By Francis Earl A. Cueto – Commuters have taken to the water in their attempt to beat the high cost of moving around in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region. They have turned to the Pasig River ferries that are visibly an alternative to travel by bus, jeepney or train. The ferry service covers the Escolta (Manila)-Napindan (Taguig City) route, bringing commuters to and from various stations along the Pasig River. The ferries pass through six cities in the National Capital Region.
According to Joseph Labastida, the manager of the Guadalupe ferry station in Makati City, the number of passengers boarding the air-conditioned boats has been increasing by more than 15 percent almost every week.
Ferry-service officials said since more passengers now take the water route, they plan to purchase 12 more boats to beef up their current fleet of six.
The Pasig River service is seen as more convenient and comfortable than the trains of Metro Rail Transit 3, and Light Rail Transit 1 and Light Rail Transit 2 as only 150 passengers are allowed to board each boat.
Also, the Pasig River is virtually traffic-free.
The ferry service was revived on February 14, 2007, as an alternate mode of transport for commuters wanting to avoid traffic jams on Metro Manila roads.
It is also seen as more economical and time-saving, compared to taking multiple jeepney, bus or taxi rides that would make the passenger pay more than what he usually does or get himself stuck in gridlocks.
President Gloria Arroyo inaugurated the revived Pasig River Ferry Service, also a revival of the Starcraft ferry service introduced in the early 1990s by then First Lady Amelita Ramos.
President Arroyo took the initial ferry run from the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse located at the Presidential Security Group compound in Malacañang Park to the Guadalupe station at the boundary of the cities of Makati and Mandaluyong.
The Pasig River Ferry Service has newer and faster boats, with about 15 loading and unloading stations, along the 27-kilometer stretch of the river from Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay.
The air-conditioned ferries offer amenities such as payphones and single-journey tickets or multiple-trip tickets.
The cruise passes through the newly built ferry stations in Sta. Ana and Lambingan Bridge in Ma nila, Barangay Hulo in Mandaluyong and Guadalupe in Makati. It also berths at stations in Plaza Mexico, Quezon Bridge and Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila; Valenzuela in Makati; San Joaquin and Caniogan in Pasig City; Riverbanks, Sta. Elena and Marcos Bridge in Marikina City; and Napindan.
Minimum flat rates are P25 to P45, depending on the route.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza earlier said each station cost P80 million to build.
Manufactured by Nautical Transport Service Inc., each boat cost P15 million, Mendoza added.
Personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard are on hand to respond to any emergency situation inside the ferries.