By: Sundy Grace Taguinod & Louie Ramirez
The Pasig River Expressway Project is a 19.37-kilometer, all-elevated, six-lane highway that will run the length of the Pasig River. The project will begin on Radial Road 10 in Manila and end with a link to the South East Metro Manila. According to San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the expressway will run along the banks of the Pasig River. The said project will have three major segments: Segment 1 is from Radial Road 10 to Plaza Azul in Manila City (5.740 km), Segment 2 from Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3(MMSS3)-San Juan River to C-5 (7.325), and Segment 3 from C-5 to C-6 Road in Taguig City.
The multi-billion project intends to build a direct link between Metro Manila’s western and eastern cities, with the goal of easing congestion in locations like R-10, EDSA, and C-5. This could assist to relieve Metro Manila’s notorious traffic problems, particularly during peak hours. Another goal is to increase the efficiency of the country’s road transportation system by constructing infrastructure that is safe, dependable, and environmentally friendly. SMC intends to include a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, a high-quality bus-based transportation system that provides metro-level services in a timely, pleasant, and cost-effective manner so that more Filipinos, especially commuters, will benefit from the project.
While the intention of this development is good, we need to understand that it will never cut travel times and relieve congestion along the roads. It has been proven in mega cities all over the world that building urban expressways leads to increased vehicle use, congestion, pollution, and climate change. Building new expressways encourages people to buy and use vehicles, increasing traffic congestion on our highways. Moreover, according to urban planner Paulo G. Alcazaren, the PAREX would not genuinely relieve congestion in Metro Manila unless efforts are refocused on improving public transportation, based on the idea of induced demand, which asserts that more roads lead to more traffic. The construction of PAREX is another example of urban planning favoring people who can drive their own cars over commuters who use public transportation. The short-term benefits that these drivers would experience pales in comparison to the slew of negative consequences of this project.
CHALLENGE ON HISTORICAL PLACES
PAREX supporters claim that it will have no impact on heritage sites, despite evidence to the contrary from heritage activists. According to one article entitled “The injustice behind PAREX” published by Robert Siy of The Manila Times, “PAREX would obstruct and degrade the views of the river and most heritage structures on its banks.” Architect and urban planner Paulo Alcazaren demonstrated how PAREX’s first phase will influence numerous key cultural landmarks in the metro, including the Aduana Building, the Maestranza Walls, and Fort Santiago, which are all part of the old walled city of Intramuros. Furthermore, the illustration also depicted how the expressway’s development will impact the Arroceros Forest Park, Quezon Bridge, Jones Bridge, Rizal Shrine, and Manila Post Office.
PAREX is going to be a polluting road system. Increased vehicle volume on the planned highway is likely to result in higher concentrations of air, noise, vibration, and light pollution, posing a risk to human health and the environment.
Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), a national organization of scientists, researchers, engineers, and science educators and advocates, said PAREX would affect the river’s productivity thus opposing the project, stressing that the road would cause further damage to the river, nearby residents and the overall urban ecosystem in the National Capital Region.
Additionally, if you live near the PAREX, your community will become warmer. Urban heat island occurs when a city experiences much warmer temperature than the nearby rural areas thus the “urban heat island effect” will be exacerbated by building an expressway above a river, which normally reflects heat and cools through evaporation. However, after the highway is built, this advantageous feature will be replaced with concrete slabs that absorb heat and then release it into the surrounding areas throughout the day, making nearby communities warmer. Then there’s the heat generated by the thousands of cars that will pass through the PAREX on a regular basis.
If you live or work in the “shadow” of the PAREX, your street is likely to experience “sprawl,” which is when an area loses its appeal for a variety of reasons. Aside from the noise and pollution already stated, elevated expressways block sunlight from reaching the street below, making it darker, less safe, and devoid of plants. Having a huge, unattractive concrete building in your neighborhood tarnishes your community’s image and limits your development alternatives. This usually results in a decrease in the value of real estate. The loss of sunlight will also have a negative effect on the river ecosystem. This huge change in the amount of light that the river receives will have a huge effect on everything from plankton, to top-level fish species, to riparian vegetation in the river. What currently survives of the Pasig River’s food chain would be destroyed.
In addition to the negative effects on the river ecosystem, the PAREX would also have negative health effects on the people living nearby. According to Agham, “The Pasig River Expressway is a 19.37-kilometer death sentence that would put an end to all chance of an improved Pasig River environment.” If your neighborhood is close to the PAREX, it is likely to suffer from increased noise and air pollution. The experience could be similar to living next to EDSA or to one of the expressways (e.g., NLEx, SLEx). There will be constant noise from vehicle engines, horns and from the friction of tires against the pavement. The most harmful impact, however, is the air pollution. Apart from the toxic fumes emitted from fossil-fuel vehicles, increased particulate matter in the air (from the engine exhaust and from microplastics released from brake pads and tires during vehicle operation) has been proven to lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and to shorten lives according to the by the public health sector, specifically the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“Restoring a river does not mean building an expressway over it.” The massive company behind this project, San Miguel Corporation, shows an alteration of the Pasig River considered as “biologically dead” and a long symbol of urban population in the Philippines. However, the river has witnessed numerous efforts from both the government and private sectors to clean and rehabilitate the waterway, leading to its slow revival, evidently showing that an improvement is possible. Instead of building an expressway through the Pasig River, we need better alternatives and prospects. Sustainable and effective development should serve people from all backgrounds of society without compromising important sites, natural resources, and the environment in general. The river already has a ferry system, and various boats utilize it to transport products along its length, although both are small and ineffective. It is more beneficial to develop the river as a significant waterway than to construct a roadway across it.
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