A new ferry system for the Pasig river

Published April 9, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


We have long had some ferry boats providing transportation up and down the Pasig River, but this system seems to have been neglected and now virtually abandoned. One reason is the high pollution of the Pasig and the resulting stench assailing the nostrils of passengers in open ferries. The Pasig ferry system has also never achieved the regularity, say, of the light trains and many of its 12 stations have fallen into disrepair.

And yet the Pasig could be a major transportation route from Laguna de Bay down to Manila Bay. It is wide-open without the traffic that now besets all of Metro Manila’s streets. In the search for new transport systems and a new routes to help ease the traffic, there are now plans for overhead highways, subways, new side roads, and bridges. Here is the wide-open Pasig just waiting to be used to transport goods and people as it was once principally used for, in the era before the combustion engine.

Ten agencies led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have now come up with a plan to set up a working ferry system that will be in full operation by 2022. DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno disclosed this plan Wednesday. It will be fomalized with an executive order to be issued by President Duterte.

The core of the program will be 24 air-conditioned ferries, each with a capacity of 50 passengers. The enclosed, air-conditioned passenger cabins should take care of the problem of stench from the Pasig River – although that really merits another program to stop the deterioration of the Pasig and Manila Bay into a cesspool worse than Boracay.

“The plan is to have a comfortable, predictable, and reliable ferry system, because right now, what we have is kind of spotty. We don’t know whether they will come on schedule. So the plan is to have a ferry system that is regular – every 15 minutes – and comfortable… air-conditioned,” Secretary Diokno said. The operation of the ferry system will be bid out to a private firm by the middle of this year.

The present 12 stations will be increased to 29 in four years. Repairs are now underway at three of the stations – at Escolta, Guadalupe, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). Before the end of this year, more stations will be built by MMDA – at Ayala Circuit, Quinta Market, and Pasig City.

With the new system in place, many commuters now living in communities near the Pasig will surely make use of it. In time, it may develop into a tourism program, much like those in cities like Amsterdam in Holland. Hopefully, it will also stimulate the government to come up with a truly effective program to clean up the Pasig River and the entire Manila Bay.

But that is probably far into the future. Right now, we can just look forward to this new program to provide air-conditioned ferry boats to carry commuters along the Pasig, making use of this long neglected route, and easing the traffic gridlock that continues to elude solution despite the best efforts of the new administration.