PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Monday that the bus rapid transit (BRT) which he broke ground on in Cebu will herald more “innovative” transport solutions intended to boost economic activity.

He made the remarks at the groundbreaking of the first package of Cebu’s P16.307-billion BRT.

“Rest assured that the National Government remains committed to improving economic activities in the many parts of our country through the introduction of innovative solutions to public transport and the improvement of mobility infrastructure, among others,” Mr. Marcos said in a speech.

“My administration resolutely supports you in exploring ways to improve our public transport systems and in forging partnerships that will help the Philippines keep up with the innovative interventions of other progressive countries.”

Mr. Marcos urged the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to finish the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project, which is being funded by the World Bank and French Development Agency, on time.

“I also want to take this opportunity (to call on) the DoTr and other stakeholders to finish this project within the target completion timeline,” he said. “I think if we in fact start operations in December, that will be the best possible Christmas gift that we can give to Cebu.”

The ceremony kicked off the civil works for the four stations under Package I of the project, which involves the construction of a 2.38-kilometer segregated bus lane with four bus stations, the Palace said.

It also involves the construction of a 1.15-kilometer pedestrian walkway, which will link the system to the port of Cebu.

Package I, which costs almost P1 billion, was awarded to the Chinese contractor Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Co. Ltd. in November.

Mr. Marcos urged the DoTr “to ensure the just compensation of the property owners who will be affected by the CBRT project.”

The bus rapid transit project will “support economic development through travel time savings, environmental improvements, and reduction of accidents among residents and visitors,” he said.

The project is modeled after the BRT systems in Bogota, Colombia, Curitiba, Brazil, Seoul, South Korea, and Guangzhou, China.

The 13.18-kilometer project “will not only reduce travel time between Cebu’s north and south districts but also boost economic productivity in various communities through the efficient mobility of passengers, goods, and services,” Transport Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said in a speech.

“The project likewise promises to provide better job security and working conditions for the PUV drivers and reduce vehicle and pedestrian accidents,” he added.

The project consists of three packages, and can accommodate 83 12-meter buses by its opening year.

It is expected to be fully operational by the second quarter of 2025, Mr. Bautista said. It can accommodate as many as 160,000 passengers a day, he added.

The BRT “took 20 years before the project became a reality,” the Palace said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza