Featured Philippine Ports: Pasig River

The once thriving old Port of Manila during Spanish occupation.

Pasig River, the once thriving Puerto de Manila during Spanish occupation.

 Port of Manila (The Old Port)

Before the emergence of the present Port of Manila-comprising North and South Harbor, The Manila International Container Terminal, and Harbour Port Centre-the original port of entry even before Spanish occcupation was then established by early Malay settlers on the banks of  Pasig river.  Later on during the arrival of the Spanish, leading to their colonization (of the what is now known as Philippine archipelago) in the 17th century, activities of this old port along the river were flourishing due to merchant activities coming from trading countries like China, Malaca, India (Mughal Empire and the English East India Company), and Acapulco which were brought by merchant boats .  These full-rigged sailing boats that were built primarily for War dropped their anchors near the mouth of the said river.  Shallow draft boats often unloads cargoes from this large sailing boat and then brought to several cargo drop-offs between Muelle de la Industria (lower Pasig river) up to Muelle de la Banco Nacional in Escolta near Puente de Espana bridge (known today as Jones bridge- connects Binondo to Ermita).[1]

Ruins of Old Aduana Building, Intramuros Manila

Ruins of old Aduana Building in Intramuros, Manila.

Old street like Muelle del Rio, Muelle del Banco Nacional and Muelle de la Industria (the name alone denotes that this area is once a maritime hub) are used for loading and unloading of cargoes, it also had a facility for boat repairs and building. Thus, Escolta and the commercial hub of Binondo and Sta. Cruz emerges from river’s advantage as major trading port in the country. While on the southern bank of the river opposite Muelle del Banco Nacional is the location of the old Custom House (next beside the famed walled city of Intramuros) or  Aduana as it was known before-it was the administrative office of Spanish Custom officials.

The Old Manila Port were also the staging point of Manila Galleons (bringing its valuable goods to Acapulco in Mexico and vice versa) during Spanish era. These trading activities  between two countries lasted from 1715 up to 1815; but in 1830 the Government of Spain opened Port of Manila to the market of the world. During this era, maritime commerce along the river risen due to regular trading exchange between Asian countries particularly Macao, China and other important trading port.

Manila Galleons (also known as Nao de Manila) are built mostly in Cavite using Philippine hardwood,  it has an average displacement of 1,700 to 2,000 tons. The boat’s enormous size could not approach the entrance Pasig river due to sandbar (cleaning sandbar along the river has been done during early 1850’s), “the continuous squall preceding Southwest Monsoon would close the canal again and boats with 11 feet draught could never enter the river even in high tide, more often Casco’s (a shallow draft raft propelled with long bamboo) and Pontines (a large craft with two mast and square sail made of mats) carries heavy merchandise to and from Nao de Manila to wharfs along the Muelle’s in Binondo in the North bank of Pasig river”. [2]

The development of Philippine trade by the Spanish ended upon the occupation of  Americans in the year 1898. A few years thereafter, the old port of Manila was once more thrown open to foreign trade, with a freer and more liberal economic system which resulted in a steady growth of domestic and foreign commerce. [3] It was then that American Commonwealth government decided to construct piers along the shores of Manila Bay just right near the mouth of Pasig river, so as to be able to handle the much larger volume of cargoes and merchant ships coming from overseas, which the old port cannot handle.

Barge used to haul liquid cargo to and from Pasig River.

Barge used to haul liquid cargo to and from Pasig River.

During 1930’s American owned oil companies like Esso, Mobil, as well as Filipino Oil ( Fil-Oil) established their Oil distribution and lube facilities along the banks of the Pasig river in Pandacan district. Today distribution and storage facilities of the “Big Three”, The Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron’s Caltex, and Saudi Aramco’s majority owned Petron Philippines-supplies 50% of the country’s total demand of lube and fuel in vital industries such as transportation, manufacturing, shipping, and power generation- have all been settled in the banks of the river in Pandacan, Manila.

Also, several manufacturing company built their factory houses near the banks of Pasig River so as to take advantage of efficient deliveries of raw materials from ship anchored in Manila Bay thru the use of barges (lighterages) that are pulled by tugboats going upstream.

Pasig River Ferry

Pasig River Ferry seen at Guadalupe Makati Station

On the other hand, Pasig River Ferry  were used to be  the only alternative mode of transport for commuters who wish to avoid the traffic laden streets of the Metro. This Ferry boat cruises breezily everyday at the waters of Pasig river from Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, Manila (downstream) up to barangay Kalawaan Sur in Pasig City. Owned by a private company (Nautical Transport Services Incorporated) it is operated by Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission- spearheaded by groups coming from business and departmental agencies in the government . Inaugurated by previous president on February 12, 2007-but early 2011  the ferry services permanently stop operating due to dwindling number of passengers, and the frequent cancellation of regular trips, thereby resulting to “substantial decrease” in sales and collections. (4)

Steel and wooden hulled boats lining up at Muelle de la Industria.

Steel and Wooden hulled boats lining up at Muelle de la Industria.

Another interesting activities within the banks of lower Pasig river are   several  wooden-hulled boats (Batels) and ageing steel-hulled cargo ships of lighter size are frequently docking/anchored at Muelle dela Industria near Roxas bridge (former Delpan bridge) in Tondo, Manila.  These sea-able vessels often carries valuable merchandise to be sold at nearby commercial district of Divisoria. Bringing with them in return are vital supplies of goods and construction materials to far off islands/islets within Mindoro, Panay, and Palawan.

To view videos of the above photo please click your mouse  here


Philippine Ports Authority is a government corporation specifically charged with the Financing, Management and Operations of public ports throughout the archipelago. Port Management Office of South Harbor (which is under the jurisdiction of Port District of Manila/Northern Luzon) on the other hand administers the operation of Terminal Management Office of Pasig (TMO-Pasig). Its main responsibility includes regulation of port services, determination of tariff, collection of revenues, maintenance of facilities, repair and rehabilitate pier structure etc.

TMO-Pasig Statistic 

Ship Calls 

Year Government Private Total
2006 388 4,906 5,294
2007 651 4,904 5,555
2008 625 4,678 5,303*

Total Cargo Traffic (Break bulk, Bulk Cargoes in metric tons)

Year Government Private Total
2006 217,855 3,884,382 4,102,237
2007 374,241 3,697,352 4,071,593
2008 305,304 3,584,304 3,889,608*


1. Port of Manila: Trade Center of the Pacific, Year book 1939.

2. Reports on the Commerce and Shipping of the Philippine Island by Rafael Diaz Arenas.

3. Port of Manila: Trade Center of the Pacific, Year book 1939.

4. Pasig river news: inquirer.net

5. Philippine Ports Authority (Annual Port Statistics)


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5 thoughts on “Featured Philippine Ports: Pasig River

  1. Good day! This site is very interesting. I would like to ask some questions regarding ships in pasig river. What government agencies or associations or institutions are concerned with the pollution loading that might be influenced by the vessels traveling along Pasig River?


    • Hi Noime,

      Mostly this ships/boats that goes to and from upstream of Pasig River, as well as the boats that docks along Muelle dela Industria are regulated and is under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Coast Guard.

      The said government agency is also given a mandate to patrol along the river banks, check if their are related incidence like oil spills and etc.


  2. Pingback: Featured Philipine Port: PMO Dumaguete « Philippine Ship Spotters Society

  3. Pingback: Featured Ports: PMO South Harbor « Philippine Ship Spotters Society

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