PASIG City has two rivers and one man-made canal – Pasig River, Marikina River and Manggahan Floodway – so it is both natural and practical that a reliable ferry system be developed to link it to the cities of Manila and Pasay.
Manila Bay is a natural marine resource shared by the province of Cavite and the National Capital Region (NCR), and since the phenomenal boom in population in Cavite over the past decade, land transportation between these two regions has become slow and inefficient.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), in cooperation with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the local government units concerned, has seen the light: because land transport has become constricted, we should try making use of the water.
Thus this week, perhaps not particularly planned, the ferry service in Manila Bay between Cavite City and the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex started its dry run Sunday, followed the next day, Monday, by the revival of the Pasig River ferry system from Pasig City to Plaza Lawton in Manila. Both passenger carriers in these bodies of water aim to slice some load off the jeepneys, buses and metro trains serving the metropolis.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade was all over the place, ensuring Sunday that the two ferries to be used in the Cavite-Manila run are safe and seaworthy. Expectedly, the P150 fare in these ferries is higher than the regular air-conditioned buses, thus Tugade was trying to negotiate for a lower fare. The consolation is that these ferries will serve the route for free until the end of January 2020, as Cavite folks adjust to their regular trips to their offices in Manila, and back.
The Pasig River ferries are also giving a month’s service for free to all passengers, and MMDA Chairman Danny Lim even broached the idea that if they had their way, and additional funding are found, they would operate the river ferries for free until the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022.
One thing going for both ferry services is the no-nonsense campaign of the Duterte administration to clean the waters of Manila Bay, including the Pasig River. With murky and dirty water, and especially its emission of foul odor, any water-based mass transportation in Metro Manila will be shunned by passengers. We hope that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will continue in ridding these two bodies of water of garbage and filth, and restore them to habitable levels for marine life.
The issue of safety can never be overemphasized here, because just one major tragedy at sea or in the river involving the new ferries will be enough for the public to lose its trust on the system, because of which it may never recover. Here is where Secretary Tugade’s experience and mettle will be most needed.