Ciclo Cycling Apparel Statement Opposing The Pasig River Expressway (PAREX)
The Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) is a 19 kilometer elevated toll road proposed to be built above the Pasig River to connect the Eastern and Western ends of Metro Manila, with the supposed goal to improve accessibility in the Greater Manila Area.
And in line with Ciclo's core values of inclusivity and protecting our environment, we oppose this project.
Rivers breathe life into landscapes. And in a sprawling metropolis choking for fresh air in public open spaces, the Pasig River is a lifeline for Metro Manila. For centuries it has been a source of livelihood and access to opportunities for its residents. However, mismanagement in the past half decade has led to its degradation, leading to the perception that the river is dead.
Photo by Ivy Pangilinan
This perception is wrong. And we only need one bike ride today along its banks to witness that it is still full of life. During mornings and afternoons, people catch fish with their homemade rods and air guns. On power lines near the river, birds watch out for their next meal in the river. Where there is space, people take walks and children play games. And where the view is wide open, we can stop and watch the sunset.
Views such as the Post Office in Manila will be destroyed by the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX).
Now imagine taking away that vista and replacing it with the underbelly of a road. Imagine how miserable that would be above the Pasig River. And if you want a real-life example, another bike ride is all you need.
Photo by Ivy Pangilinan
The South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) East and West Service Roads will give you the most miserable bike ride you’ll have in Metro Manila. Being under the first and second stages of the Skyway project, noise and pollution have drastically degraded living standards for people living and working near the SLEX Service Roads. Now Skyway Stage 3 has done the same for Quirino, G. Araneta and the northern end of A. Bonifacio Avenues, as well as part of the San Juan River.
Noise and air pollution have made these areas less livable and more hostile to people. And if you were familiar with these roadsides before the Skyway’s construction, another bike ride would show you how undesirable they are now because of the expressway. Aside from making these places less livable, noise and air pollution from an expressway have been known to lower real estate values of areas next to it, negatively affecting local businesses and investments.
The Pasig River is crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change on Metro Manila such as rising temperatures and flooding. Aside from the negative effects on human life and livelihood, the PAREX will also destroy the Pasig River ecosystem. It’ll deprive its marine life of sunlight vital to their survival. Construction will also disturb the riverbed and increase siltation. The birds who depend on the river will also lose their source of food.
Terns by the Pasig River in Binondo waiting for fish. Photo by Mike Lu
The supposed argument for trading off livability along the Pasig River with the noise and pollution brought about by an expressway is that it’ll improve connectivity between the eastern and western ends of the Greater Manila Area. However, how many people will benefit from this project? And will it be worth sacrificing an icon of the city?
Our answer is a resounding NO. The PAREX is not worth the livability of Metro Manila. We want cities that are livable and prioritize people, and not the cars of the few who can afford them.
More Cars Just Means More Problems
The supposed conception of this project is a testament to how disconnected it is from the common person’s life in the city. San Miguel Corporation’s Chairman, Ramon Ang, thought of building an expressway above the Pasig River while he was in his helicopter. And how many residents of Metro Manila can commute by chopper to escape its gridlocked roads?
And more than that, this expressway will only serve 12% of Greater Manila’s households who own cars. Where does the PAREX leave the remaining 88%?
Evidence also suggests that construction of a new expressway will not alleviate road congestion, but aggravate it further through a phenomenon called Induced Demand. Induced Demand in this case occurs when creating more room for cars encourages people to use more cars resulting in even greater vehicular traffic volume and congestion. It's like solving the problem of a growing belly feeling tighter in your pants by just buying a bigger pair and belt. And we cannot continue building more roads and widening existing ones because these will just destroy Metro Manila’s livability.
Furthermore, Induced Demand will also increase air pollution with more vehicular traffic. And being at the forefront of Climate Change’s disastrous effects, Filipinos cannot afford to pump more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Increasing accessibility to primary services such as schools, hospitals, markets and recreation centers through better public transport infrastructure will drastically decrease greenhouse gas emissions in Metro Manila.
We Need Solutions for Inclusive Mobility
What we need now are mobility solutions that will benefit the most people: efficient public transport and access to safe active mobility. We want more bus lines, more train lines and the ease of interconnectivity between these modes of transport. We want to walk, ride our bikes and scooters without fearing for our lives. We need to be able to have more transport choices, and not be forced to choose between terrible commuting options or being burdened with the high costs of car ownership. Because having more choices gives us more freedom. And to improve lives across the Greater Manila Area, we need the freedom of mobility.
Instead of constructing the PAREX, we would like to list the following efforts and projects that will bring systemic and sustainable changes and serve residents of Metro Manila and Rizal better. These efforts seek to reduce reliance on private car use and encourage active mobility and using public transport.
- Introduce proper Road Users Education in schools and stricter Drivers License Testing by the Land Transport Office (LTO): Road Users’ Education will teach people from a young age how to behave with courtesy on the road as a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcycle rider or driver. Specifically, motor vehicle operators that recognize that they have a greater responsibility on the road would drive in a manner that would not endanger pedestrians and cyclists. For example, we need to teach Filipino drivers to not park on sidewalks or cut off pedestrians on pedestrian lanes. These dangerous acts endanger pedestrians and discourage people from choosing the most basic form of transport, which is walking. People who respect pedestrians and cyclists should be the only ones granted the privilege to operate a motor vehicle.
- Expand and improve sidewalks: Walking is the most basic form of transport, and in the Philippines sidewalks are neglected and seen as just additional parking space or demolished to make more room for a road for cars. However, years of misuse and mismanagement have discouraged Filipinos to use sidewalks, if present at all. If we can walk safely to nearby destinations, it would reduce reliance on vehicles especially in a densely populated region like Metro Manila.
- Road Diets and Tactical Urbanism: Road Dieting is the practice of taking space away from motorized vehicles to either slow drivers down or discourage their use. Road space taken away from vehicles can be used for protected bike lanes or other urban renewal efforts. Tactical Urbanism is a citizen-led approach at renewing urban spaces by making them friendlier and more accessible by people. And this is usually done by closing down roads and turning them into pop-up parks and plazas. This is already being done in Metro Manila on a limited basis. Ortigas Center and Bonifacio Global City have been closing down central roads from cars on weekends to give way to its use by people.
- Continuing Big Public Transport Projects: Two big ticket public transport projects to serve the East-West corridor of Metro Manila have been delayed for several years and we need them done ASAP. These are the MRT Line 4 and the Metro Manila BRT Line 1. The MRT Line 4 is a 15 kilometer light railway line from N. Domingo, Quezon City to Taytay, Rizal projected to serve 220,000 passengers each day. And the Metro Manila BRT Line 1 is a 12 kilometer Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line connecting Manila City Hall to Philcoa, Quezon city, projected to serve 290,000 passengers every day.
What We Can Do Now
For further information about the movement to oppose PAREX, you may want to read up on AltMobilityPH’s statement. And we also would like to invite you to sign the petition to Stop PAREX by signing at this link: https://bit.ly/NoToPAREX.
Problems with mobility require an interdisciplinary approach to solve. Monolithic and supposedly “grand” projects like the Pasig River Expressway won’t be able to solve congestion along the East-West corridor of Metro Manila. It will just do more harm than good and devastating cost to our living conditions and environment.
We want to have a future where Metro Manila is still livable. We want to be able to walk around, ride our bikes, buses and trains and get where we need to be on time. We don’t want to feel forced to burden ourselves with car ownership. And that is a future without the Pasig River Expressway.