A coalition of 170 organizations and 77,000 individuals is calling on President Duterte to withhold his approval for the construction of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) until the project details are known and a “normal due diligence is conducted” on it.
In a letter to Duterte dated Thursday, Nov. 18, Move As One Coalition cited three “important reasons” why the Chief Executive must not approve PAREX’s construction until their demands are met.
First, the group said that the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) has not conducted a thorough analysis of the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits of the project which “is a serious anomaly in the government’s investment approval pocess.”
Then, the group noted that the project details of the PAREX “are not known and are still subject to change.” It noticed that the project details are still missing although the project proponent has mentioned several new components—such as bike lanes, walkways and bus rapid transit—that are supposedly different from the original project concept.
“The TRB has informed us that the final project design is still being prepared…any assessment of social, environmental and economic impacts, benefits and costs can only be made once all project details are disclosed by the project proponent,” Move As One explained.
Lastly, it stressed that Duterte’s approval of the Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement (STOA) “may give the impression that the project should proceed even if its negative impacts are significant.”
This came after the group found that the TRB has indicated that the STOA for PAREX may be submitted for Presidential approval despite criticisms and objections from the public.
“Please let us know in case your approval has already been given without public announcement. If not, we are writing to recommend that your approval be withheld until Project details are known and until the normal due diligence is conducted on the project,” the group told Duterte.
The multi-billion PAREX project is a 19.37-km six-lane, all elevated expressway which traverses the entirety of Pasig River. It broke ground last Sept. 23.
A joint venture between the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) and San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC), the project aims to establish a direct link between the western and eastern cities of Metro Manila by means of an elevated expressway, and aid in traffic decongestion of R-10, EDSA, C-5 by providing connectivity among toll roads and freeways, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
But various groups have criticized the PAREX project due to its supposed negative impacts on health, environment, heritage, tourism, and economic opportunities once it is finished.
The Move as One Coalition cited nine “potential harms” that could outweigh the benefits if the PAREX is constructed. These include more traffic congestion and further climate change, negative health impacts of nearby communities due to increased air and noise pollution, and urban decay.
Among the possible negative impacts also include the deterioration of Pasig River’s ecology, warmer neighborhood, damage in cultural assets, cancellation of the planned scenic walkways along the riverbanks, curtailment of economic and social development and limited benefit as only motor vehicle owners could take advantage of it, the group added.
“For this reason, the government should be open to the possibility that PAREX could be halted if found to deliver significant harm or if its net contribution turns out to be negative,” it said.
The Move as One Coalition’s letter, which aims to get President Duterte’s consideration, was also sent to the offices of the secretaries of the National Economic and Development and the country’s Transportation, Finance, Environment and Public Works and Highways departments.
Recently, the group also created an online petition to stop the PAREX construction, which was already signed by 17,742 individuals as of Friday, Nov. 19.