LRT set for endorsement by RDC, Tom still rejects project

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CEBU: Cebu City officials don’t want the project but proponents of the Light Railway Transit (LRT) will still submit it for discussion next month in the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Central Visayas.

The $602 million project needs approval of the three cities where the electric-powered rail transit system will pass – Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay.

Mayors of the three cities belong to the RDC 7, where the LRT project will be on the agenda of the 4th quarter meeting. However, Mayor Osmeña never attends council meetings which are chaired by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

Mayor Osmeña repeated his objection in an Oct. 26 letter to Undersecretary for Rails Guiling Mamondiong of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

He said the Cebu city government won’t endorse the project over its proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

“We are registering our opposition to it, as it runs counter to our established development goals and strategies,” Osmeña wrote.

“The recent LRT proposal of the DOTC will surely jeopardize (the Cebu City) government’s aspiration in as much as it targets the same ridership and runs in direct conflict to the BRT. We respectfully object to it.”

In a Nov. 5 reply received by the mayor’s office yesterday, Mamondiong said the mayor’s fear would not happen and that the proposed LRT underwent “rigid and vigorous study” that took almost five years.

He said both the BRT and the LRT were considered in the Metro Cebu Mass Rail Transit study.

The LRT project, which services passengers,would ply routes from Talisay City in the south to Mandaue City in the norrth under the first phase.

In the next phase, a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) would transport cargo in towns and citiess located far south and far north.

Mamondiong, however, admitted that the DOTC prefers the LRT project since “all technical indicators show that the most viable mode of mass trasnport for the route.. is either MRT or LRT.”

A rail system is “faster and reliable, among other benefits,” wrote the DOTC official who asked the mayor to reconsider his opposition.

A consortum of private investors is proposing to implement the LRT under a build-gradual transfer-operate-maintain scheme.

Johnny Ramos, LRT project director and vice president for AMA Group Holdings Corp., said the mayor’s objection may be raised before the RDC.

The DOTC and private investors are seeking RDC endorsement before the project is referred to the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) board for review and it is offered to other potential bidders in a Swiss challenge.

Ramos said investors, which will seek a foreign loan, said they could postpone project implementation after the May 2010 elections to erase doubts that the funds may be used for campaigns by some politicians.

But Mayor Osmeña, in an Oct. 26 letter, said the city council already passed a resoltuion on Dec. 10, 2006 declaring a bus-based mass urban transport system for Cebu City as a policy direction.

In a separate interview, City Councilor Edgardo Labella said any project of the national government needs the approval of the local sanggunian based on the Local Government Code.

Even if the LRT project gets a majority vote of support in the RDC meeting, the project needs to secure approval of the Cebu City Council, he said, otherwise the city can file for a court injunction.

Cebu City is awaiting results of two studies finetuning the bus-based transit system. A P32 million study by the DOTC focuses on a Public Transportation Strategic Plan for Metro Cebu.

A study to identify the BRT corridor in Cebu is being funded by a $355,000 grant of the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) of the World Bank.

The Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) and the Swedish International Development Agency is also conducting a $500,000 study that would determine the BRT’s feasibility in the South Road Properties (SRP).

By Doris C. Bongcac and Marian Z. Codilla, Reporters

Repost from: Cebu Daily News –

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