Ang defends Parex

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star
Ang defends Parex
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) has denounced allegations being made by transport and environmental groups against the company’s P95-billion Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) project.

In a statement yesterday, SMC president Ramon Ang defended the project from what he called as “lies” being propagated against it.

Despite the company’s commitment to undertake the project “at a level of sustainability never before done by any other private company,” Ang said “those leading others to denounce the project are manipulative and single-minded in their goal of creating distrust for PAREX for their own agenda.”

On the issue that the PAREX will worsen pollution and induce people to buy more cars, Ang said the number of vehicles would continue to rise nonetheless, with or without the upcoming project.

“It is not expressways that induce people to buy more cars. It is poor or insufficient public transportation, pollution, and even personal progress of people,” Ang said.

“Traffic and pollution will worsen if we do not build efficient, multi-purpose, future-ready infrastructure such as the PAREX,” he said.

Ang said PAREX would also not be exclusive to vehicles as it would incorporate bicycle lanes and pedestrian areas to provide a safer environment for people to use alternative ways of getting from one place to another.

The businessman said there is also no truth to claims that the project is anti-poor and that it would only benefit the privileged who use cars.

“We have announced the PAREX will be a hybrid expressway, accommodating multiple modes of transportation. Apart from accommodating motor vehicles, it will also feature a modern and efficient public transport system in the form of a Bus Rapid Transit that will run on both the Skyway and PAREX. This will enable faster, more reliable, safer, comfortable and affordable commutes to and from the northern, southern, eastern, and western areas of Metro Manila,” he said.

Ira Cruz, director of transport advocacy group AltMobility PH, said PAREX would only worsen traffic congestion instead of solving it.

“In order for us to decongest our roads, we need to provide infrastructure that will reduce car dependence; a transport environment where taking public transportation, biking or walking are not inferior modes of transport – in fact, the preferred mode of transportation. Yet, for as long as I can remember, we have been building and widening roads, building flyovers, but still end up stranded on the road – PAREX will continue this cycle,” Cruz told The STAR.

“Induced demand happens where demand increases as you increase supply – in this case, roads for cars. So while we might experience relief at the beginning, demand will just eventually catch up – and we’re back where we started,” he said.

Cruz said the project would only benefit a few who can afford and not the general public, as 88 percent of households do not own a car.

“This is the 88 percent whose welfare the government needs to be in the business of improving,” he said.

“We also need to remember that this is a toll road – this won’t be free,” Cruz said.

Cruz said PAREX would also most likely have environmental repercussions, aggravate health issues, and endanger important heritage and historical properties along the Pasig River.

As to such concerns that the project will destroy Pasig River, SMC said the river has long been considered biologically dead and has been reduced to a flowing dumpsite for solid waste, industrial and chemical wastes, and sewage.

Ang said SMC, however, is mounting the largest river clean-up and rehabilitation effort for the river.

The company will spend P2 billion initially to extract at least three million metric tons of solid waste from the river to allow it to channel floodwaters more effectively, and also to allow for safer operations of water ferries.

“Adaptations to the environment and local surroundings are part of our commitments with the government and local government units. All valid concerns will also be addressed during the detailed engineering design development phase for the project,” said Ang, noting that PAREX would be built only on the banks of Pasig River.

SMC also set the record straight on the issue involving the firm of internationally-renowned architect, environment planner, and green urbanism advocate Felino Palafox Jr. to help in building the PAREX project.

Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group Inc., in a statement, said they have not signed any contract to be the consultant of the PAREX.

“Our firm remains strong with our stand that public and private sectors must work together in addressing this climate crisis through multisectoral sustainable development. This means that all economic, social, health and environmental aspects must be carefully assessed before proceeding with any project,” they said.

Ang said the company has had initial discussion with Palafox and Associates for a potential consulting agreement.

However, he emphasized that there is no formal engagement with Palafox.

“But we have been in discussion, something that we have been very clear from the start – that we want him to help us do PAREX right,” he said.

“We’ve come to learn from him, however, that forces critical of the project have been exerting pressure on him, his associates, and his family to drop the project. We believe this is part of an orchestrated and continuing demolition job to paint the project as the opposite of what it truly is,” Ang said.

Ang believes Palafox and his team could help the company level up Philippine infrastructure to benefit people, the economy, and the environment.

“With the project now formally approved by government, we can move forward with engaging design consultants and working on the detailed design. This is the phase where all valid concerns of stakeholders will be taken into consideration—and where architect Palafox and his team can provide us invaluable help,” he said.

The 19.37-kilometer PAREX project which broke ground last Friday, will be a six-lane elevated expressway that will run along the banks of the river from Radial Road 10 in Manila to C-6 Road or the South East Metro Manila Expressway in Taguig.

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