By Ben R. Rosario
Lawmakers are calling on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to thoroughly restudy its decision to drop the multi-billion-peso Bus Rapid Transit system project as one of the solutions to address the failing mass transport system in the country’s most crowded urban centers.
Reps. Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) and Bayani Fernando (PDP-Laban, Marikina City) lamented that the DOTr will no longer pursue the project that had already been given the go signal in the House of Representatives.
Previously, the DOTr showed aggressiveness in pushing for the implementation of the project in Metro Manila, noting that the BRT will provide “safe, reliable and comfortable” rides for some 300,000 commuters daily along España and Quezon Avenue in Manila and Quezon City.
The World Bank has reportedly approved the loan for the 12.3-kilometer Metro Manila BRT Line 1 from Quezon Memorial Circle to Manila City Hall. Government needs to raise at least R5 billion for the project.
Similar BRT Lines were also planned on EDSA for R37.8 billion and another in Cebu costing at least R11 billion.
Congressmen learned of the DOTr decision during a hearing of the Committee on Metro Manila Development chaired by Castelo.
Castelo noted that Congress had already approved the funding for the project as it was presented by the DOTr as cost-effective and fast solution to the Metro Manila traffic crisis.
The decision to give up the project was revealed by DOTr Secrtetary Arthur Tugade in a letter he sent to National Economic Development (NEDA) Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia, said Castelo.
NEDA OIC-Director Hazel Iris Baliatan said that the DOTr affirmed in a May 28, 2018 letter the department’s support for a rail project covering the same alignment over the BRT system.
During the hearing, Fernando recounted that a similar bus transit system was previously implemented for Metro Manila, specifically during his term as chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
Fernando said it should have been improved by government, instead of abandoning the project.
Castelo said that if indeed there is no longer hope to convince DOTr to reconsider its decision, the funds allocated for the project should be transferred to the MMDA in order to fund a project that will help alleviate the monstrous traffic situation in Metro Manila.
The QC lawmaker said the DOTr may also pursue MMDA’s BRT version.
The Metro Manila BRT Line Project would have cost government $109.4 million, with $64.6 million to be made available by the WB’s Clean Technology Fund.
The Philippine government will provide the $44.8 million needed to complete the project.
Experts believe that the BRT will not only address traffic concerns, but will also become a major anti-pollution system for the country. It can prevent the release of around 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere in the next 20 years, experts revealed.