Suspend work on Cebu BRT Packages 2, 3 – councilor

Wenilyn Sabalo

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Suspend work on Cebu BRT Packages 2, 3 – councilor

CEBU BRT. Workers install detectable warning surfaces on Osmeu00f1a Boulevard sidewalks to enhance safety for the visually impaired in Cebu City, on December 8, 2023.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

Although the BRT is a national government project, much of the construction work is affecting Cebu City and its residents

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Amid what he calls “countless blunders” reportedly plaguing the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, Cebu City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco called for the suspension of scheduled civil works for BRT Packages 2 and 3.

The councilor is against further road closures that would consequently worsen indefinitely the traffic situation in the city.

Instead, Cuenco called on the BRT proponent to first resolve the pending issues hounding the construction of Package 1 and its proposed partial operation this year.

“No matter how much we want to trust these projections and timelines, it is leading us to the inevitable conclusion that this project will not be finished as scheduled,” Cuenco said in a privilege speech he delivered during the regular city council session on Wednesday, February 21.

Cuenco’s privilege speech came a few weeks after representatives from the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) appeared before the city council on February 7, upon its request, to apprise the council on the progress of the ongoing BRT construction.

The council is particularly concerned about the traffic situation of the city that is reportedly worsened by the delays in the BRT project implementation. (READ: Cebu BRT to be partially operational by Q2 2024 – DoTr)

During the February 7 executive session, NEDA told the council that the project remains economically viable despite delays, while the DOTr bared new projected timelines.

DOTr said it aims to partially operate the BRT once its Package 1 is completed by the second quarter of 2024.

Package 2

Norvin Imbong, deputy project manager for systems and stakeholders relations of the DOTr, in the same executive session, said they are now starting with the procurement of Package 2 and “have already started reaching out to more companies that will be participating in the bidding process, land acquisition, resettlement, and social management.”

BRT Package 2 includes the South trunk – from the South Road properties to Mambaling via N. Bacalso Avenue – while Package 3 refers to the BRT’s North trunk – from Capitol to North Escario to Gorordo Avenue to Arch. Reyes Avenue to IT Park.

However, Cuenco, head of the city’s transportation committee, said the completion of the BRT project would take a lot longer and become more expensive, unless “corrective” measures are done before proceeding to the civil works for the succeeding phases of the BRT construction.

The councilor pointed out that it is impossible for the DOTr to actually partially operate BRT Package 1 by 2024 because of several issues that still have to be addressed.

BRT Package 1 stretches for 2.38 kilometers from Cebu South Bus Terminal on N. Bacalso Avenue to the front of Cebu Provincial Capitol Building on Osmeña Boulevard.

Although the BRT is a national government project, much of the construction work is affecting Cebu City and its residents.


Cuenco pointed out that the DOTr aims to partially operate this year, when it has yet to finalize institutional arrangement and the mode of operation (whether public-private partnership or government) of the buses on the BRT route, as these are still subject to an ongoing feasibility study as of February.

He also raised concerns about the challenges to acquire the lots needed for the succeeding BRT packages. 

While the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is working on the acquisition of the lots affected along the national road, he said private lot owners are holding on to their properties pending the finalization of the city government’s plan to update its real property tax ordinance, which would raise the price of owners’ lots and properties.

Cuenco suggested allowing the proponent to finish constructing BRT Package 1, then observing and studying its partial operations to help determine if the BRT really works.

“In the meantime, let’s urge the BRT (proponent) to take a pause and suspend any further civil works of packages 2 and 3 until all the pending issues shall have been resolved to spare the public from having to bear further traffic nightmares,” Cuenco said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Cuenco then urged the executive department to “immediately commence” the construction and opening of alternative roads while waiting for the completion of the BRT. –

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

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