Heritage advocates hit mayor’s solution to Cebu traffic mess
CEBU CITY—How will the traffic problem in Cebu be solved with the coming hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) Summit next month and the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in January?
The solution of Mayor Michael Rama is to remove the center island along Pope John Paul II Street in Barangay Mabolo that is planted with 34 full-grown trees, which create a canopy, but is barely a meter wide and can’t be converted into an additional lane.
In place of the center island, Rama wants to put up yellow metal barriers.
“I think everybody will agree with me that traffic in this area is tremendous. If we don’t address it now, when? Who will do it?” Rama said.
Rama gave the assurance that not one of the 34 trees, which include fire, acacia and mabolo trees, would be cut without the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
But environmental groups and business leaders in Cebu are against the mayor’s plan.
They met with Rama on July 16 to propose the conduct of a study that would identify solutions to the traffic problems in the area without removing the center island.
“We, the various groups in civil society, were taken aback with the news that the middle island on Pope John Paul II Avenue would be removed along with the trees in it, in preparation for the Apec meetings that will start next month,” said a letter sent to Rama ahead of their meeting.
“As you know, we have always stood for adding more trees in the city. However, we also believe that we have to do what is right in order to continue with the normal course of development of a large urban center that is Cebu,” it added.
Cebu heritage advocates maintained that the trees along Pope John Paul II Street were just a few pockets of trees that could still be found in the city.
Isabelo Montejo, DENR Central Visayas director, said the trees would have a minimal chance of survival if earth-balled because these were already big trees.
But Montejo said he would look into Rama’s application should the mayor push through with his plan to transfer the trees to a city-owned lot located at the North Reclamation Area.
The center island spans 684 meters from the corner of Archbishop Reyes Avenue to the intersection on Cardinal Rosales Street near Seminario Mayor de San Carlos Compound, where the IEC Pavilion is being built, which is the venue for the IEC in January.
The street also leads to at least two city hotels that have been identified as venues for the Apec Summit and billeting areas for participants. These are the Radisson Blu and the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
A City Hall official, who spoke on condition of anonymity lest he catches the ire of the mayor, said removing the center island would not ease the traffic congestion along Pope John Paul II Street.
The official, who sits on the city’s traffic body, said the center island was barely a meter wide and was not even enough for an additional lane. The center island also provides a “pedestrian refuge,” he added.
“It makes the road safer. It is safer to cross two lanes of the road (and rest on the center island before crossing the two remain lanes) than crossing the entire four lanes,” he said.
He said the City Hall should look at the bigger picture in addressing traffic congestion along Pope John Paul II Street instead of removing the center island, which wouldn’t solve anything at all.
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