We can make better use of our rivers and lakes


FOR people surrounded by water, we Filipinos do not seem to appreciate rivers, lakes, or even the sea. And yet, those natural resources may hold the key to the solutions of so many of our problems.

Take traffic congestion in Metro Manila, for instance. A recent Japanese study estimated that its economic cost at about P2.4 billion a day. In a year, that adds up to P576 billion, which is P176 billion more than the 2014 infrastructure budget. One solution, which the Aquino government is pursuing of late, is to build more roads. The downside is that construction work worsens the congestion in the short term. Even after the projects’ completion, the Philippines will still lag far behind in infrastructure development relative to other Asean countries – and in meeting the actual domestic needs for more roads. Worse, the rail system has further deteriorated under the present government.

All of the government’s efforts to ease traffic congestion have not amounted to much. To its credit, the government did try to revive the Pasig River ferry, but to date that pursuit has not taken off. What a shame.

If developed well, the Pasig River could be another EDSA. The river is longer than that major thoroughfare, about 25 kilometers versus EDSA’s 23.8 kilometers. Also like EDSA, the Pasig River cuts through the heart of the metropolis, including the core business and financial venue, Makati City.

Actually, using the Pasig River for transport is not a new concept. Many have forgotten that before the urbanization of Manila, the river served as a major means of transportation for the capital city.

We also should remember that the Pasig River connects to two important bodies of water – Manila Bay at its mouth and Laguna de Bay at its source. Again if the Pasig is developed, people and cargo could be shipped to and from Metro Manila and the lakeshore towns in Rizal and Laguna. The lake’s shoreline is about 220 kilometers. Just imagine the cost of building a road that long.

On the other end, Manila Bay has a coastline about 190 kilometers. By ferry from the Pasig River, it would be possible to go from Manila to the coastal towns in Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan.

Of course, the reality is far more complex. Pasig River and Laguna de Bay are heavily silted in many parts, and that limits their use in transportation. Resolving this issue not only requires the relocation of countless illegal settlers along the river banks, but also the replanting of denuded mountains and other areas to stop dumping further soil erosion into the lake. Moreover, developing water highways will require the construction of ports for passengers and cargo. Huge investments will be needed to build and manage the ferries and other vessels that will ply these bodies of water.

Still, the potential benefits are enormous. The positives may be even greater once we start thinking of other things to do with these natural resources. For instance, Pasig River and Laguna de Bay can also be developed for tourism. Also, they can be tapped for recreational activities, such as sailing and many other water sports.

Of course, we should not forget the basics. Laguna de Bay, in particular, can be an important source of fresh drinking water for Metro Manila and nearby provinces. If revived, the Pasig River and Manila Bay could be a boon to the fishing industry. And if cleaned, the tributaries and estuaries could mitigate flooding in Metro Manila.

These and the other potential benefits mentioned earlier could be realized only if we stop treating our bodies of water as moats and as public toilets.


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  1. emmanuel mallari on

    correct me if i am wrong, if this observation or suggestion is really feasible…bakit walang nagi-invest? hindi makakalagpas sa isang investor na may keen eye for project that is feasible ang ganitong proyekto. They’d rather invest in casino like entertainment, etc. na mas mabilis ang ROI.

  2. right now I think the MMDA have deployed 4 ferry boats in Pasig river but they are too small and can only accommodate 20 passengers. they need to deploy 10 midsize or bigger boats then upgrade the ferry terminals, including providing parking for passengers who may drive to the terminal and then ride the ferry boat, and provide shuttle vans or buses to continue the commute to their destinations, provide security to the terminals and parking lots. lastly they should clean up the Pasig river and strictly enforce environmental laws especially on factories and businesses along the Pasig river not to dump their wastes or pay stiff fines.

  3. Dominador D. Canastra on

    Very good very good suggestion, Manila Times.
    One of the first things the Abnoy administration did was to cancel the Belgian government-cum-private sector contract to dredge up Laguna Lake, which would have been a step toward the realization of making use again of he Pasig River as a major “highway.”
    Then the Abnoy admin got hold of the funds for the cancelled project anmd made it part of its illegal DAP!

    • meron ng grupong gumawa ng ferry service sa pasig river. air-conditioned pa nga ang mga ferries. nalugi dahil walang sumasakay. limitado ang operasyon kasi sa pasig river lang sila hindi makapasok sa laguna lake ang kanilang ferries kasi may problema sa parte ng ilog na papasok sa laguna lake. may malaking bato na nakabara at hindi makakaraan ang ferry. hindi nagawan ng solusyon ito kahit nuong panahon ni bayani fernando. inuupuan baga. kaya hindi tumagal ang ferry service. ngayon binuhay ni mmda tolentino pero yung ferry nya ay bulok at hindi pwedeng sakyan ng mga nagoopisina.

    • Tama Magandang alternatibo gawin daan ng trasportasyon ang ilog pasig actually umabot pa nga iyan hanggang rosario pasig noon, pero sayang at nawala rin, pero para sa akin mas kailangan munang LINISIN ang ilog pasig bago ang proyektong gawin na daan ng transportasyon yan, dahil mas makikinabang ang lahat kapag nalinis yan. sa tulad kong pasigueno na naranasan ang manghuli ng isda dyan para ipang ulam ay malaki ang panghihinayang sa sinapit ngayon ang ilog pasig. at sure ako na mangyayari lamang ang pag linis at pag unlad ng ilog pasig kapag ang TAONG MAMUMUNO AY MAY POLITICAL WILL.

  4. What rivers and lake. I saw the river close to UERM hospital, Tatalon river,? am familair
    with Pasig, where Ibarra escaped with the notorious Simon. I saw Naujan Lake in Or Mindoro.
    Way back is was teeming with BANAK. the area was good for coffee plants. Used to
    used for duck raising for the people of Naujan. The banak, was just sweet, especially salted
    and dried. I visited Orindoro 3 yrs ago. I visited Tacloban, pre typhoon, visited old church,
    Leyte Macarthur landing site, saw San Juanico bridge.