Cebu News

Traffic body probing highway tree lighting

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — An administrative investigation is now being conducted by the Traffic Management Council (TMC) and the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) on the Christmas tree lighting along the highway of Barangay Bulacao that caused heavy flow of traffic on Sunday evening.

In a statement released to the media, traffic czar, Councilor Rey Gealon said they received complaints on the heavy traffic that was experienced following the said tree lighting activity in the middle of the Barangay Bulacao highway.

"(It) resulted in horrendous traffic along N. Bacalso Avenue stretching as far as Barangay Mambaling in what seemed to be any driver's nightmare - the longest kilometer traversed in an hour," said Gealon.

In the same statement he revealed that they did not receive any application for permits to use the road.

A video of the said activity is now making rounds in social media that garnered reactions and complaints from the public.

On the video, it was seen that beside the lighted Christmas tree, there were also tables being set up where visitors were seen flocking and eating.

"I wondered (by) what authority did, they rendered one southbound lane unserviceable - a highway, a main road, a major thoroughfare," said Gealon.

Gealon also said that in his conversation with CCTO head Raquel Arce, the office wasn't also informed on the activity.

In an interview with the media, Arce said they were also able to watch the video posted online. She revealed that their office wasn't made aware that such activity will be conducted.

According to Arce, the coordination that they have received was only for Christmas tree lighting.

"Ang coordination was the Christmas tree lighting, but not the buffet nga ilang gihimo sa tunga sa dalan. The Christmas tree lighting…mao bitaw nga naa toy presence sa atoang traffic enforcers," said Arce.

Arce clarified that holding of banquets and any kind of obstruction of traffic in the middle of the road and sidewalks is strictly prohibited.

She added they have been strict with disallowing vendors on the sidewalks much more than the holding of so-called buffet dinners in the middle of the road.

With this, Arce said they will be calling the attention of the organizers. According to her, they still have to check on it.

"Kay ingon nga barangay (organizer) ingon naay organizer na from City Hall, ako pang kuhaon kung kinsa," said Arce.

Arce said the event allegedly began at around 5:30 p.m. and ended at 8:30 p.m.

In a separate interview with the media, Bulacao barangay captain Junah Abellanosa said the event was a city government initiative and they were just invited. According to her, the event was in line with Pasko sa Dakbayan.

"In fact the Pasko sa Dakbayan organizers, really did the coordination about the participation of Barangay Bulacao to this said event that is why last December 1, we launched our Pasko sa Bulacao by lighting our barangay hall and skywalk," said Abellanosa.

Abellanosa said that it was just last Sunday evening at 6 p.m. that she received the invitation to witness the ceremonial Christmas tree lighting.

She added that prior to this invitation, she wasn't formally informed that such activity will be held under her jurisdiction.

Abellanosa also said that she wasn't made aware that a catering will be also set up in the same area.

"I asked the organizer if this was well-coordinated to the CCTO, (they said) yes because this is a city-government program in line with the Pasko sa Dakbayan. Didto lang gi launch kay Barangay Bulacao is the first barangay," she said.

Abellanosa, however, said that she is willing to cooperate with the investigation and is also willing to answer the questions.

As the event affected several motorists, Gealon said the sight was "appalling" upon seeing that despite the traffic people were partaking dinner comfortably.

"Professionals, among them notable lawyers, who were stalled on their way home vented their anger and frustration in an online forum, determined on filing cases before the Ombudsman or DILG against those involved in the activity," he said.

"Should the complainants pursue their intent against those responsible so that they will be made to account for their actions, I just hope that they cannot be indicted for abuse of authority, if barangay officials were the ones organizing it, or gross neglect of duty for having tolerated its happening," he added. — (FREEMAN)

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