Today, Manila is all abuzz for two things happening today: the arrival of US President Barack Obama and the reopening of operations of the Pasig River Ferry service. The Urban Roamer will deal with the highlights of the Obama visit as it happens but right now, we will be dealing with today’s reopening of the Pasig River Ferry service in this entry. It has been about 3 years since ferries last plied the Pasig River as factors like low ridership and operating expenses made the service less feasible to be continued. Today, in the midst of various road projects that will affect road traffic in the metropolis, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is once again looking at river transport as an alternative mode to go around the city. Test runs were made as early as February though it was met more with a mixed reaction. While many have lauded MMDA’s efforts to revive the ferry service and provide more transportation choices in the city, the boats they used for these runs are not exactly the ones you would like to ride on. Who would be interested to ride the service if boats looks like a cross of a worn-out tugboat and a brokedown school bus?
But as the latest iteration of the Pasig River Ferry service went operational today, it is a relief to see that the boats used this time are a bit more decent, not to mention a marked improvement from what were being used months before. Then again, I just learned that not all boats will look like this so we’ll see.
But yes, the last time the Pasig River ferry was operational, the boats were much better and are airconditioned too. So while it can be said that the current boats are disappointing downgrades, we can take comfort that at least, what they used so far look decent. Good luck though in smelling the not-so-pleasant smell of the river these days, something the new fleet sorely lacks in addressing.
Back to the story, its first week of operations, the service will be offering free ride before charging fares ranging from P20-50. For now, 5 of the 14 original ferry stations that were operational in 2010 have been opened again for the service: Plaza Mexico (Intramuros), Escolta, PUP Sta. Mesa, Guadalupe, and Pasig. (Pinagbuhatan)
This marks what is now the third attempt to popularize water transport in the metropolis, especially along its rivers. It is puzzling, for me at least, that unlike in other cities, Metro Manila does not seem to have an affection for such mode of transport. Given that the Philippines is an archipelagic country, one can’t help feel the irony in this one. Cities like London, Singapore, understand very well the importance of water transport as river ferry cruises are popular tourist attractions in those cities, while in Bangkok, rivers were being transformed into marketplaces as merchants set up shop in their boats.
At the same time, river transport is also used as a tool to create environmental awareness as it highlights the importance of waterways in a city’s development and how pollution adversely affects the city’s progress in becoming livable and sustainable communities.
Here’s hoping that this time, the Pasig River ferries will be around much longer not only as a means of transportation, but also as to help in the continuing efforts to revive Pasig River and Metro Manila’s waterways as the city continues to strive to be a livable and sustainable community for all