MMDA: One more try for Pasig River ferries

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UNPROFITABLE WATERS? The ferry service in 2007. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

It last “sank” as a business venture in 2011, but the worsening traffic condition in the metropolis is causing authorities to give it another try, hopefully on a more viable scale.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is considering the revival of a long-undeveloped, on-and-off mass transport system in the capital: a ferry service in Pasig River.

MMDA chair Francis Tolentino on Friday said plans were underway to reactivate the ferry line in April, starting from Guadalupe in Makati City to Escolta in Manila, using MMDA’s own fleet of boats.

The previous privately operated ferry service closed down in 2011 due to business losses, Tolentino recalled. A study later showed that the vessels used were too big and the waiting time at the stations was too long that’s why the number of passengers dropped, he added.

“This is the MMDA’s way of helping those who will find it hard to commute,” Tolentino told reporters on the sidelines of the two-day Traffic Management Summit in Makati City, which his agency held to draw up traffic-alleviation measures in view of the 15 major road projects starting this year.

Tolentino said the MMDA also hopes to “inspire the private sector to rejoin the ferry system.”

The agency would charge “a minimal fare” for the use of its 40-seater ferries, he added.

“The construction of the road projects will only take two years, so by that time we hope we have already invited a private (investor to operate the ferry). In the meantime, we will handle it,” he said.

Previous ferry services covered a 17-kilometer route along the cities of Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Taguig and Marikina, with 10

terminals starting from Escolta in Manila to Marikina Bridge East Bank.

During the Ramos administration, the government awarded the ferry operation to Starcraft Ferry Corp. It ferried around 3,000 to 5,000 passengers daily at that time, but it eventually ceased its operations due to financial and management problems.

In 2004, new plans emerged to keep the ferry service afloat, through a tripartite effort of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and the MMDA under then chair Bayani Fernando.

In a public hearing, Fernando said previous ferry operators ceased operations also because the river’s foul odor turned off passengers and floating garbage and debris caused engine problems.

A 2010 report by the Commission on Audit found that PRRC lost P94 million in its ferry operations and attributed the loss to the dwindling number of passengers, frequent cancelation of regular trips, among other factors. With reports from Rafael L. Antonio, Inquirer Research

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