Friday , 19 April 2024

Winners and losers in SMC’s scrapping the PAREX project

By Rose de la Cruz

Has tycoon Ramon S. Ang of multi-diversified San Miguel Corp. finally decided to scrap or drop the P100-billion Pasig River tollway project, or as he clarified in a business paper, he is just contemplating and weighing the public sentiment against the cost-benefit of pursuing the project?

This remains the biggest question todate, but already there are winners and losers should he decide to completely forgo the multi-billion endeavor. The winners obviously are environmental advocates and the communities surrounding the moribund river, which had cost several billions of pesos to be cleaned and cleared by both government and private sectors.

The elevated 19.4-kilometersPAREX, skirting the banks of Pasig River, would have connected the cities of Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Taguig and Taytay (Rizal) and would have eased traffic congestion in MM. It broke ground on September 24, 2021 while the construction is pending approval for Environmental Compliance Certificate. The project– a joint venture between SMC and the Philippine National Construction Corp.– was eventually canceled in 2023 due to public uproar.

The losers of course are people in communities in the suburbs of NCR, which are highly inaccessible on account of heavy daily traffic jams, and could thus not progress as fast as the local governments in Metro Manila. For instance, going to Tanay from Quezon City would take almost 3 hours whereas with the PAREX (or Pasig River Expressway) travel from Manila to Rizal would take 15 minutes. Think of the savings in time, gas and effort going via private transport and even, if allowed, public transport systems traveling via PAREX.

The noise, traffic and inconvenience that we would expect during the construction of the tollway can be too much to bear, for now, but think long term– how easier life could be for all to travel from any point of Metro Manila to the east.

Ang explained to media on Monday his position on PAREX: “I am the kind of business that when I see that our countrymen do not like the project, I won’t continue with it.”

In 2021, SMC signed a supplemental toll operations agreement with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the construction of the P81.53-billion Parex. The supplemental agreement would have given SMC a 30-year franchise to build and operate the 19.4-kilometer Parex along the Pasig River banks within 36 months, connecting the eastern and western parts of the metropolis, Business Mirror reported.

Parex entailed the construction of a six-lane elevated expressway along the banks of the river would have started from Radial Road 10 (R10) in Manila and end at a connection to the South East Metro Manila Expressway, otherwise known as Circumferential Road 6 (C6). PAREX was aimed to provide an alternative and faster access to the country’s largest business districts– Makati, Ortigas, and BGC. It would also generate 200,000 direct and indirect jobs during its construction phase and throughout operations.

But with numerous noisy groups against it, SMC scrapped the project because Ang listens to public opinion. We are very sensitive to the opinion of the public. If the public thinks that it is not good for the public welfare, we will not pursue it.”

Even with the announcement by SMC, critics of PAREX now urge the conglomerate to formally withdraw the tollway project by canceling permits and applications. Advocacy group Ilog Pasiglahin, in a statement, welcomed the pronouncement of tycoon Ramon Ang and asked the billionaire to revoke the tollway project’s supplemental toll operations agreement signed with the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) in 2022..

TRB executive director Alvin Carullo told the Inquirer on Tuesday, there has been “no official communication to that effect yet.”

Along with this, the private sector group called on SMC to withdraw environmental compliance certificate (ECC) application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as permit applications and resolutions with local government units. An ECC ascertains that a project would not inflict serious harm to the natural environment.

In 2021, scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said the proposed expressway would cause damage to the river by blocking the natural sunlight thus affecting the remaining food chain of Pasig River.

“The Pasig River is critical to the preservation of our environment and our culture. Whatever happens to the Pasig River also affects its connected bodies of water—Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay, Marikina River, San Juan River, Taguig River and many others,” Ilog Pasiglahin said.

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