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The missing Cebu City circumferential road

/ 06:57 AM March 30, 2012

Due to its physical configuration, the spatial development of Metro Cebu is linear in form that goes north and south from Cebu City’s central business district (CBD). For so long, one could only travel from Cebu City to the north or south through the old national highway that connects all the cities and towns in Metro Cebu. Now one can go to the north by crossing the new Cansaga Bridge in Mandaue City and following the Tayud provincial road that goes through Consolacion and ends in Liloan. To the south, there is already the familiar South Coastal Road (SCR), which passes through the South Road Properties (SRP). The SCR starts at the area near Pier I in Cebu City, follows the eastern line of the SRP, enters Talisay City and ends at the point when it merges with the old highway to the south in Lawaan, Talisay.

It is good that we now have this alternate north-south link following the eastern side or coastal areas of Liloan, Consolacion, Cebu City and Talisay, but where is the Cebu City Urban Circumferential Road that passes through the hillsides? This road is needed to decongest the flow of traffic moving within and passing through the fast-widening CBD of Cebu, providing an alternative route that will connect the north-south line of the city’s major thoroughfares.

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As a background, this project had long been identified under the Metro Cebu Land Use and Transport Study (MCLUTS) completed in the early 1980s and the Cebu Integrated Area Development Master Planning Study (CIADMPS) prepared in the mid-1990s with Japan International Cooperation Agency funding. As stated in the June 1993 implementation program prepared by the Katahira and Engineers International (KEI), the project was part of Metro Cebu Development Project – Phase III (MCDP III), which also included the SRP and SCR. MCDP III, was approved by the National Economic Development Authority Board on June 1990 and was lined up for negotiations under the 17th Yen Loan Package of OECF. The circumferential road was excluded in the approved loan package for lack of a detailed plan. In addition, the loan package would be exceeded when the three projects under MCDP III were to be implemented at the same time.

Funding for the detailed engineering of the proposed circumferential road was approved in another Yen Loan Package. The study was completed and the Implementation Program for the Cebu City’s Urban Circumferential Road dated was prepared and completed in June 1993 by KEI. However, the project has not been undertaken until now.

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After taking stock of the preset development of Cebu, the coalition of 13 business chambers and civil society organizations in Cebu under the Partnership for Better Infrastructure, which is spearheaded by Cebu Business Club and the Manila-based Research, Education and Institutional Development (REID) Foundation, identified the project as essential for the continued growth and efficient functioning of Cebu as an integrated economic unit. During the preparation of the 2012 national government budget in 2011, the coalition proposed to the Department of Public Works and Highways to conduct a study to revalidate the feasibility of the project. Now, as the 2013 national government budget is being prepared, the coalition again submitted a proposal to continue the study and implement the project, which could take three or four years to complete.

Based on the old study, the project consists of two major components. These are the Urban Circumferential Road and the Distributor Roads. The urban circumferential road component consists of five segments. It will be four-lane with a median separator with Portland concrete pavement. Along the road link is a proposed 450-meter four-lane tunnel located near the vicinity of Boy Scouts’ Camp. Also included in the proposed alignment is about 250 lineal meters of pre-stressed bridge crossing the Guadalupe River. Five roads are proposed to function as collector-distributor roads for the Circumferential Road. These are the Katipunan Road Extension, Good Shepherd Convent Road, V. Rama Avenue, Capitol Hills Road and Cebu-Plaza – Nivel Road

Based on the June 1993 Implementation Program for Urban Circumferential Road prepared by KEI, the project’s construction cost was estimated at P2.319 billion, which was equivalent to a total economic cost of P1.901 billion if taxes were excluded. That estimate was made almost 20 years ago. At current price, the project will cost three times the original estimate: P6,956 billion in total construction cost or P5.704 billion in economic cost.

The most likely reason this project will not be realized is the great amount of money needed for it. But who says good projects are cheap? If we really need it, there is going to be money for it. This can come in installment from the regular national government budget in three to four years or from outside loan. The only question here is the project viability, whether or not it has a positive net present value, benefit-cost ratio greater than one, and an economic internal rate of return (EIRR) that is higher than the social discount rate. The original study showed the project to have passed all these tests. But after the SRP and SCR were completed, why was the circumferential road not resubmitted for funding?

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