Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recto tells gov't to give raft of incentives to ferries

MANILA-We’ve got nowhere to go but water, and Metro Manila is a metropolis by the bay, bisected by a river.  If the streets are full of cars and we want to travel, then let’s go amphibian.

If we’ve reached road building capacity, and can no longer squeeze carriageway space in our roads, then we should tap our nautical roads.    

Traffic has prodded us to launch a lot of mitigation schemes – from Christmas lanes, to number coding, to new rail lines –  except  a thousand boats.

The Pasig River ferry system is not a stop-gap measure but it should be developed into a permanent transportation mode in Metro Manila.  Ferries are not alternative but, no pun intended, mainstream.

And ferry services should not be limited to Pasig River alone. 

We should also study the possibility of extending it to Marikina, and to the bedroom communities in Cavite, the lakeshore towns of Rizal and Laguna, and  to coastal Bulacan, which are  within the embrace of  Mega Manila.

As a first step, DOTC should now make public the results of the MAPALLA or  the Manila Bay-Pasig River-Laguna Ferry Service feasibility study which it commissioned in December 2012 at a cost of  P17 million.

Under the terms of the contract, the feasibility study should have been submitted last July 2013.

If it is viable, funding for pilot projects should be included in the 2015 proposed national budget.  As the DBM has issued the Budget Call for 2015, and it is now the budget preparation season in the executive branch, the DOTC might as well  include ferry service-related activities in its menu of projects for next year.

If ferries are feasible, then government should go full speed ahead developing the system. It should ignore any toll road-railway- bus company lobby which may want to torpedo it.  We don’t want the ferry service sank by competing private interests while still on port.

Ferry services do not require huge capital investments as compared to toll roads and railways.  The waterway they will travel on is already there (no need to dig a river)  unlike in road transport where massive inconvenience is present in building the platforms, be it for trains or cars.

We have given planes, trains and automobiles, and toll roads, fiscal incentives and tax breaks. Why not extend the same to ferries?  A raft of incentives might be needed to  keep ferries afloat. 

And there's another kind of incentive. When more residents of a metropolis regularly use its waterways for travelling, the incentive to keep them clean is high.  

And with raised awareness comes the drive to fight river pollution. Ferries do not only create a class of travelers but a ridership with a strong environmental consciousness.

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