(Updated 5:50 p.m.) The Metro Manila Development Authority on Monday revealed its plan to revive the Pasig River ferry service as an alternative to the traffic-choked roads in the National Capital Region.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino told GMA News that the agency will kick off the ferry service by April and will handle its operations until a private company can take over the project.
"Marami pang proseso para sa public-private partnership pero 'pag may private sector na pumasok [sa ferry service], out na kami," he told GMA News TV's "Balitanghali."
The 25-kilometer Pasig River connects Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay. It passes through the cities of Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong and Pasig.
The Pasig, despite snaking through the heart of the metropolis, is currently not commercially utilized for commuting. But for much of Manila's history, the river was the main artery between coastal Manila and the city's interior and beyond to Laguna province. Long before the Pasig became shallow from siltation, large ships could ply this route, which was described in rich detail in Rizal's novels.
Tolentino hoped that the ferry service will be an alternative option for Metro Manila commuters as two major projects—Skyway 3 extension and Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2—have started. The projects have been projected to worsen traffic
in the metro for at least two years.
The Skyway 3 will connect the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways via an elevated expressway over the Osmeña Highway, while the NAIA Expressway will stretch from Sales Road in Pasay City to Macapagal Avenue in Parañaque City. Construction on the Skyway 3 project started Monday, February 17, while that on NAIA Expressway commenced two weeks ago. Also for tourism
For his part, Ronald Naguit, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission executive director, noted that the ferry service's revival may also be a tourist attraction.
"We are in favor of reviving the ferry service. We have seen its potential not just in transportation but also in tourism," he told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Monday.
Naguit noted that the previous ferry service in 2011 was closed due to "low ridership."
And to prevent this problem, Naguit said they will enhance the information campaign for the service.
According to Naguit, MMDA, PRRC and the Department of Transportation and Communication are set to meet within the week to finalize the tripartite agreement concerning the ferry revival project.
He added that the meeting may also discuss the route of the ferry service.
Currently, there are two proposals for the route: Guadalupe to Intramuros in Manila and Guadalupe to Pinagbuhatan in Pasig City. Tap standby funds
Describing the possibility of heavier traffic congestion in Metro Manila as an "emergency," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto meanwhile called on President Benigno Aquino III to tap standby funds to revive the ferry service.
In a statement, Recto said allocations can be sourced from the P1-billion contigent fund and the P140-billion unprogrammed fund to buy new boats or rent out boats to be able to utilize the Pasig River as an alternative "nautical road."
"Billions of pesos will be lost due to the projected traffic. So whatever amount will be invested by the government in the ferry, the people will reap economic benefits even if the actual operating cost is not recouped from fare box collections," the senator said.
Recto however admitted that reviving the Pasig River ferry service will not translate to immediate profit for the government.
"It must be viewed as a public service in response to an emergency which in this case is the traffic gridlock," the senator said. — with a report by Andreo Calonzo/KG/HS/BM, GMA News