Debate Structure: San Miguel Taps Architect Jun Palafox To Implement Sustainable Solutions, But One Project Is Met With Resistance - The Scene

SMC is launching large-scale projects with Palafox and his firm at the wheel, including the Pasig River Expressway. But, as with a recent trending project by the firm, the expressway is going up against criticism.

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The Pasig River Expressway, also known as PAREX is a proposed project by San Miguel Corporation (SMC). It will be a 19.36-kilometer six-lane elevated expressway that runs through the length of Pasig River, and is estimated cost P95.4 billion.

PAREX aims to decongest traffic, and will connect the Manila to Rizal. The rehabilitation of the Pasig River is also a major aim as SMC taps urban planner Felino Jun Palafox to ensure sustainability in the project. 

Sustainable Building

Palafox began his firm Palafox Associates in 1989. Palafox Associates is a multi-disciplinary firm that handles architecture, urban planning, engineering, and project management.

The firm develops land locally and overseas. Some of their notable projects include Rockwell Center in Makati and Dubai Healthcare City in the United Arab Emirates. Apart from its sustainable building plans, PAREX will consist of other eco-friendly aspects in the project, such as more pedestrian lanes and bicycle lanes. 

SMC released a statement that PAREX and its future infrastructure projects will “further meet social, economic, and environmental needs.”  

“From the beginning, we made it very clear that for both the airport and airport city projects, we will make sure that they are designed with sustainability in mind, ensuring protection and enhancement of the environment, and positive social impacts. I am very glad that Architect Jun Palafox has joined us on this mission to build the best and most sustainable airport, city, and infrastructure network in our country,” says SMC president Ramon S. Ang in a statement.

As mentioned,  an airport city in Bulacan is in the works. The Philippine International Aerotropolis project entails the construction of a modern airport that accommodates 200 million passengers annually. 

Environmental Issues

Before SMC tapped Palafox to provide sustainable building solutions, columnist and sustainable mobility advocate Robert Siy wrote in an article published by The Manila Times last April that building on a main body of water might turn out to be regrettable. He compared the PAREX project to Japan’s Nihonbashi Expressway along the Nihonbashi River built in the 1960s.

That project, Siy writes, was also intended to relieve traffic congestion in downtown Tokyo, in time for the 1964 Olympics. “Instead, soon after it was built, it was severely criticized as an eyesore — affecting public appreciation of the river and one of Tokyo’s cultural treasures, the iconic Nihonbashi Bridge,” he says. 

In the same month, Siy’s community organization Move As One argued that the building of PAREX takes away government funds that are better off allocated to initiatives directly aiding Filipinos.

“It is high time that we shift away from the outdated car-centric transportation policies of the last century and instead embrace inclusive, people-centered, and sustainable approaches that are now being adapted as best practice all over the world,” Siy writes in Move As One’s coalition statement.

It seems that adding PAREX’s sustainable aspect was implemented after issues about its effect on the environment arose. Nevertheless, the need to regard sustainability as a factor in development remains more relevant than ever. To build infrastructure sustainably means maintaining healthy community residents, a non-toxic environment, and the management of natural resources. 

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