THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Monday said that the Cebu bus rapid transit (BRT) project needs to go ahead as planning for its implementation is in the advanced stages, but the government continues to be open to a railway project in the future.
“As a short-term solution I think (BRT) is the way to go, and later on simultaneously they can start the longer-term program,” Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters late Monday when asked whether he wants to proceed with the Cebu BRT project.
The Department of Transportation (DoTr) plans to abandon the project in favor of an elevated light rail transit line, citing Cebu’s narrow roads that cannot accommodate dedicated lanes for buses.
Mr. Pernia gave the DoTr until June 30 to submit “robust evidence” to back the cancellation of the BRT.
“There’s no verdict yet, but we will have one very soon,” he said.
The $228.5 billion project was approved by the government in 2014.
The World Bank will fund $116 million of the total cost, and has so far disbursed some $12.27 million for the project’s implementation.
The bank has argued that the BRT is “technically viable,” because such systems have been in operation in cities with narrow roads, and that there are “technical solutions” to address the problem.
The Cebu BRT has the strong support of the city’s mayor, Tomas R. Osmeña, who also welcomes the proposed commuter rail line in Cebu for the future as long as the new bus system is implemented first.
The project is among the four planned BRT systems in the country to reduce congestion and lower carbon emissions.
The others include the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) BRT, expected to be operational in 2020, the España-Quezon Ave. BRT eyed for 2019, and the Bonifacio Global City-Ninoy Aquino International Airport route in 2019.
Mr. Tugade also opposes a BRT line for EDSA. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan