Ex-mayor Tomas Osmeña warns: Stop Cebu BRT project, get blacklisted

Wenilyn Sabalo

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Ex-mayor Tomas Osmeña warns: Stop Cebu BRT project, get blacklisted

PULLING STRINGS. Former Cebu Mayor Tommy Osmeña speaks with Rappler at his home in Cebu City on Friday, April 1, 2022.

Rambo Talabong/Rappler

The Cebu provincial board adopts two resolutions recommending a halt to the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project construction along Osmeña Boulevard

CEBU, Philippines – Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña cautioned provincial and city government officials on Tuesday, March 5, against halting the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, warning that such a move could lead to blacklisting by donor nations.

Osmeña expressed his concerns during a news conference, saying he was “very disturbed” by reports that legislators in both the province and city were pushing to stop the CBRT project.

The former mayor called for a the press conference just days after Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama criticized a cease-and-desist order issued by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to suspend the construction project.

In a statement released on Monday, March 4, the capitol announced that the Cebu provincial board had adopted two resolutions recommending a halt to CBRT construction along Osmeña Boulevard. The reasons cited included economic losses due to traffic congestion and concerns about heritage protection, with the project allegedly adversely affecting the scenic beauty of the capitol building.

The capitol building has been declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

Officials from the provincial government argued that the CBRT project had not undergone prior consultation with and approval from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), as required by law.

Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco also called for the suspension of Packages 2 and 3 of the project until issues surrounding the first package were resolved.

However, Osmeña expressed doubt regarding the possibility of the national government allowing the project to be stopped, considering it is part of an international agreement. He said the national government would not want to jeopardize international bilateral agreements.

He said the city government should “at the very least be polite” because it is the recipient of the multibillion-peso project.

The funding requirement of the CBRT, amounting to P28.7 billion, is covered by loan proceeds totaling P10.867 billion and a government counterpart of P17.912 billion.

Of the loan proceeds, P1.378 billion is from the Clean Technology Fund Grant, P6.380 billion from the World Bank International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (WB IBRD), and P3.107 billion from the French Development Agency.

Osmeña said the Department of Transportation (DOTr), as the project proponent, should continue with the project and address any necessary changes later on.

“There are obvious things that have been left out. But it’s better to have something in place than nothing,” he said.

The CBRT project has faced delays in implementation, with its groundbreaking taking place in February 2023, more than a decade after it was first envisioned.

While the project may not directly alleviate traffic conditions in Cebu, it is expected to enhance urban passenger transport systems in terms of quality, level of service, safety, and environmental efficiency, according to the World Bank. –

Wenilyn Sabalo is a community journalist currently affiliated with SunStar Cebu and is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

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