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BRT advocate offers to help in SRP design, bus system

Monday, December 15, 2008 [ sunstar.com.ph ]

Linette C. Ramos

Sun.Star Staff Reporter


ASIDE from two foreign funding agencies, Cebu City Hall might also get some help and input for the South Road Properties (SRP) from one of the world's leading mass transport system advocates.


Former Bogota City, Colombia Mayor Enrique Peñalosa has expressed interest in making a design proposal for the SRP.


In a recent visit, he has said that the 302-hectare SRP, which could transform Cebu, "could become what Manhattan is to New York or what Makati is to Manila."


The former mayor, who introduced the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Bogota, has written City Planning and Development Coordinator Nigel Paul Villarete, Peñalosa offering what he could do.


In his letter, Peñalosa said the SRP "is probably the most exciting project" he has seen in the many cities he has worked in, and that it could transform Cebu and the Philippines.


"I work with a great team of some world-class urban designers from the London School of Economics, and I would love it if we could make a proposal for SRP's design. SRP could transform Cebu, the Philippines and have a profound effect in Asia's urban development," he said.


Peñalosa, though, said the City Government should incorporate new urban design elements that will make the SRP unique and better than Makati or Manhattan in several aspects.


Maximum gain


"A rapid but careful and comprehensive scheme can also be devised in order to ensure the maximum financial gain to Cebu City from the sale of the land. It should be a project that makes Cebu more attractive for international investors and tourists. It should also be accessible to all citizens of Cebu for their enjoyment," he said.


Villarete said that although Peñalosa's ideas and proposal were given unofficially through an e-mail, the City is willing to consider them.


Among other things, Peñalosa said he imagined the SRP to have a pedestrian waterfront around the reclaimed land, bicycle lanes, parks, marina, waterfront promenades, plazas, and the BRT system.


"Cebu's BRT should go across SRP and small feeder buses could bring passengers from different points to the BRT stations. Mayor Tommy Osmeña's vision of having no cars in the island may be too radical, but certainly cars could be restricted," he suggested.


Despite some differences in their ideas on how to go about the planning of SRP's utilities, Villarete believes the City can still work with the foreign consultants conducting studies on the infrastructure needed at the SRP.


He said he would rather wait for the succeeding workshops early next year to find out what direction the technical assistance will take.


Assistance


The Asian Development Bank-Cities Development Initiative for Asia (ADB-CDIA) has provided the City with a $499,000 grant in technical assistance in studying the utilities and infrastructure requirements of the SRP.


ADB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) may also be tapped for the funds needed to implement the recommendations of the consultants, if the City Government decides to accept them.


During a workshop last week, though, ADB and Jica representatives said that unless the City can provide a development framework or a master plan for the SRP, their agencies might not be able to provide funding.


Their comments upset Mayor-on-leave Tomas Osmeña, who said that he has long planned some of the utilities without any new input from both ADB and JICA.


"I really think that it will work out all right, it's just that there were some insistence from both sides; but we are going to work it out…. It's really up to what will happen in January, when the consultants will meet to thresh out their concerns for the studies to proceed," Villarete said.


He said he is happy that ADB has funded the project development and pre-feasibility studies in identifying the utilities.


"But we don't have to comply with anything. Yes, there is a technical assistance but it (results) is not something that should be forced on the City if it's against its will," he added.


Acting Mayor Michael Rama yesterday said he would meet Villarete and SRP Chief Operating Officer Nagiel Bañacia to discuss the outcome of the workshop.


"I will check with them on what were the feedbacks during the workshop and let's see what needs to be done. I don't want to add anything to what Mayor Tom said; he also has a point, but I will leave it at that," he said.

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