MANILA, Philippines – For a group of artists and heritage advocates, the Pasig River is a “cradle of metropolitan heritage.”
However, it is feared that a proposed six-lane overpass called the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX), which will cross 19.37 kilometers and is expected to cross this valued river, will have an impact on historic structures.
The controversial project by San Miguel Corp. amounting to 95.4 billion p. would cover the cities of Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig and Taguig.
What potential cultural assets are at stake?
Renacimiento Manila previously estimated that at least 40 important architectural treasures in a variety of styles, including Neoclassical, Art Deco, and Neo-Renaissance structures, would be affected by this project. Some of these jewels have been designed by renowned architects such as Tomas Mapua, Angel Nakpil, Juan Arellano, Jose Maria Zaragoza and Luis Maria Araneta.
The listed objects affected by this project include dozens of other remaining historic bridges, industrial and cultural heritage districts, and government offices along the riverbanks.
These include the Walled City of Intramuros Malacañang Palace. The group said the palace, now the official residence and workplace of the president’s office, is the former country house of Spaniard Luis Rocha, who was involved in the galleon trade.
“This elevated freeway will reshape the landscape and deprive the Tagalogs (taga-ilog) of their cultural identity, which is a constitutional right,” Renacimiento Manila said in April.
“It could rule out future plans to turn the river and its banks into a vibrant tourist destination, open public space and public transport that will improve the sustainable quality of life in Manilenos,” she added.
However, the groundbreaking for the PAREX project took place on September 24th last year, just a few days after the SMC and the Toll Regulatory Board had signed the supplementary toll operating agreement for it.
Concerned citizens, taxpayers and organizations that do not agree with the construction have therefore started an online petition calling on SMC to end the project.
“PAREX will destroy our people’s ties to the river, which is the cradle of our country’s civilization and a cultural heritage of national importance,” read their joint statement and online petition.
“We believe that PAREX will mean the death of the Pasig River and our people, our heritage, our mobility, our economy and our environment. The project will violate the constitutional right of all Filipinos, including future generations, to a balanced and healthy ecology, ”they added.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites, an international non-governmental organization that works to preserve and protect cultural heritage sites, also said PAREX “will worsen traffic, benefit only a minority and destroy the river, our heritage”.
Meanwhile, as part of its engagement in the wider campaign to stop PAREX on Saturday, Renacimiento Manila has launched its Pasig River Heritage Appreciation Walk, which highlighted the historic structures and sites believed to be affected by the thoroughfare.
The group said the route started at Plaza Lawton and went to Jones Bridge, Plaza Moraga, Muelle Banco Nacional, Calle Escolta, Plaza Goiti, Santa Cruz Bridge and then back to Lawton.
Earlier this week, the group announced that they would be running cultural heritage walks on a variety of topics every Saturday morning in October.
– Renacimiento Manila | SAVE PH Heritage! (@rebirthmanila) October 5, 2021
“Knowing the cultural and historical significance of this area of the Pasig River is key to understanding why, from the perspective of heritage advocates, it is important that PAREX never see the light of day,” Renacimiento Manila said in a Facebook post .
Pasig River lovers and defenders also hosted the #IlogPasiglahin event, a bike ride and a ferry on October 2nd.
“PAREX will not affect the legacy”
Amid the uproar against the proposed freeway, tycoon Ramon Ang assured proponents of the legacy that SMC’s PAREX would avoid the Intramuros area.
He denied an illustration of PAREX’s alleged targeting showing it runs alongside Intramuros, which is circulating on social media.
This was published by the landscape architect and urban planner Paulo Alcazaren, who listed historical sites and structures that, due to their proximity, would be affected by the planned first segment of the planned PAREX. He said these sites are protected by Republic Act 1066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.
Here are the cultural heritage sites and structures that would be affected by the first leg of the planned PAREX. All of this is protected by RA 10066. pic.twitter.com/MyK4oUSWnL
– Paulo Alcazaren (@pinoyurbanist) September 30, 2021
“For the protocol, according to the basic alignment developed in consultation with the government and approved by it, PAREX will not run on the Intramuros side, but on the other side along Binondo,” Ang said in a report by The STAR. quoted.
“Like many who oppose the project, we are Filipinos who value our heritage sites, particularly Intramuros, where we helped restore Manila Cathedral a few years ago,” he added.
Based on the 2021 project description of the SMC for the scoping of the PAREX project, the project size is:
“The project includes the 19.37 kilometer elevated highway west of Metro Manila, beginning in the San Nicolas and Intramuros areas of Manila and ending around C-6, with a connection to the South East Metro Manila Expressway nearby in the municipality of Taytay in the province of Rizal. “
SMC also unveiled these plans during an online public consultation on July 14th.
SMC infrastructure engineer Edgar Doña then took note of Renacimiento Manila’s request to include a heritage impact assessment for the project.
Will be checked
In the meantime, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, a cultural agency in the country charged with “the administration, preservation and administration of national shrines, monuments, historical sites, buildings and landmarks of significant historical and cultural value”, has not yet published a comment the PAREX problem.
“As for PAREX, it is being reviewed by a lawyer and for the agenda of the NHCP board,” said NHCP restoration architect Luisa Valerio Philstar.com.
The mayor of Pasig, Vico Sotto, said last week that he had also given his opinion on the controversial project, having only seen media reports about it.
“For now, they still have to give us the details, so I’ll make a statement or give my public opinion when I know all the details of the project,” said Sotto after submitting his candidacy for mayor.
“Dapat I present nila in amin. Dapat can not only consult malalim with other stakeholders who want ‘yung proyekto”, he added.
In the meantime, various activities related to the opposition to PAREX are being carried out under the leadership of various organizations.
The online petition, “Stop the Proposed Pasig River Expressway! #NoToPAREX #IlogPasiglahin”, posted on Change.org, has received 9,335 signatures since late September.
Ang in the STAR report said the issues raised by the public “can still be adjusted based on input from government and stakeholders during the detailed construction phase.”