For many of us, September 21 is always associated with the proclamation of martial law in the 70s, a dark moment in the nation’s history.  But this year, for those of us who are looking for more improvement in the transport sector, September 21 offered a silver lining.

For on that date this year, the Department of Transportation, Department of Public Works and Highways, Toll Regulatory Board, and the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC), along with the Pasig River Expressway Corporation, and Skyway O&M Corporation, signed the Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement (STOA) for the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX).

Three days after the signing of the STOA, project proponent San Miguel Corporation and government representatives gathered for the project’s grounding breaking ceremony in Pandacan, Manila.

The Pasig River Expressway project, an unsolicited proposal from San Miguel Corporation, was declared as a toll road by the Toll Regulatory Board in June 2020.

Once more, San Miguel Corporation is undertaking a big ticket infrastructure project that will provide ease of travel and contribute enormously to the country’s economic development.

The dpwh website describes the Pasig River Expressway Project as a 19.37km six-lane, all elevated expressway which traverses the entirety of Pasig River. The project starts from Radial Road 10 in the City of Manila and shall terminate at a connection to the South East Metro Manila

Expressway at Circumferential Road 6. The Project will connect and utilize a 2.7-km portion of Skyway Stage 3 from Nagtahan to Plaza Azul.

The project is expected help decongest traffic by diverting traffic volume to alternative route as connectivity among toll roads will be provided. It will also provide a direct link between the western and eastern cities of Metro Manila through an elevated expressway. It will integrate various modes of transport thus providing faster access to business districts such as Makati, Ortigas and Bonifacio Global City, among others.

“This project will incorporate green design principle to benefit, not just motorists, but also the environment and the economy of the people. It will be inclusive because it will accommodate various modes of transportation, such as the bus rapid transit, bicycle lanes, pedestrian, walkway, and water ferries,” SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) said.

Bike lanes will be a feature in the project to encourage healthy, environment -friendly modes of personal transportation, as well as pedestrian walkways to encourage walking or exercise.

SMC will be investing Php95 billion for the project which will complete the network of expressways in Metro Manila. It will cut travel time from Manila to Pasig to 15 or 20 minutes.

RSA considers the PAREX as one of the most impactful projects under the Duterte Administration as it integrates the social, economic, and environmental needs of the people.

 “I’m very proud that we have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide an inclusive, future-ready solution to traffic, and at the same, restore the Pasig River back to its old glory,” he added.

There have been comments voiced by some sectors, well-meaning or otherwise, over government action on the SMC PAREX project proposal. On claims that the PAREX would obstruct the view of the Pasig River, the SMC executive said the expressway will be built on the side of the river, along the easement.  Other comments are mostly environmental concerns.  But, government has not been idle in connection with projects under the Build, Build, Build program especially where environment protection is an issue.

The well-respected and hardworking Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he is sure that PAREX will not only benefit the public but also the environment.

 “We are happy because we have a project like this connecting north to south and east to west. Never has this connectivity been thought of, and now it is being implemented. We thank RSA and the whole of San Miguel. Unequivocally I say, the DoTR fully supports this project because I know it is good for the people and the environment,” Tugade said.

SMC is undertaking a Php2 billion initiative to clean up and rehabilitate the Pasig River. To improve the flow and carrying capacity of the river, SMC will be extracting some three million metric tons of silt and solid waste from Pasig River. This will result in a river that would be navigable again. Its tributaries will also be rehabilitated to mitigate flooding.

“We know that a lot of silt, sand, and dirt will still go into the river from the Sierra Madre mountains, via the Marikina river, so the river needs to be maintained. We are committed to continuously dredge and clean it up for the next 30 years,” RSA said.

It is noteworthy to mention that in other projects undertaken by SMC, it goes the extra mile to ensure environment protection. It is involved in mangrove planting along the coastal areas of Bulacan to protect the province from flooding. Bulacan is site of SMC’s massive infrastructure project, the new Manila International Airport.  Its subsidiary, the Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation, the third concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is an active partner of the water agency’s Annual Million Tree Challenge. SMC subsidiaries also have their respective tree-planting activities to promote environment protection.

“This is a private investment. We are not the type of people who will build something that will be bad for the public, the environment, and our country, for the sake of profits. In fact, we are investing a lot of money and other resources for these projects, even if the returns will take a while–because our country needs them,” RSA said.

Indeed, PAREX is more than an expressway. It is a testament to the dedication and willingness of one of the country’s oldest corporations to help in the country’s development.