It’s all systems go for the much-anticipated Pasig River Expressway (PAREX), touted to be the country’s first green, hybrid expressway, as proponent San Miguel Corporation (SMC), together with the government broke ground Friday for the 19.37-kilometer project.
SMC president Ramon S. Ang, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Public Works Undersecretary for Planning and PPP Service Maria Catalina Cabral led groundbreaking rites held yesterday along the Pasig River in Pandacan, Manila.
The project, a P95-billion investment by SMC, 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 (SEMME) in Taguig.
Once operational, PAREX will link the eastern and western cities of Metro Manila and will connect to the Skyway system -- realizing the vision of an integrated elevated road network that will link the north, south, east, and west corridors of the capital.
“I believe this project is bound to be one of the most impactful projects during the time of President Rodrigo Duterte, in terms of integrating the social, economic, and environmental needs of our people. I’m very proud that we have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide an inclusive, future-ready solution to traffic, and at the same, restore the Pasig River back to its old glory,” said Ang or “RSA”.
“We thank government and especially the Build Build Build team, for allowing us to deliver another game-changing infrastructure, to help ease traffic, boost our economy, and improve the lives of so many Filipinos in Metro Manila,” he added.
Tugade said that after working with SMC and RSA on a number of projects already, he is sure that the PAREX will not only benefit the public, but also the environment.
“We are happy because we have a project like this connecting north to south and east to west. Never has this connectivity been thought of, and now it is being implemented. We thank RSA and the whole of San Miguel. Unequivocally I say, the DoTR fully supports this project because I know it is good for the people and the environment,” Tugade said.
Meanwhile, Medialdea said: “This 19.37 km six-lane road will definitely ease traffic in Manila. This was just a dream before, but now it’s becoming a reality. PAREX will be a gateway for the future of urban transport and will address the needs of urban living in today’s environment.”
On behalf of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Cabral said: “We in the DPWH, led by Sec. Mark Villar, believe that this will be a monumental and significant project as it will serve as the east-west connection from R-10 in Manila all the way to Taytay, Rizal.
“It will complete the network of expressways within Metro Manila area and will provide a solution to the growing traffic problem within the metropolis. The travel time from Manila to Pasig will be reduced to just about 15 to 20 minutes, once this project is finished,” she said.
According to Ang, PAREX will be built to accommodate more than just motor vehicles. Once complete, it will feature a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will benefit commuters all over Metro Manila, who will then have a comfortable, safe, and reliable, alternative to commuting anywhere in the metro.
The expressway will also have dedicated bike lanes to encourage healthy, environment -friendly modes of personal transportation, as well as pedestrian walkways to encourage walking or exercise.
Pasig River Rehabilitation
Separate from the project itself, SMC is also undertaking a P2 billion initiative to clean up and rehabilitate the Pasig River. Its goal is to extract some 3 million metric tons of silt and solid waste from the river, to improve the flow and carrying capacity of the river, in order to mitigate flooding.
With the river rehab project, the river itself can then be safely used again as an alternative mode of transportation, utilizing watercraft or water ferries.
Ang also addressed some critics of the project who have alleged it is supposedly bad for the environment, and that it would ruin views of the river, among other things.
“This is a private investment. We will spend our own money, so we will not build something that will not be beneficial to the public. We are not the type of people who will build something that will be bad for the public, the environment, and our country, for the sake of profits,” he said.
“In fact, we are investing a lot of money and other resources for these projects, even if the returns will take a while -- because our country needs them,” Ang said.
Ang said some sectors appear to be spreading misinformation about the project, claiming, among others that it will cover the Pasig River.
“That is not true. This will be built on the side of the river, along the easement of the Pasig River to be exact. It will not cover the river. The posts for the project will only take up 1 meter of space, while the average width of the Pasig River is 200 meters,” he illustrated.
He added that as part of its rehabilitation efforts for the Pasig River, the company will widen and deepen the tributary in critical areas where the river has become too shallow, based on findings of a bathymetric survey conducted by the company.
Ang cited the area at the mouth of Marikina River and Manggahan River as examples, saying the depth of these sections have been reduced to just 1.5 meters, while the Pandacan and Manila Bay areas are only at two meters.
The ideal depth of the river is at least eight meters, he said, to allow for enough floodwaters to flow through.
“From today throughout construction, we will clean up the river. We estimate to remove from three million metric tons of silt and solid waste. And even when we start operating the expressway, we will continue to dredge and clean-up the river because we know that no matter what, garbage will still make their way into the river,” Ang said.
“Also, we know that a lot of silt, sand, and dirt will still go into the river from the Sierra Madre mountains, via the Marikina River, so the river needs to be maintained. We are committed to continuously dredge and clean it up for the next 30 years,” Ang added.
Apart from cleaning the Pasig River, Ang also said that the integration of green architecture principles and multiple modes of transportation will make PAREX a truly inclusive infrastructure project will benefit pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, and the environment.
“Though PAREX, we will solve traffic and congestion, provide jobs for thousands of Filipinos, boost productivity, improve people’s daily commutes, address flooding, and save the Pasig River itself. More than that, we can also encourage more people to be active and healthy. This is what it means to help make Metro Manila truly livable again,” he said.