office whether or not to replace him.

In a phone interview, Imbong told SunStar Cebu that he understands Rama’s perspective in asking for his removal due to project delays.

However, he said the delays were inevitable as these were caused by setbacks such as processing permits, road conditions, underground waterpipes and telecommunication cables, the rainy season, the Sinulog festival, and others.

Imbong explained that the CBRT project involves the DOTr as proponent, the China-based Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Ltd as the contractor, and the South Korea-based Kunhwa Engineering and Consulting Co. Ltd., as the construction supervision consultant.

Approval from consultant

Imbong said every change in the implementation and planning of the CBRT project due to setbacks needs the approval of the construction supervision consultant.

Imbong said Kunhwa Engineering and Consulting Co. Ltd. led the project’s technical working group. The firm also made the detailed engineering design of the CBRT.

“Because this is foreign-funded, it’s not the same as us directly managing our contractor since we have a construction supervision consultant,” Imbong said in Cebuano.

“Everything the contractor does has to abide by the specification of the consultant. Otherwise, work on the project will not proceed,” he added.

Imbong said because of this setup, DOTr project engineers cannot supervise the contractor who will have to follow the consultant’s specifications in order to be billed for their civil works. He said the DOTr helps the contractor and consultant in the coordination with local government units (LGUs), including the filing and application of necessary permits and authorizations.

Imbong also pointed to Cebu’s Fiesta Señor celebration and the Sinulog festival in Jan. 2024 as another cause of delay.

Imbong said majority of the civil works months before the festival were rescheduled to give way to major events such as the solemn procession.

The rainy season in the latter part of 2023 also delayed the project as the excavated portion was easily filled with rainwater that had to be pumped out, said Imbong.

Heritage

About the order to halt ongoing works along Osmeña Blvd., fronting the Cebu Capitol Building going to Fuente Osmeña Circle, Imbong said the DOTr is now coordinating with the Cultural and Historical Affairs Office (Chao) Cebu City for redesigning and approval.

He said they were caught off-guard by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia’s Memorandum 16-2024 ordering the contractor to immediately stop the construction of the bus station in front of the Capitol building.

Back in 2020, Imbong said they collaborated with the Chao to determine if the CBRT project will affect buildings and sites with historical and cultural significance.

He said CBRT proponents also presented project plans including the location of the bus station; however, they did not receive recommendations or corrections from the Chao at the time.

Imbong clarified that he is not blaming the Chao. Rather, he is now focused on resolving concerns raised by the Cebu Provincial Government and will seek the approval of the Chao and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) as mandated under RA 10066.

“I don’t like putting blame on anyone,” Imbong said. / AML, EHP

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