P400M will decongest city traffic, benefit Cebu – Tomas

Posted on September 25, 2012

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The P400 million budget realigned for south Cebu  road widening  will decongest traffic in Cebu City and spur development in the countryside, said Cebu City  Rep. Tomas Osmeña  yesterday.

He called a press conference to show the benefits  of the new priority, saying Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who called him “guilty of treason” for shifting the funds out of the city, had “no moral standing” to say who was a traitor.

“This is a good project. Even better than a flyover in terms of economic returns,” said Osmeña, citing his perspective of  Cebu’s development for the last 20 years since his days heading the Metro Cebu Development Project as city mayor in the 1990s.

“I always look ahead,” he said.

Osmeña also explained his “gift” to the 1st district of Rep. Eduardo Gullas was a better option than arguing with Mayor Rama, who wanted the money spent on drainage and road repair in Cebu City, which can’t be realigned for that.

Since the P400 million budget of the Deparment of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is earmarked for national roads, Osmeña explained that the funds he earlier earmarked for  flyover projects in Lahug, Cebu City , which the mayor opposed, can’t be used for another purpose like  drainage improvement or local roads.

Osmeña had  earlier threatened at the height of their quarrel to just let the DPWH fund revert unused to the national government.

At the press conference, DPWH officials explained how the fund would be used.

“Thank you sir for the P400 million which you shared with the 2nd engineering district,” said Engr. Daisy Toledo of DPWH.

“Rather than having the money go back to government coffers, it is better for it to be spent for the Naga-Carcar road widening project. He (Osmeña)  lobbied for the fund at the Congress budget hearing for infrastructure. It will be better that Cebuanos benefit from it,” Marie Nillama DPWH 7 spokesperson told Cebu Daily News.

“This fund is a fruit of his lobbying. He can realign the project especially since Mayor Mike Rama rejected the proposed projects in Cebu City.”

In the DPWH breakdown of the  P400 million, more  than half or  P270.6 million will be used to widen  bridges and its approaches  in barangays Tinaan, Langtad, San Isidro, San Fernando, Suba and Valladolid.

“All these bridges including drainages are along N. Bacalso Avenue.  These are part of the north-south backbone towards the southern part of Cebu province.  Widening of these bridges will decongest traffic towards the southeast of Cebu. There are several tourist destinations in the southern part of Cebu and neighboring provinces,” Toledo said in a project brief .

Other projects to be charged to the P400 million are the improvement of lined canals at the Carcar and Sibonga sections of N. Bacalso Avenue – P23.4 million and the Carcar City bridge construction project – P50 million and the Carcar City bypass road project – P56 million.

“Considering (that) Carcar City (is) a heritage city, there is a need to preserve heritage structures declared by Unesco. The bypass road is an alternative road parallel to Natalio Bacalso Avenue the north – south backbone of Cebu province.  Parallel to Natalio Bacalso Avenue the construction of the bypass road will decongest traffic towards southeast and southwest of Cebu,” said the DPWH  project brief.

Osmeña said he wanted these projects bidded out and implemented before the election ban starts.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, in a separate interview, said Osmeña shouldn’t  be harping about donating the money because these were funds of the national government and didn’t belong to him.

“For one who cannot even be clear about whether a property or cars for that matter can be accepted as gifts, personal gifts by one who has been doing business with the city government.. then we talk we talk about this P400 million .. I can understand his confusion,” she added.

But Congressman Osmeña just smiled and said the episode just shows he has the  influence to secure the amount.

“I’m just a neophyte congressman and I was able to get P400 million for the 1st district in Cebu province.  Have the Garcias ever done that for a  district?” he asked, referring to father and son, Rep. Pablo Garcia of the 2nd district and Pablo John of the 3rd district.

The Naga to Carcar road widening project, a longtime priority of Congressman Gullas cost  P1.025 billion.

Work started with  P200 million budget secured by  Gullas from his pork barrel . With Osmeña waiving his say over P400 million in  DPWH road infrastructure DPWH funds,  the 15.7 kilometer road project  only needs P425 million to complete.

The road project will also include the widening of six bridges and its approaches, and a road drainage improvement project at the Carcar City section.

To realign the whole P400 million for another purpose, like drainage, would  need approval of  DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson following a request filed at the regional office.

Osmeña said that much as he wanted to spend the allocation to build two new flyovers and road improvement projects in Cebu City, he didn’t want to engage in a lengthy discussion with Rama on where the national funds should be spent.

Budget deliberation

The Cebu City congressman said he supports road improvements to decongest traffic and spread economic growth to the countryside, the way he did as head of the Metro Cebu Development Project when he was first elected mayor in 1988.

Osmeña said  the south Cebu road links to west coast municipalities of Pinamungahan and Toledo which can reach  the provinces of Bohol and Negros Oriental through roll-on-roll-off ports.

During the budget hearing for 2013, Rep. Gullas, he recalled was asking Secretary Singson for additional appropriation for the Naga-Carcar road project.

Singson asked congressmen who among them was willing to give up his share of national government infrastructure budget.

“I immediately volunteered to give up the P400 million road allocation supposedly intended for Cebu City,” Osmeña said.

He said he doesn’t have to explain his decision to Rama.

“What is his moral standing to lecture anybody about being a traitor?” Osmeña said of his former political ally.

A realignment of the P400 million appropriation to fund a local project or a drainage project perhaps, would mean that the fund would revert to the the national government’s general funds for reappropriation in the 2013 budget.

“We will have to again fight for that (to be approved) in the national budget which I don’t intend  because I will no longer be a congressman,” he said. /Doris C. Bongcac, Chief of Reporters with reports from Carmel Loise Matus and Jessa J. Agua

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