Landscaping won’t revive Pasig River: Ramon Ang bares plans to preserve heritage sites in PAREX design plans amid flood of misinformation from critics

Bilyonaryo Ramon Ang will release the actual design plans for San Miguel Corp.’s P95 billion, 19.4-kilometer Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) project to strike down the misleading photos released on social media by critics of the project.

“In the coming weeks, we will present visuals of what this infrastructure will look like and we assure you it will be adaptive, inclusive and ecologically resilient to benefit not just a few, but all of us,” said Ang.

“Right now, what we have is a basic alignment, developed with, and approved by the government. And while this basic alignment already avoids Intramuros, it is by no means final. Other areas that people will have issues with, can still be adjusted, based on inputs from government and stakeholders during the detailed engineering design stage,” he added.

Ang reiterated that the concerns raised by critics of the project led by architect Paolo Alcazaren, specifically on the impact on heritage sites along the river, would be address during the recently-started Detailed Engineering Design phase.

“We’re a free country, and we respect everyone’s right to voice their opposition. In fact, after setting the record straight on some issues, we’ve largely let the critics do all the talking. We listen to valid opinions and points, but we just can’t let outright lies pass,” Ang said.

Ang zeroed in on a tweet by architect Paolo Alcazaren showing the heritage sites and structures that would be affected by the PAREX, specifically the Intramuros area.

“The image did not come from us. For the record, per the basic alignment developed in consultation with, and approved by the government, PAREX will not run on the Intramuros side, but on the other side, along Binondo. Common sense dictated we couldn’t place the alignment alongside Intramuros. Like many who oppose the project, we are also Filipinos who value our heritage sites, especially Intramuros, where we helped in the restoration of the Manila Cathedral a few years back,” Ang said.

“By placing the alignment on the other side, we can avoid any significant impact on Intramuros, and actually use the PAREX to showcase our heritage sites to users, including tourists. The area will also become more accessible to more Filipinos, via the planned Bus Rapid Transit system,” he added.

Alcazaren had previously posted tweets showing misleading images of PAREX:

In the case of the Arroceros Forest Park, which runs along the PAREX in the current alignment, Ang Said SMC’s planners proposed to either raising or lower the expressway, or move it altogether.

Ang reiterated that PAREX would be a “hybrid infrastructure” for use not only by car owners and commuters but also pedestrians, joggers, and bicycle users. He said the project would provide a long-term and sustainable solution to reviving the old glory of Pasig River through SMC’s P2-billion clean-up initiative.

“The river can be utilized for water transport and tourism, and not just as a docking area for barges,” said Ang.

Ang added that even today, long-existing issues continue to impact heritage sites in the walled city, including the presence of informal settlers, a golf driving range, barges, and rows of warehouses, condominiums and informal settlers serving as views, along with the polluted river, from Fort Santiago.

While PAREX’s design and alignment could easily be tweaked various needs, Ang said the bigger challenge was to remove the encroachments on Pasig River’s easements, specifically permanent and temporary structures built on the easement by businesses, factories, and even residential communities along the river.

“These structures are actually among the many reasons why the river remains polluted, despite numerous efforts to rehabilitate it, and why flooding continues to worsen,” Ang said.

“We cannot afford just a solution that will build landscaped walkways and beautify the surroundings but does not solve the very real urban problems affecting millions of Filipinos every day, that have sadly become so normalized in our society, that some would rather not do anything instead of disrupting the status quo,” he added.

Alcazaren had proposed alternatives to PAREX, such as simply putting up esplanades on both sides of the river:

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