Where’s the Cebu monorail?

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete - The Freeman

We usually talk about things in hindsight when we could have talked about them with foresight.  Another statement many people might agree is actually a question: “Why only have one when we can have two? Or even more, if that is possible?”  This is especially true when transport is concerned. And it’s extremely true when a pandemic hit!  As we now realize, we will be in a new normal, one that is marked by social distancing.  Which means public mass transport capacities are shrunk to a fraction they have before Covid-19.

The plight of the Cebu BRT project is something we should look back and remember even as we still battle this pandemic. Approved in the previous administration, it was already ready for implementation by 2016 at the start of this administration.  Unfortunately, the DOTr step back and hesitated.  Worse, it put the project “on hold” pending review in August 2017.  It was held in limbo until the DOTr and OPAV ultimately officially asked NEDA-ICC to cancel it altogether in April 2018, along with three international loan agreements for a project worth P16 Billion intended for the Cebuanos.

NEDA-ICC disagreed and asked DOTr to show “why,” specifically ordering an official NEDA-grade evaluation and not some power-point slides and pictures. NEDA was kind enough to said they could submit alternative solutions as well. Thus, came the “basket-of-solutions” to overwhelm us with a fantastic network of transport availability to silence the Cebuanos’ clamor for mobility.  Thence came the Cebu Monorail, not from DOTr, but from a private sector proposal under a PPP scheme.  Another set of futuristic drawings were circulated to quench the Cebuanos’ thirst and tickle their imagination on what to expect.  The Cebu BRT, which they detest so much and vigorously asked to be eradicated, was unceremoniously cut in half and relegated to “feeder service,” on a route not even connected to your homes.

There are things we can’t do anything about, when government or its officials put their foot down and stand pat on their wishes.  The point to be made is, why replace one when you can have both?  One is ready for implementation and the other was is still a proposal which has not even passed ICC Approval.  If the BRT was continued in 2016, we would have a fully functional system today!  Former Mayor Osmeña did not oppose any other proposal for other additional rail systems.  In fact, he agreed with the conduct of studies for two LRT proposals, the only reminder being that Cebuanos should not pay for them.

We could have had the BRT in 2019.  And we could have started the Cebu Monorail now if the Covid-19 Pandemic did not come.  But the BRT would be there and serve, albeit, at reduced capacity.  That’s no problem - at 53% EIRR, it could reduce its capacity and still remain feasible.  But that’s hindsight.  Instead of a basket, DOTr placed its bet on only one option.  And now that the pandemic is still raging, we can only ask, where is the Monorail?

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