"This project is the product of countless studies."
It is unfortunate that this early, even before the final design and engineering works on the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) is submitted for implementation, a number of sectors, most of whom are working on speculative norms and false assumptions, have mounted a multi-media campaign to discredit the project.
The most ridiculous opposition is that the project will not ease traffic at all.
Worse, if we extend this hare-brained idea to the extreme, it will supposedly degrade the metropolis' premier river system extending from the shores of Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. The pollution will be such, according to the detractors, that the heat index will rise to a degree we will regret.
If these guys are really that determined to bring this otherwise laudable project down, I suggest they bring their ridiculous arguments to the areas affected by the daily heavy traffic and the continuing pollution and occupation of the river's easements. Let’s see whether they can come out of there without any harsh words or even a slap in the face. To these suffering souls and, of course, all of us in the metropolis who have to cope with all the hassles that traffic, pollution and squatting, among other concerns, bring, this expressway project is long overdue.
PAREX is not really a new idea. This was part of the comprehensive urban renewal and redevelopment plan conceived decades ago under the Marcos administration by the Planning and Project Development Office (PPDO), a unit composed of urban planners, engineers, economists, social scientists and architects, directly under then Secretary David Consunji.
This plan was subsequently updated and adopted by the Metro Manila Development Authority under then First Lady and Human Settlements Minister Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
One of those who worked on the comprehensive plan was a young architect and urban planner named Felino "Jun" Palafox, Jr. He has since graduated and become a world-renowned urban planner who has brought life and renewal to a number of now-booming and living metro areas like Dubai and Singapore, among others.
So before the detractors go to town with their non-sequiturs and far-our speculations, it is best to emphasize that this project is not an off-the-cuff, run-of-the-mill one. It is the product of countless studies and updating that should have been undertaken a long time ago. It would have saved a lot of our urbanizing metropolis all the problems of blight and unmitigated sprawl which we are now encountering at tremendous cost to life and property.
This elevated expressway will connect the densely populated, urbanizing areas of eastern Metro Manila and the lake towns of Rizal, Laguna and parts of Cavite to the western part of the metropolis up to R-10 going to the harbor area and parts of Bulacan. It will be a multi-use highway with bike and commuter lanes hewing to the riverbanks. It will have a number of off and down ramps and will connect to the NLEX and SLEX as part of a web of expressways, easing connectivity in what is now known as the Metro Manila bubble consisting of the 14 LGUs in Metro Manila with the booming provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and, of course, Bulacan and Pamanga to the north.
To top it off, the project comes with a permanent solution to the pollution and flooding which a heavily silted river system brings. To ensure that the expressway's use is optimized, pollution minimized and the riverbanks' easements protected from squatting and blight, the government obliged the proponent, San Miguel Corporation, to do all of those things aside from building, operating and maintaining the highway for the concession term. The benefits in terms of traffic easing, connectivity and urban redevelopment are so straight forward only the most rabid anti-development guys with their wooly ideas will say no to it.
Former Public Works and Executive Secretary Ping de Jesus, himself a no-nonsense administrator and planner, expressed support for this project saying it will be a major factor in solving the ever growing traffic congestion in Metro Manila streets, among other benefits.
Said de Jesus: " As one who was once involved in infrastructure development and construction, I can only impress on the public the increased accessibility that PAREX will bring to its service area and beyond will generally spur greater growth and economic activity. It will be built with cost recovery coming from tolls under the user-pay principle. Hence, people who will not use the expressway will not be paying for the project from the taxes which the government collects."
In sum, it is one of those " win-win" big ticket infrastructure projects which we have long been hoping built in as proper and timely a fashion for some time.