President Benigno Simeon Aquino III had good and bad news for Cebu during his visit yesterday.
In a meeting with political alies, he announced the approval by the National Economic Development Authority of the proposed second terminal of the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City.
But he said approval of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would replace several jeepney routes with dedicated bus lines, has been deferred.
“Medyo may kulang,” he told reporters, referring to the result of the pre-feasibility study which was presented to the NEDA board.
“There is a need for segregated roads for buses to minimize the stop and go. Pero meron ba talagang lugar sa Cebu na mas segregated tayo?”
Aquino said that the government “cannot experiment” on a project like the BRT which would cost at least P10 billion.
“If we experiment, not on billions worth of project. Pero doon din tayo patungo kaya ayosin natin ito,” he said.
Although he acknowledge the mass transport system as a cheaper and faster alternative to the Light Rail Transit, there is still a need for further study on the project proposal.
He also praised Cebu City north district Rep. Cutie Del Mar who advocates building more flyovers.
“My special tribute to Rep. Rachel del Mar for looking for a solution to the traffic problems in Cebu City,” said the President.
His remark was seen by some as leaning toward the option of new flyovers, which is being opposed by citizen groups who advocate better urban planning and the protection of the evnrionment and heritage value of the city.
While Aquino said he was not an urban planning expert, the President said having flyover may address congestion in road intersections.
A moratorium on flyovers was declared in October last year by the Department of Public Works and Highways, but critics suspect the order may soon be lifted.
Meanwhile, BRT advocate Cebu City south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña, said in a separate interview that he would not mind a delay in the bus project which was supposed to start next year.
“I’m very deliberate when I do things. I don’t care if I wait. You don’t do the next thing unless you master the next thing,” he said.
Proponents of the BRT were earlier confident the $210 million project would be funded by the World Bank ones it gets necessary approval from the Philippine government.
In his visit to Cebu last Oct. 20, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault expressed support for the project.
He said the French government through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) can provide $50-million soft loan to co-finance the project.
Rafael Yap of the BRT Technical Working Group said he was informed by Transportaion Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya of the NEDA’s deferment last Thursday.
He said they are waiting for Neda’s recommendation.
For the Mactan airport expansion, President Aquino said the NEDA board approved the terminal 2 project. This will augment terminal 1 which was built in 1995 . With the expected increase in tourism arrivals to 10 million in 2016, Aquino said a new terminal is needed.
Aquino also told Cebu allies he was gratfeful to the Cebuanos support for his family and his presidency.