One of the measures taken by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to try to ease the traffic problem in Metro Manila is a ferry service in Pasig River. There has been many attempts to use the Pasig River to ferry people, either tourists or commuters. The last private sector effort which ended in 2011 left behind a number of properly built ferry station structures, which have since 2014 been used by MMDA to support the commuter ferry service.
We got interested in the ferry service after we read about the free shuttle service provided by a major developer, Megaworld Corporation, that has several large-scale developments in Fort Bonifacio. This free shuttle bus service was announced in December 2016. We checked it out last week to see whether, together with the free shuttle service, the Pasig River Ferry could finally become an attractive option for commuters who work in Fort Bonifacio.
Before you read this article, we have to make a disclaimer: the information shown below is gathered from personnel at one of the ferry stations as well as our own research on the Internet. Because there is no clear or complete information in one place about the ferry service, some information provided here is our inference from materials collected, and should be read with caution.
The Pasig River Ferry's operating hours are said to be from Monday to Saturday 6:30 am to 4:30 pm. These operating hours can only cater to people who can go home from work in Fort Bonifacio in early afternoon, but apparently, sometimes the service is extended to around 5:30pm without announcement.
According to personnel at one ferry station, the ferry service has two routes, one is from Guadalupe to Manila, and the other is from Guadalupe to C6, near Acacia Estate in Taguig City.
The Guadalupe to Manila route is said to be served by 3 boats, each with a capacity of 36 seats. As for the C6 trip, they use a 16-seater boats, and there are two of them. These boats are not air-conditioned, presumably to keep costs down.
On a Wednesday afternoon, we tried the Manila trip, which starts at the Guadalupe station and ends at the Plaza Mexico station. We were told that the ferry would take about 40 minutes to go from Guadalupe to Escolta Station.
From Uptown to Manila
We have seen shuttle buses that had the words "Pasig Ferry Shuttle" painted on its side going around McKinley Hill every weekday. So we decided to use it for our trip to Manila.
When we went to a bus stop in McKinley Hill, however, we were told that there was no more shuttle between McKinley Hill and the ferry station, or between McKinley Hill and Uptown and ferry station. Disappointed but not deterred, we made our way to Uptown Mall to try to catch the shuttle.
At Uptown Mall, we waited one hour before the shuttle bus arrived. We got the impression that the bus had no schedule. At least no one or no poster was there to tell us the service schedule. We got on the shuttle bus with a handful of other people, and it only took about 10 minutes to arrive at Guadalupe ferry station.
Inside the station, a poster that listed the fare to stations from Guadalupe on the Manila route was shown. The fare ranges from P15 to P50 depending on which station you are going to. From Guadalupe Station to Hulo Station, the fare is P15 and to Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Manila, Lawton, Escolta up to the last station at Plaza Mexico the fare is P50, respectively. We could not find out about the stations and fare going to C6.
We wanted to ride the ferry to China Town, so we asked about the ferry to Manila. We were told that there were around 70 passengers using the ferry service everyday. But we were not one of the lucky riders on that day. To our dismay, we were told that of the three ferries that run this route, two had left (and not coming back for the day, it seems) and one was damaged by water lilies. So no more ferry from Guadalupe to Manila, and it was barely 4pm.
We were determined to set foot on a Pasig ferry, and to see the stations in Manila. How?
We waited about 40 minutes for a ferry that was going to C6, and took photos of its inside as well as from outside before it left for C6. At least we had set foot on a ferry!
Then, in order to see the ferry in Manila, we took a taxi. It cost about P250 and a 40-minute ride. The ferry ride would have cost P50.
Finally, we got to the station nearest to China Town, which is the Escolta Station. The view from the ferry station was very nice. But we also saw some water lilies on the river.
Apparently, we missed the boat. We then took a tricycle to go to the last station on the Manila route, which is Plaza Mexico.
Guess what we found at Plaza Mexico station? A ferry! It does not look like it has capacity for 36 seats, but we can never tell what magic can be performed by MMDA.
We were not able to ride the Pasig Ferry to Manila on that particular day. This means that commuters going home from Fort Bonifacio to Manila at the same time would not have been able to use the ferry to go home also, assuming that they could get to the ferry station by 4pm. Many workers cannot finish work so early.
If the ferries continue to get damaged by garbage and plants in the river often, the number of boats available to serve commuter during morning rush hours would become even smaller. Right now, if all three ferries are available for the Manila route, the shortest waiting time would be over 30 minutes. The fewer the ferries, the longer the waiting time.
How about the free shuttle service? The shuttle that goes from Uptown to Guadalupe and vice versa did not have a schedule, and in that afternoon, the waiting time was one hour.
There is supposed to be another shuttle that brings passengers who alight at Escolta station to Binondo/Divisoria, but we were told that it is not always in service due to the van's condition. We were also told that the shuttle from McKinley to Guadalupe and vice versa has stopped operations, but strangely, we still see minivans that have the sign "Pasig Ferry Shuttle" plying McKinley Hill on weekdays.
While the ferry ride alone between Guadalupe and Manila may be shorter than going by road, the waiting time at various stages of the ride makes it a difficult option for commuters to use, in our opinion.