Roundup Bits: Ferry Fares and Erap on Escolta

After publishing a couple of recent pieces on this site about the Pasig River Ferry and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) plans for Escolta, we now have some interesting updates about them. Without further ado, here are the latest developments:

Pasig River Ferry now charging fares; concerns raised

Starting last May 16, fares have been set in place for the Pasig River Ferry service. The fares with their corresponding routes are:

– Pinagbuhatan – Guadalupe (v.v.) = PHP 50
– Guadalupe – PUP (v.v.) = PHP 50
– Guadalupe – Escolta (v.v.) = PHP 50
– Guadalupe – Plaza Mexico (v.v.) = PHP 50
– PUP – Escolta (v.v.) = PHP 30
– Escolta – Plaza Mexico (v.v.) = PHP 30

On a personal note, it is interesting to see here that the ferry does not serve those from Pinagbuhatan station who wish to travel beyond Guadalupe vis-a-vis those from Plaza Mexico/Escolta/PUP who want to go to Pinagbuhatan station. Also there seems to be no route from PUP to Plaza Mexico and vice-versa.

But going back to the story, the fare rates have raised quite a number of eyebrows as some raised concerns about the fares being too expensive for the regular passenger. In addition, the imposition of the fares affected the ridership in these ferries with the number of passengers taking such mode of transport dropped significantly.

To address this, the MMDA through its chair Francis Tolentino has said it will try to push lowering the fares in order to make the ferries become a viable mode of transport that passengers will get to embrace…well, smell coming in to the open-air ferry and floating objects on the river aside.

Manila city government opposes proposed Escolta development body

If the ferry matters are not enough of a challenge for the MMDA, another one appeared recently, in the form of the Manila city government under the administration of former president turned mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

On the heels of the MMDA’s proposal to create an “Escolta Redevelopment Authority” that will oversee the development of the once-bustling commercial and business district, Estrada came out to express his opposition to the plan which he felt “just like dismembering the city of Manila even further.”

Such sentiment is something that the City of Manila has been harboring against the national government for a long time. Yes, even Manila is suffering under so-called “Imperial Manila.” For years, Manila has been trying to reassert its jurisdiction on many properties which although are located in the city, they are not run by the city government but by various agencies of the national government. For instance, we have the Intramuros district administered by the Intramurso Administration, Rizal Park administered by the National Parks Development Committee, (NPDC) the Port of Manila run by the Philippine Ports Authority, (PPA) Metropolitan Theater owned by the Government Service Insurance System, (GSIS) and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex run by the Philippine Sports Commission, (PSC) among others.

But in the case of Escolta, it all boils down to what plans the city government has for the area. As was noted in a previous post in this site, Manila has not provided yet any concrete plans or even statements on what they intend to do in redeveloping Escolta. Even if we assume that there are plans in place for the area, the important question must be asked as to whether these plans are long-term and “steady” enough that they will be implemented even in a change of administration, especially if the next administration belongs to the other side of the political fence. One can look at what happened to Manila before and after the administration of Lito Atienza to see what I mean.

Such ambitious and noble endeavors like the redevelopment of Escolta deserves a plan that is not co-terminus with the administration of some government official. We are talking about saving our past as a legacy for the future. It does not matter here if it’s the MMDA or the city government as long as they can craft such a plan. Or better, maybe both parties can take this as an opportunity to make history and work together for a better Escolta and a better Manila as well that we can be proud of.

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