Cebu News

Councilor Cuenco points out reasons to halt CBRT project

Iris Hazel M. Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco maintains his opposition to the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) and urges the temporary suspension of ongoing civil works of the project.

Cuenco, who chairs the Committee on Transportation of the Cebu City Council, delivered a privilege speech last Wednesday before the members of the City Council following the recent executive session that shed light on the delays and development of the CBRT.

During the executive session, representatives of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) appeared and apprised the city council of the CBRT’s progress including its projected timeline.

Despite all the updates given, Cuenco said they are left hanging if the project is still beneficial to Cebuano.

During his privilege speech, Cuenco raised the motion urging the DOTr to temporarily suspend the civil works of phase 2 and 3 pending the creation and meeting of the CBRT Technical Working Group (TWG). He also calls for an executive session inviting the lead technical consultant for the operation and maintenance of the CBRT to present their action plan.

Further, Cuenco urges the DOTr to submit the feasibility study to justify their budget increase. He also requested the DPWH to update the city council on the ongoing negotiations of the road right of way acquisition.

The motions were approved by the City Council.

In his speech, Cuenco recalled that NEDA-7 Regional Director Jennifer Bretaña said that the CBRT project will “not reduce the traffic congestion but rather the city will only witness its full benefits once it is being integrated with the big tickets with the Metro Cebu Urban Transportation Master Plan.”

According to Cuenco, while he is not questioning the statement of NEDA, he believes that the city government should have been furnished with copies on “each and every modification” of the project, particularly the feasibility studies that justify the increase of budget from P16 billion to almost P29 billion.

On the projected timeline presented for the package 1 that is expected to be realized by July 2024, Cuenco raised the “tangible” developments that are being visioned out at this point of time.

“Regrettably, the DOTr has not shared any information regarding their engagement with contractors for the operation and management of the CBRT. Hapit na gud ang operation karon ng July kuno pero wa pay klaro ang operation and maintenance, why is that so?” said the legislator.

In line with this, Cuenco said that his office came up with their own study and came across a letter from the Public Private Partnership Center (PPPC) dated December 27, 2023.

The letter reportedly contains an invitation for negotiated procurement for project preparation and transaction advisory services for the operation and maintenance of the CBRT project. He disclosed that the addressee is Prabanant, a partner of the Deloitte touché Tomatsu India LLP.

“Does this sound familiar? When I research where this office is located. It is but five kilometers from the Indira Gandhi Airport in India, which is located in Delhi. The city of Delhi,” said Cuenco.

In his previous privilege speech, Cuenco presented that the “pitfalls” of BRT projects in other countries including the Delhi BRT project only lasted a little over a year before it “folded up and turned out to be a failure.”

“Now, Engineer Nigel Paul Villarete, when he was last interviewed, said the CBRT is separate, is not a traffic solution, but it is a mass transport system that will benefit those who have no cars, the poor and the marginalized,” he said.

“The project is part of the Metro Cebu Intermodal and Integrated Transport system, meaning dapat naa to ang uban mga components, the monorails and Cebu expressway,” he added.

Cuenco reiterated that the DOTR recognizes the complexity of managing the project essentially interposing that Cebu City “lacked experience and expertise thereon.”  In line with this, DOTr’s policy paper also includes a plan of creating a Public Transport Authority (PTA) which will be institutionalized through legislation.

The said PTA board will be composed of officials from the DOTr, LTFRB, LTO, DILG, and the concerned local government unit, Cebu City.

“Itukod pa lang ni nga PTA board. What are the objectives of this new project study to determine the viability or non-viability of the project as a PPP project. Sutaon pa kun pwede ba nga PPP, nya ang kuntrata usa ka tuig nga consultancy, pero operate naman ta karon July kaha? Unsaon mana?” Cuenco questioned.

According to Cuenco, the consultancy job includes phases that may also take a process. He also added that market research hasn’t been started yet, which will also include the estimation of the travel demand and traffic impact – an undertaking that should have been made long ago.

“Conduct a comparative analysis of the projects, expected fees and charges set to complete the hand. Sa ato pa ang pletehan wala pa ma determine, maghimo pag economic and financial analysis. Daghan pag trabaho nga himuon,” said Cuenco, adding that these delays have made him skeptical that the CBRT will still hit its projected timeline. (CEBU NEWS)

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