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With PAREX uncertain, advocates ask Marcos: Consult communities for Pasig River revival

MANILA, Philippines – With the future of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) project uncertain, advocates who opposed the project called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to center his Pasig River revival initiative on the needs of communities near the iconic waterway.

Joven Jacolbia and Rigel Magcale, members of volunteer group Ilog Pasiglahin, told Rappler on Friday, March 22, that they would support the President’s and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos’ “Pasig Bigyang Buhay Muli Project” (PBBM), if it would be based on genuine consultation with communities.

“We welcome the plan because we in Ilog Pasiglahin think that government should take the lead in rehabilitating Pasig River,” said Jacolbia in a Be The Good interview with Rappler community lead Pia Ranada.

“We’ve seen the plans. President Marcos said, it will be people-driven, community-oriented, but right now, unfortunately, none of us–and even none of our partner communities–have been consulted in the drafting or planning the program,” he added.

The “Pasig Bigyang Buhay Muli Project,” which has the same acronym as Marcos’ name, was officially introduced to the public last January. It has its roots in his July 2023 executive order which created the Inter-Agency Council for the Pasig River Urban Development (IAC-PRUD), headed by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and vice-chaired by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

In the plan, 8 areas along the 25-kilometer stretch of the Pasig River will be developed into “people-centric” zones that will feature a mix of commercial spaces, public parks, bike lanes, and jogging areas. Thousands of informal settlers stand to be displaced by the project but the government gave assurances they would be given new homes in permanent relocation sites.

How the Palace-backed river revival plan would jive with PAREX and other road projects near Pasig River confuses groups like Ilog Pasiglahin.

But Marcos’ vision for the river is closer to their goals than the planned expressway.

Jacolbia and Magcale, however, emphasized that genuine public consultation and collaboration with Pasig River communities would make the Marcos plan more sustainable.