Marcos delays groundbreaking of Cebu Bus Rapid Transit

THE availability of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has affected the scheduled groundbreaking ceremony of the long-overdue Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project as it has been moved again to Feb. 24, 2023, delaying the start of the project yet again just months before foreign loans taken out for the project expire.

The Cebu City Government through the Public Information Office announced last Jan. 11 that the BRT’s Package 1 groundbreaking would happen on Feb. 2 with the presence of Marcos Jr.

However, during a press conference on Monday, Jan. 23, the City’s BRT project overseer, engineer Roberto Varquez, said a new tentative schedule had been set since the schedule of the President had yet to be finalized.

Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the committee on infrastructure, told SunStar Cebu Tuesday that all preparations for the groundbreaking ceremony were in place and they were just waiting for the final schedule.

The civil works for Package 1 of the projects cover the route from Capitol through Osmeña Blvd. and going to the Cebu South Bus Terminal on N. Bacalso Ave.

“As to the definite date, wala pa gyud mi (we still don’t have a) final schedule... Bati kaayo magsugod ang construction unya wala pay groundbreaking,” said Guardo. (It would be very ugly to start construction before the groundbreaking.)

Despite this, the construction of the BRT’s Package 1 is still on schedule since a series of meetings had already been conducted since December 2022, he said.

The China-based firm Hunan Road and Bridge (HNRB) Construction Company Ltd. won the bid to implement the P17.3 billion first BRT alignment last November.

In early December, SunStar reported that road works on the project were supposed to begin last Jan. 7, after a groundbreaking ceremony on the same day. However, Guardo urged HNRB to begin roadworks only after Cebu City’s Jan. 15, 2023 Sinulog Festival to avoid traffic jams along Osmeña Blvd.

Paul Gotiong of the Cebu City Transportation Office said Tuesday that when the civil works begin, there will be no traffic rerouting along the route. This is to avoid disturbance to motorists and commuters.

Gotiong said they had asked the contractor to work on one side of the road at a time so there will be a passable lane for the vehicles.

Road signage and advisories about the construction works will also be installed around the city to inform the motorists and have them take other roads to avoid any traffic buildup along the construction area.

Gotiong also said the contractor is required to deploy personnel to assist in the flow of traffic.

Loans expiring

Foreign loans amounting to US$198 million were taken out from the Agence Francaise de Développement (AFD) and the World Bank for the construction of the 39.88-kilometer Cebu BRT project. The loans for the three-package project took effect in December 2014.

The loans closed in 2021 without a shadow of any BRT construction, so the Department of Transportation sought an extension.

The loan from the French government, through the AFD, was extended until March 2023, while the World Bank loan was extended to June 2023.

The project already incurred P29.48 million in cumulative commitment fees from 2015 to 2019 for its late implementation. Commitment fees are charges levied on undisbursed balances—accrued after a loan becomes effective.