PH shelves crucial Metro Manila bus rapid transit project
Amid problems plaguing the day-to-day commute of Filipinos, the government has scrapped a much touted bus rapid transit (BRT) line in Metro Manila having been overshadowed by slow progress, lack of will as well as the effect of the pandemic.
The World Bank had agreed with the government to cancel the full undisbursed balance for the $64.6-million loan it approved in 2017 for the Metro Manila BRT Line 1 project. Only $100,000 worth had been disbursed so far from the loan that will expire this coming November.
“Despite the renewed commitment from government counterparts, project implementation remained slow during the last three years. The project has zero procurement activity completed,” the World Bank said.
The Department of Finance has likewise submitted a formal cancellation request last June 21 for the $64.5 million in still undisbursed loans.
The World Bank blamed the weak capacity of the “inexperienced” implementing agency National BRT Program Management Office, inefficient procurement management, lack of general government budget allocation, as well as the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic for the “poor” performance of the Metro Manila BRT project.
Put on hold
The lender noted the project already experienced delays even before the signing of the loan in 2019.
“Following the national election in 2016, the new government put several donor-supported urban transport projects agreed/approved by the previous administration on hold to reassess their priority. As a result, the proposed BRT project for Asian Development Bank financing was shelved; the implementation of the World Bank-financed Cebu BRT project was stalled; and the signing of the loan agreements for the [Metro Manila BRT] project was delayed,” the multilateral lender said.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is the implementing agency for the Metro Manila and Cebu BRT projects. It did not, however, include both projects in the P5.02-trillion 2022 national budget.
The P5.5-billion, 11.5-kilometer BRT lane that would have traversed Quezon Avenue and España Boulevard could have served as many as 300,000 passengers daily. It was targeted for full operations this month.
The BRT would slash the travel time between the stations in Quezon Memorial Circle and Manila City Hall from two hours at present to only 43 minutes through a system of 167 high-quality buses.
Like trains, BRT systems run on dedicated lanes, carrying large numbers of travelers faster and safer. But unlike trains that run on rails, BRTs use buses, making the system simpler as well as cheaper to construct, operate and maintain.
The World Bank also earlier reported that the Cebu BRT’s implementation progress “has been negatively affected due to the lack of budget.”
The World Bank said overall implementation of Cebu’s BRT was “moderately unsatisfactory” as the DOTr “would need to secure necessary budget cover to move forward with key project activities.”
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