By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) admitted that it needs budget to hasten the cleaning of the Pasig River to give way to the revival of the Pasig River ferry system.
The MMDA made the statement weeks after it was reported that President Duterte approved the proposal to institutionalize the Pasig River Ferry Convergence Program during the last Cabinet meeting.
MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago, in an interview over state-run Radyo Pilipinas, said that cleaning up the metro’s most famous river has been a challenge for the agency.
She also said that the 21 ferries may face trouble during the rainy days if the river will not be cleaned of the water lilies there.
“Nahihirapan ho kami diyan sir kapag tag-ulan, iyong mga lilies. So kasama rin ho doon sa ni-request natin iyong budget ho para mabilis ho nating malinis iyong mga water lilies. Kasi sir sa ngayon, mano-mano pa kami sa water lilies (We find it hard to clean up the lilies there during rainy days. So we requested for a budget to clean up faster. Because we are still manually cleaning them up),” Pialago said.
“Hindi ho natin puwedeng ibiyahe iyong ferry, kasi ho masisira naman ho iyong engine ng ferry, kaya ho mada-damage ho iyong operation namin kapag tag-ulan. Pero ngayon sir, operational lahat dahil ho tag-init, walang water lilies (We cannot operate during rainy days because the lilies will damage the ferries’ engines. We can operate, however, during the summer season because there are no lilies),” she added.
“Iyong water lilies sir, makakapal iyan sir eh. Na-encounter ho namin iyan, talagang ‘pag hinila mo ‘yan, akala mo dahon lang na mabilis mong—malalalim sila sir, malalaki sila, talagang kailangan mo ng machine (Water lilies are thick and deep. You may think that they are just like leaves but you really need a machine to clean them up),” she continued.
Pialago also said that the rehabilitation of the Pasig River is also necessary in order to convince commuters to take the ferries as an alternative to other public transportation. She said the MMDA will also add more stations so it will be more accessible to the public.
“Ang idea ho kasi ng pagre-rehabilitate natin – pagsasabuhay ng Pasig ferry natin sir – para magkaroon po ng alternatibo iyong mga commuters natin. Pero sir, hindi mo sila mahihikayat kapag madumi, maalansangan, mabaho, hindi komportable, kaya sure dadagdagan natin ng marami pang stations (We are rehabilitating Pasig River so the commuters can have an alternative. But you can’t attract them if it is dirty, stinky, and not comfortable. So it will be sure that we will add more stations),” she said.
She also said that during the summer season, the Pasig River ferry system averages at least a thousand passengers a day, a number which is five to 10 times larger compared to the 100 to 200 passenger average during the rainy season.
The Pasig River Ferry Service is the only water-based transportation in Metro Manila, Philippines that cruises 21 kilometers of the Pasig River from Pinagbuhatan in Pasig to Intramuros in Manila. It currently has 12 stations and the fare ranges from the P35 to P90. End-to-end travel takes about an hour and 20 minutes. It runs an 11-hour operation from 6:30 a.m.
During the Cabinet meeting in early April, a proposed Executive Order (EO) is said to have five components, namely fleet acquisition and network development, infrastructure, environmental management, communications, and easement recovery.
An inter-agency committee will also be created to oversee the implementation of the revitalized Pasig River ferry system. It will be chaired by the Department of Budget and Management and co-chaired by the MMDA.
Members of the body are the Department of Transportation, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, and Laguna Lake Development Authority.
Funds for the program would be sourced from the concerned government agencies this year. A multi-year funding was also proposed for the succeeding fiscal years.
President Duterte has often joked that he would like to throw drug addicts, drug lords, and corrupt government officials into the Pasig River behind Malacañang and make them eat the water lilies there.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also earlier said that United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Agnes Callamard is welcome to the Philippines to swim in the Pasig River.