DESPITE the President’s deferred approval of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, proponents remain optimistic after World Bank officials expressed continued support for the mass transit reform.
Rafael Yap, head of the Cebu Integrated Traffic Operation Management (Citom), said a WB official told him that they would help lobby with President Benigno Aquino III and the NEDA board of directors to reconsider their position.
Yap, heads the BRT Technical Working Group, said the WB is willing to invite President Aquino or his chosen cabinet secretary to travel to countries where the BRT is being operated like Korea, India and Indonesia to observe how the scheme works.
The BRT system would need funding support from the World Bank through a $110 million loan; aside from $52 million from the Agence Francaise de Development; $25 million from teh Clean Technology Fund; and $25 million from the Philippine government.
Yap said the World Bank representatives assured that even if NEDA board approval would take three to four months, the BRT system could still be implemented as scheduled to be completed in 2015 or 2016.
The NEDA board decided during a meeting last week to defer action on the BRT proposal because of the need to clarify some concerns especially the plan to incorporate Cebu City’s BRT in the traffic mainstream.
President Aquino announced during his Cebu visit on Nov. 30 that the government cannot experiment on the BRT project which is estimated to cost P10 billion.
Cebu City Rep. Tomas Osmeña, who has championed the BRT since his previous term as city mayor, said he would be patient and didn’t mind delays in the project.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama who also supports the BRT said he would ask Yap to coordinate with the national government and “push” for the project implementation.
Yap said he was confident the BRT would eventually be approved since it is backed by Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya. He said ongoing preparatory studies, which include detailed engineering and a social management plan, willaddress questions on the BRT.