LET’S DO FERRY

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag, Nestle L. Semilla, Vanessa Lucero, Victor Anthony V. Silva February 09,2016 - 10:39 PM
This Metro Ferry is fully loaded as passengers opt to commute via Mactan Channel to avoid the traffic congestion at the roads and bridges linking Mandaue City to Lapu-Lapu City. (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

This Metro Ferry is fully loaded as passengers opt to commute via Mactan Channel to avoid the traffic congestion at the roads and bridges linking Mandaue City to Lapu-Lapu City. (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

Marina opens application for  more ferry operators

More ferries are set to ply the Mactan Channel as an immediate solution to the horrendous traffic along the major roads and on the two bridges linking Mandaue City on mainland Cebu to Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.

Augusto W. Go, owner of Metro Ferry, Inc. that operates the ferries plying Mactan Channel, told Cebu Daily News all eight vessels of Metro Ferry would be fielded starting today to serve more passengers crossing between Mactan and the mainland.

Go added that due to the falling fuel prices, they also planned to reduce the fare from P14 to P13,  but this would have to wait until after the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has approved their new tickets.

“Once approved, we will implement it right away,” he said.

Go said they would likewise consider adding trips before 6 a.m. and to schedule the last trip at 11 p.m.

The public has been repeatedly warned that traffic would get worse when the repairs of key Mandaue City streets and the old Mandaue-Mactan Bridge (first bridge) would start, but most did not know it was going to be very bad until yesterday.

For example, a commute from the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to Cebu City that normally took 30 to 45 minutes took about four hours yesterday.

The usual 15-minute travel time from the airport to the foot of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge (second bridge) took an hour and a half yesterday, according to Facebook posts of commuters.

The move of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to leave both lanes of the  first bridge open to traffic and defer work for a week did not ease congestion.

The solution, officials said, would be to decongest the roads by increasing the number of vessels — ferries and barges — plying between Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities.

Jose Cabatingan, spokesperson of the Maritime Industry Authority-Central Visayas (Marina-7), said only Metro Ferry vessels presently sail between Mactan and Cebu City.  The docking points for the ferries are Muelle Osmeña in Lapu-Lapu City and Pier 3 in Cebu City.

SPECIAL PERMITS

Arthur Aranda, captain of one of the Metro ferries, said their smallest ferry can accommodate up to 152 passengers while the biggest, MV Princesa, can ferry up to  270 people.

Regular fare is P14 and P12 for students and senior citizens. Each  passenger also pays a P2 terminal fee at the Cebu City port terminal and P1 at the Lapu-Lapu City port terminal.

“We are willing to accept applications from shipping lines for us to issue special permits (for them to ply the Mactan Channel route),” Cabatingan told CDN, following an emergency meeting yesterday with officials of the two cities and heads of concerned agencies to address the traffic congestion issue.

Cabatingan said the meeting included Mayors Jonas Cortes of Mandaue and Paz Radaza of  Lapu-Lapu, and their respective engineering and traffic officers,  Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional officials and representatives from the Cebu Port Authority.

He said application for a special permit, which would allow a vessel to sail outside its original route, would only take a day to process.

“It is easier for (shipping lines) to apply for special permits because they are already franchise holders. We just need to check if they have a docking area or port facilities in the area,” he added.

Shipping companies were invited to the meeting but only the representatives from Lite Shipping and Gothong Southern Shipping attended the meeting.  There was no application yet from these two shipping firms, Cabatingan said.

DOUBLE

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Cebu Station Commander Agapito Bibat said the Metro ferries  ply daily the Mactan Channel route from 6 a.m to 10 p.m., with travel time each way taking only 15 minutes, at a 30-minute interval.

Commodore Enrico Evangelista, PCG-Central Visayas chief, said more passengers came during the morning commute (8 a.m.-11 a.m.), with around 700 lining up on the Lapu-Lapu dock side, double the usual number of ferry passengers.

Ador Canlas,  DPWH 7 director,  said Cortes has suggested that the Ouano Wharf in Barangay Looc be considered a potential take off area for ferries and barges headed for Lapu-Lapu City while ferries that come from Cebu City could dock at the resorts on Mactan.

Canlas said the Department of Tourism has agreed to help identify the resorts but he opted not to name them pending the result of their meeting today.

Two Mactan-based resorts, the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa and Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa, however, said they were not informed of the proposal to use their wharfs as docking areas for ferries and barges.

Christina Noval, Plantation Bay duty manager, said they would reserve their comment until after they get more information about the proposal from DPWH and DOT.

The Cebu Yacht Club, owned by Emilio “Milo” Osmeña, might also be considered as a possible docking area. Cebu Yacht Club is used as a docking area for visiting yachts.

Osmeña, in a statement, said they were willing to discuss possible solutions with DPWH and other concerned agencies.

“We are aware of the current traffic situation and would be happy to discuss options to help reduce the traffic congestion. We are open to discussion. We will be happy to do our part to help reduce traffic congestion,” he said.

Mandaue City Planning and Development (MCPD) officer Florentino Nimor Jr.  said owners of Ouano wharf, a private facility, were also open to allowing ferry services at the wharf, which is at present only services cargo vessels and passenger ships from Bohol province.

BARGE

Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said he would ask the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to consider allowing barges to transport vehicles across the channel.

“This temporary solution will reduce the volume of vehicles using the bridge and subsequently reduce the heavy traffic,” he said.

He said barges used to ferry vehicles and cargoes across the channel when the old bridge, then the only span linking Mactan and Cebu, was closed after it was damaged by an international cargo ship at the height of typhoon Ruping in 1990.

He said the barges could be docked at a jetty constructed by the city government at the South Road Properties (SRP), a move supported by Mayor Michael Rama.

“We want to serve people. Rather than to get through an hour of inconvenience (when passing through the bridge), then they can just have minutes of discomfort (when using the barge). So you have a choice and we have done that before,” Rama said by phone yesterday.

OLD BRIDGE REOPENED

While looking for solutions to the traffic congestion, Canlas ordered the re-opening of the Lapu-Lapu City-bound lane of the old bridge, which was closed for repair Monday, to remedy the congestion in the area.  But traffic remained heavy in the area because of the ongoing road concreting works at D.M. Cortes Street (Plaridel St.) in Mandaue City.

Canlas said DPWH also decided that the ongoing works on the old bridge would be limited to sidewalk repairs, to be done from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.,  since they were also still waiting for the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) to resolve issues regarding its pipeline under the bridge.

“We think the pipe supports will not be enough once we start demolishing the deck slabs. The pipeline might collapse or get damaged in the process,” said Canlas.
MCWD, in a statement,  said the pipe support was for its 400-mm pipeline that brings 12,000 cubic meters of water to households in Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova town daily.

Canlas earlier suggested that Jegma Construction and Development Corp., which is undertaking the bridge repair, should also handle the pipe support project to  speed up the bridge rehabilitation work.

MCWD said it offered the job to Jegma in December last year but the construction firm informed the water district only yesterday that it was not capable of handling the  pipe support work job.  This means that MCWD, as a government-owned and –controlled corporation, would need to bid out the project and the process would take months, the statement said.

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