OPINION: Metro Manila highways over rivers, a Duterte legacy?

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Feb 13 2020 07:15 PM | Updated as of Mar 02 2020 03:24 PM

It was during the incumbency of President Fidel V. Ramos when first thoughts and passing consideration of utilizing Metro Manila rivers—Pasig, Marikina, San Juan—as locations and routes for new urban highways were officially entertained, even if somewhat cursorily. Already needing alleviation was the foreseen, and demographically foretold, ‘carmaggedon’ or vehicular congestion of hellish, chaotic gridlock proportions.

A quarter of a century ago, traffic flow along EDSA was still tolerable although for ‘futurists’, the warning signs were looming palpably. I recall having reported and commented on the proposal when I was writing a column for a short-lived newspaper edited by the late Rod Reyes.

I say ‘passing consideration’ because the idea perished unnoticed, just as its mention did not evoke any public interest. A highway over snaking waterways seemed a whacky idea! Skeptics scoffed.

Actually, any potential public discussion or appreciation of the merits of the brainstorm was obliterated by a sensation that hogged headlines of Manila media at that time. It was the politically stoked hysteria about the execution by hanging in Singapore of a Filipina domestic worker found guilty of murder. The Flor Contemplacion incident. Old farts like me would remember!

On the other hand, I have always advocated ‘highways over rivers.’ First of all, the rivers were the only remaining open public space in Metro Manila, any construction activities over which can proceed without obstruction, without hampering human activity and vehicular movements. There was no such activity to be disturbed. Moreover, I argued, it was the only transportation infrastructure that could be pursued without acquisition costs. The spaces were national patrimony, unsubjected to inherent hassles of eminent domain/right of way, a Filipino reality.

Fast forward, the advent of Manila’s trans-Metro Skyway system has now proven that Pasig and San Juan River banks as well as the larger esteros (tripa de gallina, in Pasay) could indeed be used as foundations for the elevated highways. The forthcoming completion of these projects will no doubt bring about some easing of road tension. Personally, of course, the ultimate solution about which I remain sanguine is ‘decongestion and population reallocation,’ for which there is no substitute.

Speaking of congestion, Circumferential Road 5, C-5 (Carlos P. Garcia Avenue) intended as support, alternate and parallel to EDSA has proven to be a slithering gridlocked passageway. C-5 is unrivaled in contributing to the malaise and reputation of Metro Manila as an urban abomination.

An escape from C-5 travel travails justifies due attention. Will DPWH Secretary Villar, ‘hijo de…..Manuel y Cynthia,’ listen to an idea that could genuinely be originally his, instead claiming credit for projects began by a previous administration?

Very few know of this advantage. If one were along C-5 in Libis, Quezon City, there is a detour through winding privately owned roadway that will lead to Manggahan in Pasig City. It bypasses, at least, a few kilometers of gridlock. The private property is the Eastwood City complex with its own traffic enforcers and police. This efficiently flowing roadway leads to the backside of Industry Road towards Amang Rodriguez Avenue, in Pasig City, after crossing a bridge spanning the Marikina River.

If you are up to it and have the downtime to spare, let us play a game and have fun solving Metro Manila’s gridlock! Let’s log on to an internet street map. Let your finger trace. It is a worthwhile pastime. And while we are at it, let me take the opportunity to expound some more on what I find to be a neglected opportunity.
Fasten your seat belts! Imagine!

How about a “Metro Manila Grand Circuit Freeway” (MMGC Freeway!) A viaduct highway that will utilize the northern banks of Pasig River on EDSA, in the Mandaluyong-Pioneer area, moving eastward along the riverbank and curving north where the Pasig meets the Marikina, after C-5, along and hugging the western banks of the Marikina River, going north. The conceptual MMGC Freeway moves northward almost as an eastern parallel to C-5.
(Did I lose you there? Retrace! Repeat! )

Northward along the Marikina River goes the “MMGC Freeway,” up and over the Ortigas Avenue bridge and all the way farther north reaching the Libis/Blue Ridge/C-5 Access Road/Katipunan convergence zone. This is a very critical pass-through hub. This will entail eminent domain imposition. It is a ‘must’ because it connects to a widening Boni Serrano Avenue that runs along the northern perimeter of Camp Aguinaldo, (Department of National Defense and GHQ of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.) This northern perimeter completes the circuit as an ingress to EDSA.

Thus, the ”MMGC Freeway’ circuit will have for its roundabout boundaries: Pasig River, south; Marikina River, east-northward; its northeast terminus would be the Libis/Blue Ridge/Boni Serrano Convergence zone and moving west, connects to EDSA, going south to Pasig River. Circuit circumnavigated!

Imagine the possibilities of having this circuit facility almost at the very midway of both EDSA and C-5, almost at the very heart of the metropolis!

Imagine what quintessentially timely a beneficence this could be for Metro Manila! If ever emergency powers were to be sought by and granted to the President, with strictly defined parameters exclusively limited and devoted to a conceptual “MMGC Freeway” project, I will enroll myself as his cheerleader!

Imagine what benefits could ensue, mutually, both to Metro Manila and the Army, the enlisted men’s families and natural camp followers were Camp Aguinaldo to relocate as far away from Metro Manila as desiredly feasible!

A staunch critic of conscience such as I, I am prepared to accept that the “MMGC Freeway” could be a monumental legacy of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency. Unless, he wishes to be remembered otherly!
For other blog entries: Cyberbuddy



Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.