Privatization of Pasig ferry operations sought

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Monday, May 19, 2014

A PARTY-LIST lawmaker on Monday urged the National Government to bid out to the private sector the development of an ultramodern Pasig River Metro Ferry Service.

Liquefied Petroleum Marketers' Association (LPGMA) party-list Representative Arnel Ty supports the operation of a modern ferry system along the Pasig River due to the growing public dissatisfaction over Metro Manila's deteriorating light rail transit systems, which have been bugged by severe congestion, recurring mechanical breakdowns and service delays.

"Many large private investors will likely be attracted to build and operate a highly developed Pasig River Metro Ferry Service, especially if the concession will include the right to exploit the passenger terminals for commercial purposes," the Deputy Minority Leader said.


"There's no question a modern Pasig River Metro Ferry Service can provide an alternative means of public transport that is safe, fast and reliable. However, a bigger, bolder and tested developer; an entity with a deeper pocket may be needed to build and run the project this time," he added.

Though the lawmaker welcomed the initiative from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), he is doubtful that the agency on its own, can sustain the cost of operating the ferry service.

"The DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication), MMDA, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, and the NEDA's (National Economic and Development Authority) PPP Center should work together and find ways to enlist a larger private company to develop an advanced and convenient ferry service. One that will hopefully draw in a huge volume of commuters," Ty said.

The previous private operator of the now-defunct Pasig River Ferry Service Project, which ran from March 2007 to December 2010, gave up after incurring only P94 million in financial losses due to low ridership amid rising fuel cost.

Ty cited a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) stating that the ferry system backed by a P181-million Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan used to construct the initial 10 passenger stations failed because the private operator deviated from the original plan to deploy 18 boats with 50 seats each.

The COA report stated that the private operator used fewer and bigger boats six vessels with 150 seats each.

"As a result, the COA report said commuters hardly availed of the service because they had to wait for a long time for the boat to fill up and depart," Ty said.

The COA report then recommended the revival of the ferry service project via competitive bidding by prospective new private operators that can readily comply with the initially required 18 vessels with 50 passengers each.

Last month, the MMDA launched an improvised Pasig River ferry service using five small non-airconditioned boats running daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. between five stations from Pinagbuhatan in Pasig City; Guadalupe in Makati City; and Sta. Mesa, Escolta and Plaza Mexico in Manila. (Sunnex)

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