ORGANIZERS behind the now-viral video of a Christmas tree lighting and banquet held in the middle of the highway in Barangay Bulacao, Cebu City are expected to show up on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to explain their side before the Cebu City Traffic Management Committee (TMC).
TMC vowed to launch an investigation after the public activity was blamed for the heavy traffic congestion that stretched as far as Barangay Mambaling on Sunday night, Dec. 3, 2023.
The footage of the viral video showed that a portion of N. Bacalso Ave. in Barangay Bulacao, particularly one southbound lane, was temporarily closed for a festive party and tree-lighting event, resulting in heavy traffic congestion.
“Naa sa tunga sa dalan nag party. Pwede diay ni?” reads the caption of the video.
(Party in the middle of the road. Is this allowed?)
Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) head Raquel Arce, in an interview with the media on Monday, Dec. 4, said the organizers had coordinated with CCTO for the Christmas tree lighting. However, she noted that they had not informed the CCTO about their intention to set up a catering service in the middle of the road.
Cebu City Councilor Rey Gealon, chairman of TMC, questioned who authorized the activity which had made a major road unavailable for use. He said the TMC did not receive any application for the conduct of the activity.
Arce said every road or street should remain clear of obstructions to ensure the smooth flow of traffic, a regulation that the organizers violated.
Even if the organizers were to request with the CCTO that the catering and dining be done in the middle of the road, it would be outright rejected, Arce said.
“Not even a banquet. Any obstructions on roads and sidewalks kay bawal gyud na siya. Nganong manakop man ta og sidewalk vendors, unya mo-tolerate ta og kanang magkaon sa dalan?” Arce said.
(Not even a banquet. Any obstructions on roads and sidewalks are not allowed. Why would we apprehend sidewalk vendors and then tolerate those who eat on the road?)
Arce said the banquet could have been held at a separate venue so as not to cause traffic congestion in the area.
She noted that that section of N. Bacalso Ave. experiences traffic congestion during peak hours from 5 to 9 p.m. Therefore, it was never conducive to holding such catering activity on that side of the road.
Gealon has yet to determine the organizer of the event as there were reports that it was mounted either by the barangay or the “Pasko sa Dakbayan” committee.
The organizers will be invited to the TMC board meeting following its call for an investigation on the event on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Not a barangay event
Bulacao Barangay Capt. Junah Babatuan Abellanosa clarified on Monday that she was not informed, nor made aware by the organizers that a food catering will be set up in the middle of the road. She asserted that she would not have allowed such an activity to take place.
She said the activity was not a barangay-initiated event; rather it was a Cebu City Government-led activity as part of the launching of the “Pasko sa Dakbayan 2023.”
She was invited by the organizers only hours before the Sunday event to attend the Christmas lighting ceremony held at the boundary of Cebu City and Talisay City, as this was an annual event organized by Bulacao Youth for Service and Empowerment (BYSE), a youth organization tapped by the “Pasko sa Dakbayan” committee to conduct the activity.
Upon arriving at the venue, she found tables, chairs, and catering services set up in the middle of the road. Abellanosa inquired with the organizers if they had coordinated with the CCTO to which the organizer confirmed to her that the activity was a City Government program.
“That night was supposed to signal the start of the ‘Pasko sa Dakbayan’ starting from Barangay Bulacao to Emall. All street Christmas lights will be lighted,” Abellanosa said.
“I want to express my apologies to the motorists who were affected by Sunday’s event, and rest assured that I will do my best for this not to happen again,” she added.
Arce said the event serves as a lesson for other government agencies to effectively coordinate with the CCTO and provide them with all the details of events that may impact traffic on any roads in the city.
She added that more activities will take place on the city’s main thoroughfares, especially with the holiday celebrations; therefore, she reminds the city departments to inform the CCTO ahead of time so they could manage the traffic efficiently.
Like Arce, Abellanosa also called on organizers to properly coordinate their events with the barangay to ensure a seamless flow of traffic. / EHP, RJM