Many support the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system proposal. Practically all Cebu city officials including Mayor Michael Rama who split with the dominant Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) camp last year want it.
That’s why it was a letdown when President Benigno Aquino III said his administration can’t approve the BRT at this time. He was genuinely reluctant to spend P10 billion for it.
The amount would include not only the buses and terminals, but dedicated roads where the vehicles would travel.
The BRT was on the favored list of Public-Private Partnerships of Malcañang – until Aquino’s “teka, teka” declaration in Cebu City last week.
Instead of flaring up, Cebu City Rep. Tomas Osmeña, the chief proponent, took the setback calmly, at least in public. There’s little use arguing with the President, whose help you need to push a massive project like the BRT because financing cannot be shouldered by the locality.
Osmeña, who always has a Plan B somewhere, said World Bank officials assured him that this won’t necessarily delay the timetable to operate a BRT in 2015 or 2016.
He may know something the rest of us don’t.
Outside of Cebu, the only other vocal opponent of the BRT is outgoing Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu’s 1st district, who championed the implementation of the Light Railway Transit (LRT) system throughout Cebu.
We still have to see studies that demonstrate that an LRT is superior to dedicated bus lanes or more financially viable considering that in Manila where the LRT and the Metro Railway Transit (MRT) is giving the national government a headache as it spends billions of pesos to subsidize operations at a big loss.
Some factors in favor of the BRT is the use of environment-friendly vehicles using less fuel than it costs to operate train carriages of an LRT or the MRT.
This road reform proposed for Cebu City has been in the drawing board for over a decade. If President Aquino doesn’t get behind it, how much longer do we wait for growing vehicular traffic to choke the life out of motorists?
We hope the patience shown by Congressman Osmeña is part of genuine confidence that the city is not stuck with urban traffic congestion.
It remains to be seen whether this has anything to do with hopes of his partner, former congressman Raul del Mar, to lobby anew for new flyovers.
Now that would be a Plan B sure to draw a firestorm of protest from sectors who insist on proper urban planning for a “liveable” Cebu City.