San Miguel Corp. (SMC) recently defended its P95-billion Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) project against transport and environmental groups.
SMC president Ramon Ang said in a statement certain allegations hurled against the project were “lies”.
Ang stressed the company’s commitment to undertake the project “at a level of sustainability never before done by any other private company.” He added “those leading others to denounce the project are manipulative and single-minded in their goal of creating distrust for PAREX for their own agenda.”
Critics said PAREX will worsen pollution and induce people to buy more cars, to which Ang replied the number of vehicles will continue to rise with or without the 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 will not be exclusive to vehicles as it includes bicycle lanes and pedestrian areas to provide a safer environment for people to use alternative ways of getting from one place to another.
He also denied claims the project is anti-poor and that it would only benefit the privileged who use cars.
Ira Cruz, director of AltMobility PH – a transport advocacy group – said PAREX will only worsen traffic congestion. He said, “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. 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 said the project would only benefit those who can afford and not the general public, as 88% of households do not own cars. “This is the 88% 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 added PAREX would also most likely have environmental repercussions, aggravate health issues, and endanger important heritage and historical properties along the Pasig River.
In response to allegations 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 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.