PHILIPPINES - Not a few Filipino action movies have made it a setting for gunbattle scenes between cops and criminals. That's because the North Harbor area in Tondo, Manila, has evoked such a tough, unwelcoming image, thanks to years of urban squalor and industrial grime.
But that's about to change, according to the builders of a sleek, world-class terminal which on Tuesday was formally acknowledged by the city government led by a famous son of Tondo, former ousted Philippine President and now Mayor Joseph E. Estrada.
"This is a place we can all be proud of," Estrada says in a speech during the welcome reception at the North Port Passenger Terminal Complex. "Hopefully, this will help us bring back businessmen to Manila."
Covering 11,600 square meters at Pier 4, the terminal was inaugurated earlier this month by Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI).
"We are pleased to present to the city government this new, modern and professionally run Manila North Harbor complex which now houses a truly world-class passenger terminal comparable to any other terminal in the world, if not even better," says MNHPI chair Michael Romero.
The country's newest international gateway, the terminal is welcoming some 2,000 foreign tourists onboard SuperStar Aquarius, a ship operated by leading Asia-Pacific cruise line Star Cruises, he says.
The high-ceilinged, glass-and-aluminium terminal can accommodate up to three million passengers a year, and boasts of spacious parking and drop-off areas. The passenger section offers seating for 1,875 people, with special areas for senior citizens, pregnant women and persons with special needs.
Other amenities also include play and breast-feeding rooms, a prayer room, a wide range of dining options and a VIP lounge.
"We can safely say that this complex is the most modern and one of the best facilities not only in the Philippines but in the whole of Southeast Asia," Romero says. "Indeed, this complex is a true source of pride for the city government of Manila."
He notes that the North Harbor, which for years had been notorious for being a hub of criminality, may now be considered one of the country's best infrastructure.
Romero was given the symbolic key to the city by Mayor Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, the latter also a native of Tondo.