MANILA - Two speed boats were added Monday to the fleet of ferries plying the Pasig River as part of the government's thrust to get more commuters off congested main thoroughfares through alternate modes of transport.
Officials of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) blessed and inaugurated the boats, and rode one from the ferry's Guadalupe to San Joaquin stations and back.
Each capable of carrying up to 15 passengers, the new boats will augment the six 35-seater ferries to accommodate an increasing number of patrons of the river ferry service.
"Mas maliit, kasi may mga panahon na mahina ang volume. Tamang-tama ito para sa mga oras na alanganin... Pero siyempre, kasama pa rin siya dun sa regular traffic sa rush hour, pandagdag din siya," said Usec. Frisco San Juan Jr, MMDA deputy chairman.
[These units are smaller since there times when the volume of passengers is low. This is appropriate for times... But of course, it will be included in the regular traffic for rush hours.]
Around 400 people ride the ferry system every day, which stops at 12 terminals along the river from Lawton in Manila to San Joaquin in Pasig.
The MMDA said it was working on extending trip hours in Manila past 5:30 p.m. this holiday season. Escolta, one of the most patronized stations, is an entry point to the Divisoria market district.
The agency is also studying plans to open more ferry stations along the river up to Rizal province east of Manila and the Laguna de Bay area down south. Commuters from these areas will gain a short cut to Metro Manila if the ferry system is fully optimized, MMDA officials said.
This will entail concerned local government units to put up terminals in their own municipalities and investors to enter public-private partnerships.
"Kung may isang station kada bayan, sa Rizal alone, you would need [one each for] seven towns around the lake. Sa Laguna, napakarami. So I foresee in the coming years, thinking ahead, palagay kong aabot ng mga 13 stations 'yan along the lake. Additional 'yun," said San Juan, who is also a former vice governor of Rizal.
[If you have one station for every town, in Rizal alone, you would need one each for the seven towns around the lake. You will need more in Laguna. So I foresee in the coming years, thinking ahead, there may be 13 additional stations along the lake. ]
For now, San Juan said the agency will put priority on getting more commuters to regularly patronize the ferries.
"Minsan 'yung mga tao natatakot pa na sumakay. For example, 'pag typhoon season, malakas ang alon. [Sometimes, people are still afraid to ride. For example, during typhoon season, the waves are high]. That will mean you have to have bigger boats, more steady boats, para sa mga ganoong panahon [for such times]," San Juan said.
"Kailangang kumbinsehin mo sila, 'O walang mangyayari sa 'yong aksidente diyan'. Kailangan mo silang bigyan ng confidence." [You also have to convince them there will be no accidents. You need to give them confidence]
Additional boats will also help speed up the frequency of trips to every 30 minutes, rather than the current hourly rides of the ferries.