Briones: BRT project and the Indian trees

·2 min read

Will the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System, the planned mass transit system in Cebu City, finally get off the drawing board after years and years of being the subject of idle talk?

As recently as last April, a city councilor was pushing for a subway system rather than implementing the much-delayed project that is supposed to help ease traffic woes and address the public’s transportation needs. Or something like that.

It has been so long since the BRT was proposed I forgot why proponents proposed it in the first place.

In the meantime, architect Patrick Gozon, an environmental advocate who is a member of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc., has expressed hopes that the project’s implementers will use indigenous trees to replace “foreign” Indian trees that have been or will be earth-balled to be planted in other locations.

First of all, I would like to commend Mr. Gozon for bringing up the subject like it would actually come into fruition.

As we all know, Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas had said that the BRT system would be partially operational by the end of 2021 and fully operational in early 2023, which, by the way, is a few months away. Right now, they’re earth-balling trees that will be affected by the first phase of the project.

By golly, they’ve come a long way. Mind you, not that I’m being snarky, a new word I learned while watching the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, which I am. It’s just that World Bank consultants had completed the full feasibility study in 2012 yet—that’s almost like a decade ago— after it was first proposed by then mayor Tomas Osmeña in the 1990s back when I was a little boy.

Ahem.

And the first route was supposed to have been operational in 2019. The same route where they’re earth-balling trees that Mr. Gozon firmly believes should be replaced by endemic species.

And I fully support him. Native trees are the logical choice. They’re already adapted to our climate and environment. Not that I have anything against “Indian” trees. I’m sure they’re great. In India.

By the way, we are talking about planting lots of trees in other locations. A total of 100, in fact, for every tree that will be removed by the BRT project team, according to project head Norvin Imbong. So there’s a lot at stake here.

At any rate, I hope the project’s implementers will look into Mr. Gozon’s suggestion. I also fervently hope the project will not encounter any more setbacks and that it will be partially operational next year.

I mean it. Oh, who am I kidding?

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