River ferry service hopes to boost interest in Escolta
MANILA, Philippines—What started out as a simple commuting alternative is now turning out to be a possible boost for tourism.
Following a meeting with Manila heritage groups on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is looking into having a key role in the “urban renewal” of Escolta through the recently revived Pasig River ferry system, MMDA Planning Officer Rey Lunas said in the agency’s Sunday radio show.
During the meeting, historical conservationists talked to the MMDA about reviving Escolta Street in Binondo, Manila, which used to be the premier business district.
The reopening of the Escolta station has made the area more accessible. MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino noted that in the service’s first week, Escolta was the most popular destination, especially for passengers coming from the Guadalupe, Makati, station.
As a result, the Escolta Heritage Association has expressed its gratitude to the MMDA because the ferry service has revived public interest in the area, particularly as a food tripping destination.
For this reason, Tolentino was among those invited to the launching of a food festival in Escolta on May 23.
MMDA Assistant General Manager Emerson Carlos added that during last week’s meeting, participants were grouped into restaurateurs who would be in charge of the food festival, the technical working group which would concentrate on infrastructure concerns such as repainting and addressing flooding, and a “think tank” group tasked with coming up with “big ideas” for the area.
Among those present were known stalwarts of Manila heritage tourism such as Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks and Manila tourism consultant Carlos Celdran.
Aside from helping in the revival of Escolta, the ferry system was helping encourage heritage tourism in other ways.
“The MMDA is making the ferry ride more interesting. Chairman Tolentino has ordered at least 13 murals of historical sites and events displayed along the Pasig River,” Lunas said.
Rides still free
Now on its third week, the ferry service would continue to offer free rides until May 15. The service would also be free from the Guadalupe station to Escolta station every Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., until May 24.
The Saturday schedule is primarily for the benefit of people planning to buy school supplies in Divisoria.
Lunas said that the MMDA, a member of the tripartite committee along with the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, was expected to complete negotiations on a contract Monday with private service providers who would take over the ferryboat operations.
The contract would finalize the fare for the service, which Tolentino earlier said would range between P25 and P50.
No garbage, please
Meanwhile, both Lunas and Carlos urged the public to refrain from throwing garbage even into the Pasig River’s tributaries.
“They end up in the river which affects the ferry system,” Carlos said.
Lunas said the debris get caught in the boats’ propellers and filters. This has prompted the MMDA to deploy its personnel to scoop garbage out of the water before these interfere with ferry operations.
The revival of the Pasig River system was aimed at decongesting Metro Manila’s major roads in preparation for the implementation of 15 road infrastructure projects in the next two years.