Del Mar questions shorter BRT route
In his privilege speech on Tuesday, Del Mar said that cutting the route alignment by almost 50 percent could disenfranchise thousands of residents in the Bulacao and Talamban cluster of barangays from having direct access to the city center.
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Del Mar questions shorter BRT route
Grace Melanie I. Lacamiento, Jean Marvette Demecillo (The Freeman) - August 29, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar requested the House committee on transportation to call for a hearing and invite the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to shed light on the new route alignment of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

In his privilege speech on Tuesday, Del Mar said that cutting the route alignment by almost 50 percent could disenfranchise thousands of residents in the Bulacao and Talamban cluster of barangays from having direct access to the city center.

The original 23-kilometer route included Bulacao to N. Bacalso to Osmeña Boulevard to N. Escario Street to Ayala to Banilad-Talamban corridor, since this route, according to the project proponents, had the most ridership when former mayor Tomas Osmeña introduced the project in 2008.

It was earlier reported that the new alignment involves a shorter route of only 13 kilometers from the South Road Properties to IT Park.

However, the planning and design specialist of Egis International, the firm that provides technical support for the project, clarified last August 20 that the alignment was not changed contrary to reports and that the route was even extended to 34 kilometers.

Milana Suarez explained to the Cebu City Council that the feeder services will cover Mambaling to Bulacao to Talisay City, and from I.T. Park to Banilad-Talamban. The feeder system will use the PUV modernization program of the government in mixed traffic.

Del Mar questioned the practical basis and rationale for the reported changes made by DOTr and NEDA. He also inquired if the revision has been approved by the Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the NEDA Board and if the loan agreements have been officially amended considering the changes.

For Del Mar, Cebu’s first attempt in mass transport is being threatened by the changes on the plan.

He said the original route alignment was based on a “people-centered” philosophy, specifically drawn along the corridors of the city where most people live, work and study.

The bulk of the traffic problem, he added, is in the Bulacao and Talamban zones where the BRT is mostly needed, but instead removed under the new alignment.

Del Mar said that while it is true that the SRP and IT Park are economic powerhouses, these are not residential areas and “nobody commutes to and from those points early in the morning when traveling is at its peak.”

“So one is befuddled over the changes in the BRT route.  Why was this new route selected in lieu of the old established route where every Cebuano knows people line up in the roadside every morning? Something is clearly out of synch here, Mr. Speaker,” he said.

Del Mar said a NEDA-approved project with three loan agreements with the World Bank-International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) cannot be simply and unilaterally changed without the re-evaluation and approval of the ICC and NEDA.

“But I know, Mr. Speaker, that changes in scope and cost necessitate a re-evaluation of NEDA, of which we have not heard or read was being done for the Cebu BRT Project. It was splashed all over the news media in Cebu and yet there is no record of any ICC approval being presented or reported.  Was there really an official approval,” he said.

Del Mar said he continues to support the BRT project, hopeful that the government will continue and complete it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Mayor Edgardo Labella said he will urge the DOTr to fast-track the BRT project and finish it before the loan closing date in 2021 to avoid further expenses from the government.

The Commission on Audit said the delayed implementation has caused the government P22,928,599.74 in commitment fees since it was approved in 2014.

COA said any further delay in the implementation may cause additional burden to government to fund expenses to complete the project, which may arise after the loan closing date.  — JMD (FREEMAN)

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