Only a few days after groundbreaking, PAREX is already faced with issues threatening to boil over. From different groups expressing disapproval for the project to a controversy about an official statement released by Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, Inc. that they have no formalized contract on the project, it seems Ramon S. Ang's big-ticket project may get mired in controversy. 

To set the record straight, San Miguel Corporation has released a statement from (or vetted by) RSA himself, and what's clear is that words aren't being minced. 

In the aforementioned statement, SMC stated that “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.”

It all seems clean and clear from this alone, right? Here’s where things start getting… messy. In the same Statement, SMC said “We’ve come to learn from him, however, the 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. We are not surprised. The timing of their attack is suspicious, the forces behind it of questionable character.”

SMC boss Ramon Ang blasts criticisms and lies against PAREX project image

Bear with us here, but there seems to be more to this than meets the eye. San Miguel came out swinging and to quell any doubts, here’s more of what they presented as facts about the construction of PAREX, as presented in their statement:

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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SMC boss Ramon Ang blasts criticisms and lies against PAREX project image

From there, we can see why the population’s opinion is split concerning PAREX and its declared pros versus cons, and that is about its environmental impact. Specifically, with efforts still underway to rehabilitate Pasig River, some feel that PAREX will put all these years’ efforts to go to waste. And perhaps there is some merit in people erring on and for Mother Nature’s side.

Palafox Associates have said it themselves, though, that they will work with both public and private sectors, through carefully assessed economic, social, health, and environmental aspects when engaging in multisectoral sustainable development (sic). It’s safe to say that though there is still no contract between Palafox and SMC, both companies are on board and on the same page, in a manner of speaking.

As for SMC’s barrage, we as citizens can (and should) only make our own conclusions and feelings towards what could be a 50:50 result. Will a thoroughfare that can potentially bring convenience to motorists and travelers be a bane for other projects or Pasig River? Right now, what we have are two of the biggest bodies that can literally make or break this project. Until such time that it continues or is totally shelved, tell us what you think and weigh in on this major development.