29 September 2021

San Miguel Corporation and Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, Inc have had initial discussions for a potential consulting agreement for the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) project.

Architect Palafox is one of the master-planners of one of our major projects and in our regular meetings with him, he has expressed strong belief in the need to increase accessibility between the eastern and western corridors of Metro Manila as part of a broader strategy towards decongesting Metro Manila, and easing the many negative impacts of traffic. 

There is no formal engagement with Arch 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.

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.

Despite public pronouncements we’ve made committing to undertake the project at a level of sustainability never before done by any other private company—including the P2-billion cleanup of the Pasig River and its long-term rehabilitation; integration of a Bus Rapid Transit system, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian walkways; and our intent to tap Arch. Palafox to ensure the project will integrate green architecture principles—those leading others to denounce the project are manipulative and single-minded in their goal of creating distrust for PAREX for their own agenda.

Some of the lies that have been propagated:

Lie: PAREX will destroy Pasig River.

TRUTH: Pasig River has long been considered biologically dead and has been reduced to a flowing dumpsite for solid waste, industrial and chemical wastes, and sewage. In terms of solid wastes, bathymetric studies we have conducted place the depth of the river at now just 1 ½ meters at the mouth of the Marikina River and Manggahan river. Meanwhile the Pandacan and Manila Bay areas are down to two meters. This is a major cause of flooding. But SMC is taking action. We are mounting the largest river clean-up and rehabilitation effort for the Pasig River. We will spend P2 billion initially to extract at least 3 million metric tons of solid waste from the river to allow it to channel floodwaters more effectively. This will also allow for safer operations of water ferries.

Lie: Photos circulating that PAREX will cover the entire Pasig River.

TRUTH: PAREX will be built only on the banks of Pasig River, its posts occupying only 1 meter of the average 200 meters width of the Pasig River. 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.

Lie: PAREX is anti-poor. It will only benefit the privileged who use cars.

TRUTH: 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.

Lie: PAREX will worsen pollution and induce people to buy more cars.

TRUTH: 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. The number of vehicles will continue to rise with or without PAREX. Traffic and pollution will worsen if we do not build efficient, multi-purpose, future-ready infrastructure such as the PAREX. Through well-designed infrastructure, we will decongest our cities, make trips faster and more economical, and help reduce air pollution caused by hours of stand-still traffic all over Metro Manila–including in city or residential streets that motorists use as “short cut” routes. Providing better, more efficient alternative public transport in the form of PAREX’s BRT and other ongoing mass rail projects, will also lessen the use of cars. PAREX will also not be exclusive to vehicles. It will incorporate bicycle lanes and pedestrian areas, to provide a safer environment for people to use alternative ways of getting from one place to another.

Lie: RSA said Palafox signed up for PAREX.

Truth: RSA said in all of the company’s related statements that it “is tapping Palafox.” Meaning, discussions are ongoing. Palafox signified his intention to think about the project and see how he can marry both his and RSA’s vision for a sustainable, inclusive, green, hybrid infrastructure that will benefit both people and the environment.

There are many more issues that have been raised to paint the project in a negative light, and we will take the time to explain to the public, so they can properly appreciate the merits of the project.

In the meantime, we express our full support and confidence on Arch. Palafox and his team, whom we see can help us 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 Arch. Palafox and his team can provide us invaluable help.

Our track record of initiatives speak for itself.  San Miguel today is perhaps one of the most invested and committed in terms of nation-building, improving the lives of Filipinos, and saving the environment.

Of the many projects being done today to narrow our infrastructure deficit, PAREX stands out as a long-term, inclusive, and sustainable solution to traffic congestion, flooding, public transport inadequacies, and decades of Pasig River pollution.

There are those who only cry for the long-dead Pasig river to be “saved” now—after being indifferent to it and our many other rivers that have suffered the same fate, for so many decades.

But today, SMC has the capability, resources, and engineering talent to clean-up, rehabilitate, and take care of the river for the long-term, even as we will rely on it help solve our cities’ many problems: ease traffic congestion, improve accessibility and mobility for everyday commuters, revitalize our economy, create jobs, and arrest severe pollution caused by hours of stand-still traffic. All these at no cost to taxpayers and government.

It will be a great disservice to millions of Filipinos who will benefit from the multiple benefits of this project, if a vocal, passionate, but perhaps misinformed sectors of society, will be swayed to inaction or the status quo.

We remain steadfast in our mission of being part of the solution, of doing things right, showing malasakit for our people and environment, and supporting nation-building for the common good. We thank our national government and our Metro Manila local government units for their support and collaboration, as we work to ensure PAREX becomes the project we all dream it to be.