Cebu News

CBRT work halt sought

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman
CBRT work halt sought
The ongoing construction of Bust Rapid Transit station near the Cebu Provincial Capitol.
Aldo Banaynal

The Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project faces yet another obstacle after Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the Cebu City Council, upon the urging of her nephew, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, wanted to put on hold the civil works, particularly on a portion of Osmeña Boulevard fronting the Capitol building, for heritage preservation.

In particular, the Cebu City Council yesterday urged the City’s Office of the Building Official (OBO) to issue a cease and desist order against the construction of CBRT’s bus station right in front of the Capitol building, calling it a “photobomber in the making.

The order, the council said, should stay in effect until and unless “a better alternative” design is submitted to the National Commission on Culture and Arts, the City’s Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (CHAC), and the Council itself.

The council likewise asked CHAC to explore with its Province of Cebu counterpart to explore alternatives, including a more complimentary design, provided that it conforms with existing laws and policies.

The said actions were made following a privilege speech by Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, who heads the CHAC.

He said the bus station would be a “photobomber in the making” and should be stopped.

He said a portion of Osmeña Boulevard is being torn down to “erect a structure of steel and stone installed for a utilitarian purpose but at the expense of a legally-protected National Historical Landmark and Important Cultural Property.”

Vice Mayor Garcia was referring to the Capitol building, which one of Cebu’s “recognizable historical landmarks, built in 1937.”

The Capitol building was declared a “National Historical Landmark” by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2008 and an “Important Cultural Property” by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2020.

“There is…an impending permanent desecration of one of our most recognizable and valuable cultural assets here; a historical, political, socio-cultural landmark that survived a world war, the ebb and flow of our political tides, and the ravages of time for eight and a half decades,” he said.

He cited the provision on “vista corridor” under Republic Act (RA) 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009), where it set an “unhampered or unimpeded visual setting and physical integrity of a heritage property”.

He said that this means that there should be no structure that should mar the visual space, the line of sight, and the appearance of the Capitol vis-a-vis Fuente Osmeña as well as Osmeña Boulevard.

And in a memorandum posted over the provincial government’s official news network that was later deleted but whose copy The Freeman was able to save, the Capitol said it found out that the project lacks necessary authorization from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), for construction within the buffer zones of the Capitol Building and Fuente Osmeña Rotunda which the Provincial Government believes are considered as potential heritage zones.

“This Memorandum is issued to inform (contractor) Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group LTD (hereinafter referred to as “Hunan") of the IMMEDIATE CEASE AND DESIST ORDER (CDO) for construction activities on province-owned lots along Osmeña Boulevard,” read part of the memorandum.

Governor Gwen Garcia also said that since the Capitol building is a National Historical Landmark, any construction within its buffer zones requires NHCP approval as mandated under RA 10066, which mandates the protection of structures 50 years and older.

“The project appears to be located within the buffer zones of the Cebu Provincial Capitol and Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, both of which could easily qualify as classic heritage zones,” Gov. Garcia said in the memorandum.

Jose Eleazar R. Bersales, a member of the National Commission on the Culture and the Arts (NCAA) Advisory Board, was the one who informed her last Tuesday on “potential violations of Philippine heritage laws related to the Bus Rapid Transit Project construction on province-owned lots along Osmena Boulevard.”

The same memorandum also stated that Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group LTF has not obtained the necessary authorization from NHCP its CBRT construction activities.

“This constitutes a clear violation of R.A. No.10066. Based on the aforementioned findings, Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group LTD is hereby directed to immediately CEASE AND DESIST from any further construction activities on province- owned lots along Osmeña Boulevard. This Memorandum takes effect immediately upon its issuance and remains in effect until further notice,” stated the memorandum.

Although the memorandum was taken down due to premature posting and the need for a few corrections, the City Council, upon the request of Vice Mayor Garcia, yesterday tasked the City OBO to stop the ongoing construction.

“Dili puyde i-photobomb,” Vice Mayor Garcia said, adding that the CBRT bust station, being constructed inside a “historical and cultural vista corridor”, poses a significant threat “shared identity, heritage, and culture” of the public as people of Cebu.

“One cannot be allowed to cancel the other, especially if the proposed design did not even pass through both the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the Sangguniang Panlungsod, “he said.

During the discussion the followed after Garcia’s speech, City Councilor Joy Young questioned why it took him so long to “complain” on the construction.

The vice mayor said that while the City Council was apprised of the overall picture of the project, the “specific and integral designs” did not include the details, particularly of the bus station.

Young then lamented that regardless of whatever would be the alternative design, the Capitol building would still be blocked if the bus station is built.

City Councilor Joy Pesquera also argued that the area where the bus station would be built is not an ideal spot for it.

“We do not allow the exits of parking in a building if it is ten meters from the intersection and in this manner that particular bus stop is only four meters from the intersection. Supposedly, in our own traffic code, that is not allowed,” she said.

She said that just for that alone, the placement of the bus stop has already violated the law. /RHM (FREEMAN)

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