It has not been smooth sailing for the Pasig River Ferry Service. Since it began operations in 2007, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) has lost P94 million, according to the country’s audit agency.
Despite offering an alternative mode of transportation for those who wanted to avoid the hellish traffic on Metro Manila streets, the PRRC had suffered because of the dwindling number of passengers, the frequent cancellation of regular trips because of river tours, and the fact that the income from four satellite stations did not go to the agency, the Commission on Audit (COA) said.
The PRRC also got a low percentage from ticket sales, the COA said in a report.
The PRRC oversees the ferry operations and built the terminals, while the private firm SCC Nautical Transport Services Inc. (NTSI) operated the boats. The service ceased operating early this year.
In its 2010 report on the PRRC, the COA said the operating expenses of the ferry service, amounted to P101.4 million but the income from ferry operations was only P7.33 million.
The ferry service had been operating at a loss, thus entailing a big subsidy which the government could otherwise have used to finance other priority projects, the COA said.
PRRC data revealed that there was a “substantial decrease” in sales and collections because of the dwindling number of ferry passengers. It also informed the COA that the decline was also due to the cancellation of regular trips in order to accommodate river tours.
In 2010, there were 356 river tours that affected ferry passengers since the vessels for the regular trips were the ones used for the tours. This resulted in delays and cancellation of scheduled trips.
The audit agency also found that the PRRC gets no share from the income of four satellite stations in Quiapo, Kalawaan, Bambang and Nagpayong. These stations are operated by NTSI.
The four satellite stations were endorsed by the PRRC’s previous executive director, provided that these would only operate temporarily and would be removed once the PRRC’s stations in the areas were completed. But the four stations were not removed and were instead taken over by NTSI.
“Since the additional satellite stations come ahead of the PRRC ferry stations, there are no more seats available for passengers upon reaching the PRRC ferry stations,” the COA observed.
It also said that the PRRC’s share from the collections of the ferry service is only P5 for each regular passenger. Passenger fares range from P25 to P60.
The COA said the PRRC should evaluate the present sharing scheme and consider increasing its share from the collections. It should also analyze and evaluate its operating expenses for the ferry service and adopt cost-cutting measures.
The PRRC, for its part, told the audit agency that it and the Department of Transportation and Communication, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Ports Authority had agreed to review the ferry service operations and revisit its agreement and contract with the boat operator.
Meanwhile, the COA also said the PRRC built one ferry station and three satellite stations for P19.59 million, and yet these were not used.
The Riverbanks Ferry Station and the satellite stations in Maybunga, Kapasigan and Rosario were not used because the areas where they were located were not navigable. This resulted in the wastage of government money, the COA said.
But it also learned that these stations could be used if 50-seater vessels are used instead of the 150-seater vessels that were deployed.
The COA also noted the ferry boat operator did not comply with the provisions of the contract. It only provided six 150-seater vessels instead of 18 50-seater vessels. And yet, the PRRC imposed no penalty for this, it added.
It also said that out of 14 stations targeted for construction, the PRRC only completed 10 stations.
The COA recommended that the PRRC hasten the construction of the remaining terminals and require the boat operator to provide the 50-seater vessels as specified in the contract, and penalize it for the earlier lapse.
President Benigno Aquino III appointed Gina Lopez as chair of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission on August 23 last year.