Again, the fate of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lies not in the Department of Transportation (DOTr), as Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino said, but in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte who may or may not make the final decision on the project.
He may not if he allows the DOTr to proceed with the project as is, confident that all the studies and projections made by qualified proponents are spot on and will translate to a smooth completion of the BRT.
It’s the actual implementation of the BRT that will continually pose problems and challenges to the Cebu City government. But what project or program doesn’t have problems or challenges anyway?
In approving the additional budget for road rightof-way, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) recognized the BRT’s viability as a mass transport system for Cebu City and refused to be sidetracked on Dino’s counter-proposal of a Light Railway Transit (LRT) subway project that was delivered late in the day.
Dino had somehow managed to convince Neda Director General Ernesto Pernia in an hour’s meeting to issue a statement that placed on hold the BRT until a review of Dino’s pet subway project is presented to the agencies concerned.
Dino may probably think that he can also persuade Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade to agree to his point of view that the BRT will “cause more harm than good” and dump the project that was backed up by several years’ worth of studies and projections made by transport experts both here and abroad.
In approving the additional budget for the BRT, City Hall can now proceed with road right-of-way proceedings with the lot owners whose properties will be affected by the installation of terminals that will house the buses.
An allocated budget means that unlike the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which has yet to bid out the materials pending passage of a law to postpone the barangay elections, the Cebu City government can proceed with their dealings with property owners in earnest.
Still, there are those stopping the BRT on its tracks, and they obviously aligned with Dino in lobbying for his pet LRT subway project. They wanted copies of the BRT project study, which has over 1,000 pages, to poke holes on its viability.
Among the reasons cited is the absence of dedicated lanes on certain routes and allowing BRT units to mix with regular traffic in identified traffic hot spots. And they pointed to other countries and even Manila which is said to be encountering problems with their own BRT project as evidence that it cannot work in Cebu.
But oppositors need to produce more than photos to buttress their case against the BRT, and that would take time which Cebu-based residents don’t have on their side.
Let the BRT continue and let Dino and his allies make their own case for the Cebu LRT subway project without sacrificing the BRT.