Singson meets flyover critics; will visit Cebu in November
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said he would visit Cebu City next month to hear for himself the concerns of civic and business sectors who oppose new flyover projects here.
He met yesterday in his Manila office with a Cebu delegation of anti-flyover advocates led by businessman Joel Lee, convenor of the Movement for a Liveable Cebu.
The Cabinet secretary was “shocked” to learn about the extent of opposition to the projects and what could still be in store, said Lee.
For one, Singson didn’t know about plans for five more flyovers in Cebu City as part of a network envisioned by Raul del Mar, former north district congressman, and daughter Rep. Cutie del Mar.
Second, the names of prominent Cebu businessmen who were officially reported to Singson as supporting the flyovers turned out to be misleading.
Bunny Pages, who was with the group yesterday, had to clarify that he was opposing the flyovers, and not supporting them.
The Cabinet secretary showed the Cebu visitors, who included nuns of the Asilo dela Milagrosa, some of the official communications sent to him about the two Cebu City flyovers, all giving the impression that stakeholders were consulted several times and support the projects.
Singson told the group he only supports infrastructure projects that are “backed by comprehensive studies.”
A moratorium on construction of Cebu City flyovers was ordered last week by the DPWH central office amid the controversy.
An Oct. 28 “final consultation-dialogue” set by the Dept. of Public Works and Higwhays (DPWH) regional office in Cebu City has likewise been cancelled.
The freeze order, which noted safety and technical objections of the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom), has stalled the start of construction of a two-lane flyover in Gorordo Avenue scheduled in November and another one already bidded out for M.J. Cuenco Avenue for a total cost of P600 million.
“He (Singson) said that he was surprised because they are not aware about the series of flyovers,” Lee told Cebu Daily News.
Lee said the group showed a list of the flyovers and Singson was “shocked” when he realized that five more would still be built in Cebu City by the DPWH.
“He said that he just knew about it when we showed it to him,” said Lee.
Former congressman Raul del Mar, in earlier occasions, talked of his vision of a network of seven flyover projects in the north district, including one near the Carmelite convent in barangay Mabolo, which was sidelined in 2008 due to opposition from the nuns.
Three flyovers already exist in the Banilad-Talamban corridor—one near Ma. Luisa Subidivsion, another near the Tesda Center and one in Archbishop Reyes Avenue near Ayala Center.
In the medium term development investment plan of DPWH Cebu City District Office for the north district for 2010-2016, two-lane flyovers with a length .400 km each would be built in the junction of Gorordo Avenue and Salinas Drive worth P200 million, another in Gorordo Avenue and Doña Modesta Gaisano Street worth P180 million and the Juan Luna Avenue and MJ Cuenco Avenue worth P230 million.
The same document shows a .300 km flyover worth P480 million for the junction of M.J. Cuenco Avenue and Gen. Maxilom Avenue to Juan Luna Avenue, and a .240 km flyover worth P220 million at the junction of Gorordo Avenue and Archbishop Reyes Avenue.
Lee attended the one-hour meeting at the DPWH central office with a Cebu delegation of professionals who are lobbying for a Transportation Master Plan for Cebu to guide remedial steps for traffic congestion and avoid further “urban decay.”
The group included architect Joseph Espina, dean of the College of Architecture and Fine Arts in the University of San Carlos, who was a MCLUTS land use planner; engineer Fortunato Sanchez Jr. of the Banilad-Talamban Traffic Task Force; architect Ann Espina, dean of the UP College of Architecture; Bunny Pages; architect Joy Martinez; and nuns from Perpetual Succour Hospital and Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion, whose facilities are affected by the proposed Gorordo flyover.
Lee said that they met with top DPWH officials to emphasize the movement’s request to halt the rise of two flyovers in Gorordo Avenue and M.J. Cuenco Avenue.
Asked if the Cabinet Secretary had met previously with the Del Mars, Lee said Singson did not mention it.
The meeting was also attended by DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo and Assistant Secretary Emil Sandian. Momo was the one who signed the DPWH memorandum suspending the two flyover projects in Cebu City until the concerns of opposition groups are resolved.
The DPWH letter dated Oct. 7 cited the opposition of stakeholders, including Citom traffic authorities, on the flyover project to be built near the Asilo dela Milagrosa Church at the intersection of Gorordo Avenue and Archbishop Street.
Lee explained the group’s objection to the flyovers as an expensive Band-Aid solution to traffic congestion, and the lack of proper urban planning or consultation with stakeholders behind the projects.
The movement is pressing for a master plan for Cebu transportation to update the MCLUTS, the only metrowide urban study made in the 1970s.
The meeting was “very calm, with no awkwardness,” said architect Joy Martinez. She said Singson was direct and welcoming.
“We were able to discuss all our concerns and everyone is happy about it,” she said.
Martinez said the Cabinet Secretary was clear that the availability of a P600-million budget for two flyovers was not a justification for the project.
“He said that it shouldn’t be used as a reason. He did not subscribe to the usual line of some of the DPWH officials,” she said.
After the meeting, Lee said in a text message: “The group was happy to have been given the opportunity to discuss the impact of the proposed flyovers and stressed the need for a master plan. Secretary Singson assured the group that DPWH is keen on ensuring that projects for implementation are backed up by comprehensive studies.”
The group flew to Manila yesterday morning and returned to Cebu last night.
Meanwhile, DPWH-7 spokesperson Marie Nellana said the staff cancelled the public forum for Friday after the central office did not confirm their invitation.
She said Oct. 28 was just a tentative date.
“We did not even choose a venue, or set another date,” she told Cebu Daily News.
She said the Gorordo flyover was already bidded out and that DPWH issued a notice to proceed for construction.
“The money is already there. It would be a long process if the project would be realigned. According to our lawyer, only a court order can stop the project because it is a national project,” she said.
She said DPWH-7 Regional Director Pedro Herrera Jr. also sent news clippings about the flyover controversy to the central office along with the minutes of the public hearings about the project.
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