Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Solution to carmageddon just outside the window of PNoy's office'

MANILA-Malacanang was told to dip into President Aquino’s assorted standby funds in reviving the Pasig River ferry service as tapping 27-kilometer waterway is the only way to mitigate the “kahindik-hindik” traffic 15 big roads projects are expected to inflict on Metro Manila residents in the next two years.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the solution to the impending “carmaggedon” in the capital region “is just outside the windows of Malacanang.”

Referring to the Pasig River, “we should now utilize this nautical road,” Recto said. “It is toll-free and ready to use.”

He said government should no longer wait for private investors to launch the ferry service. “Kung hihintayin natin ang private sector, baka tapos na ang mga road projects, ni isang anino ng ferry wala  pang lumulutang.” 

He justified government intervention by pointing out “that any monstrous traffic which inconveniences millions fits the definition of an emergency. If you’ll steam inside your car which moves in mere meters in hours, then in any book that is a calamity.”

Recto said  “exigencies which cause public injury like traffic can be solved through government intervention using discretionary funds under the disposal of the executive branch.”

He enumerated the P1 billion Contingent Fund and the P140 billion Unprogrammed Fund in the 2014  national budget as possible sources of funds  for projects, the Pasig River ferry service among them, which could  ease vehicular congestion during the road building spree.

In the case of the Pasig River ferry service, the government can buy boats, or rent the boats that the previous ferry operator owned, Recto said.

He argued that if the government can afford “to subsidize an MRT or LRT rider at a cost of P40 per trip,” then there is no reason why it cannot shell out a far lower amount for a Pasig River ferry rider.

However, for the ferry service to be launched immediately, it must be premised on the reality that it will not earn profit, Recto said. “It must be viewed as a public service  in  response to an  emergency which in this case is the  traffic gridlock.”

“Billions of pesos will be lost due to the projected traffic. So whatever amount will be invested by the government in the ferry, the people will reap economic benefits  even if the actual operating cost is not recouped from fare box collections, Recto said.

Before the 10-boat Pasig River ferry service stopped operations in 2011, it served 17  stations along  a 15 kilometer route from Plaza  Mexico in Intramuros, Manila to Nagpayong in Pasig City.

Another spur, using the Marikina River, from the Riverbanks in Marikina City to Guadalupe in Makati City, was planned, but except for trial runs, no regular service was launched.  

The last ferry operator deployed  twin-hulled  boats which seat  150 people in  air-conditioned cabins.

It was, however, discontinued due to lower passenger volume and navigational  hazards like the proliferation of water lily.

“Mas mabuti pang sa Pasig River ferry tayo mag-invest kasi hindi masalimuot dito, di tulad ng MRT na hanggang ngayon ang balak ng gobyerno bumili ng 48 coaches ay nakatali sa korte,” Recto said.

He was referring to the DOTC award of  the P3.77-billion contract for MRT 3's expansion to Chinese firm Dailan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company which has been met with legal challenges.

The 15 megaprojects are  the Skyway Stage 3 the NAIA Expressway Phase 2 project,   the Gil Puyat-Makati-Avenue-Paseo de Roxas underpass, the Sta. Monica-Lawton Avenue bridge, CP Garcia Avenue-McKinley Hill ramp, repair  of Magallanes Interchange, EDSA-Taft Avenue flyover, MRT Line 3/ LRT Line 1 extension common station, LRT Line 2 East extension up to Masinag, LRT Line 1 Extension (Cavite), EDSA- Roosevelt Ave. interchange, Espana Avenue-Lacson Avenue interchange, repair of South Superhighway Makati, the NLEX-SLEX connector road,  and the EDSA-West Avenue-North Avenue interchange.

Another traffic-mitigating proposal of Recto is for government to encourage shippers, especially those based in south of Metro Manila, to use the underutilized but fully capable Batangas international port.

“Government should encourage more ships to call on that port.  Exporters and importers and their truckers will find it easier, faster to ship via Batangas.  There’s no truck ban there. And Metro Manilans will benefit, too, as it would mean fewer ten-wheelers on the road,” Recto said.

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