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Cebu News

DOTr, OPAV recommend to NEDA: Cancel BRT

Gregg M. Rubio - The Freeman
DOTr, OPAV recommend to NEDA: Cancel BRT
DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino made the recommendation to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in a letter dated April 11, 2018.
Photo from Cebu City BRT Facebook page

CEBU, Philippines — The Department of Transportation and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas have recommended the cancellation of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project in Cebu City.

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino made the recommendation to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in a letter dated April 11, 2018.

The NEDA-ICC, which is expected to meet this week to discuss the project, is chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

The recommendation was made following a decision of the Cabinet Secretary on April 4, 2018 relative to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to submit to NEDA-ICC recommendations on the project.

DOTr formed an Inter-Department Task Force composed of undersecretaries for Administration and Finance, Planning Development, Legal Affairs and Procurement, and Road Transport and Infrastructure to study and evaluate the project, including its related issues and concerns.

“After the Task Force’s review, all four offices interposed no objection to the said cancellation,” Tugade and Dino said in their letter.

Several reasons were cited, first of which are the delays in several aspects of the project, including the delay in the completion of the Detailed Engineering Design.

The design was supposed to be completed on December 31, 2017, however, as of March 31, 2018, it is only reportedly 60.82 percent compete, thus, incurring a slippage of 14.78 percent from the 75.60 percent target.

Acquisition of right of way (ROWA) and hiring of consultants also reportedly suffered delay, as of February 23, 2018.

The second reason stated is the underutilized funds when only P107.6 million sourced from the loan proceed was disbursed for DED as of December 31, 2017, incurring a slippage of 14.78 percent and P1.09 billion for ROWA was transferred to the Cebu City Government through a Memorandum of Agreement with DOTr.

However, only P460 million was utilized which is eight percent of the national government counterpart.

Third, cancelling the project is legal.

“In the 6 April 2018 Memorandum of the Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement and Legal Service, both Offices found that the Project’s cancellation has legal anchor on the fact that there is neither prohibition nor any legal impediment on the part of the Department not to terminate the same,” the letter reads.

Fourth, Tugade and Dino cited the significant increase in the growth rate of vehicles plying Cebu City since the project’s approval and the conduct of the feasibility study in 2014.

According to data from the Land Transportation Office, the number of registered vehicles increased by 21.85 percent from 2013 to 2017, or from 652,828 in 2013 to 800,149 registered motor vehicles in 2017.

Lastly, they said Cebu City’s road infrastructure is “not fit for BRT Project” taking into consideration the city’s narrow streets.

They said the road width needed for a BRT to operate, including the parcels of land necessary for depots and stations, are not enough, citing the situation at the Ayala to Talamban corridor.

“Moreover, there is no available budget for the said right of way acquisitions as the budget was allocated merely for the identified depots and stations,” they said.

“In view of the foregoing, the undersigned respectfully submits the DOTr’s recommendation to cancel the project subject, however, to the final decision by the NEDA-ICC upon the latter’s evaluation,” the letter reads further.

Tugade and Dino assured that should the NEDA-ICC cancel the BRT project, DOTr is, and will remain committed to exerting all efforts and resources in coming up with a replacement project that will be more superior to the BRT.

BRT, LRT

Dino himself has been opposing the BRT and is pushing for the establishment of the Light Rail Transit (LRT), instead.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña who is fighting for the BRT chose not to comment on the recommendation.

Earlier, he reminded DOTr that it is the agency’s job to fulfill the bilateral agreement with World Bank and other creditors to implement the BRT project, especially that the Commission on Audit (COA) has already called the attention of the government on the delay of the implementation.

BRT’s construction is expected to commence next year once all properties affected in the lot acquisition will be purchased by the government.

If the government will spend P150 billion, Osmeña suggested it should be spent to implement the BRT and for road widening where the buses will traverse.

Osmeña said he is certain that the BRT will offer cheaper fares compared to the LRT.

While saying he will not block the LRT, the mayor expressed his reservations for the P155 billion project, among which are the several unanswered points about its operation, management, and maintenance.

While the LRT is at no cost to the national government, Osmeña said the consortium that will build it should present all details of the study, especially the fares that will be incurred by passengers.

Earlier, too, NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia, during the Philippine Economic Briefing in Cebu, said the LRT can take many years to build, contrary to the statement of Chris Kou, a representative from the Chinese-Singaporean consortium proposing the project, who said that they are expecting to finish the process with the DOTr this year and that construction for LRT can begin as early as next year.

Pernia said the LRT has to go through a long process – possibly years – before it gets approval.

He also said an LRT for Metro Cebu is not among the projects scheduled to be approved by NEDA anytime soon and that a continuation of Cebu City's BRT is one of the short term solutions to ease traffic.

Dino said, however, that the LRT can carry 8,000 to 9,000 passengers per hour, more than what the BRT can carry at 3,000 passengers per hour. - Odessa O. Leyson (FREEMAN)

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