Developments in Transportation

Period Development

With its conquest of the Philippines, Spain brought maritime laws and new ways of constructing ships. Native waterways remained the primary transportation route. Passenger boats crowded the Pasig River and the many esteros connecting the walled city of Intramuros with its growing suburbs.



With the Manila Acapulco trade restrictions, the numerous English and Asian trading ships disappeared. Only the so-called “Chinese junks” and the Spanish galleons were allowed to dock in Manila. Domestic shipping and the Spanish armada however, continued to develop.



Manila is declared as an open port, followed by Sual in Luzon, Iloilo in the Visayas, and Zamboanga in Mindanao. The opening of ports fostered the growth of commerce and industry, leading to the construction of roads and bridges.



A record of the existence of a half-covered bamboo banca, large enough for four passengers and rowed by three natives with long hand-carved oars, was found.



This period marked the introduction of the carriage, the favorite mode of transportation of the Spanish nobility. Aside from the luxurious carriage, there was the Carromata, or commoner’s carriage. It was a canopied rig with a seat for one passenger. Another mode of transportation, the Calesa, had four wheels, wide seats, a folding top, and upholstery.

Other vehicles were the Duquesita and the Victoria. The Quilez was used in Ilocos and Pangasinan for transporting four passengers at a time.



A Spanish decree established the first specifications for “right-of-way” roads in the islands, which included ditches and thickness of surfacing.



Construction on the Manila-Dagupan railroad commenced, and in late 1892, this railway line of 195 kilometers long was completed and subsequently operated by the Manila Railway Company (MRC).

In 1916, by virtue of Philippine Legislature Act No. 2574, the MRC was nationalized and its assets were acquired by the Philippine colonial government. The expansion of the rail network was continued by the MRC until 1940.



Work on the Manila Harbor began, and by 1896, the harbor already had 28 lighthouses.



The American Navy snatched the Philippines from Spain during the Battle of Manila Bay. Ship-building was altered drastically with the use of American-made parts. Transportation via smaller bamboo craft on the Pasig River continued.


January 21, 1899

The Malolos Constitution was promulgated by President Emilio Aguinaldo, It stated that: “The Council of the Government is composed of one President and seven Secretaries, each of whom shall have under his charge the portfolios of Foreign Relations, Interior, Finance, War and Marine, Public Education, Communications and Public Works, Agriculture, and Industry and Commerce.



This year marked the introduction of the two-wheeled Tartanilla in Cebu. It was a covered carriage pulled by two ponies, with a single seat shared by the cochero and the passenger.



This year marked the introduction of the two-wheeled Tartanilla in Cebu. It was a covered carriage pulled by two ponies, with a single seat shared by the cochero and the passenger.



This year marked the reorganization of the Bureau of Engineering into the Bureau of Public Works.



Paulino Aboitiz bought his first vessel, the MV Picket for P7,500.00. This vessel established the Aboitiz company as a pioneer in the domestic shipping industry.



The Tranvia was published by the Manila Electric and Railway Company. The Tranvia routes covered principal streets connecting Paco to Plaza Goiti, Santa Cruz to Escolta, and Rosario to Tondo to San Nicolas.

It was also about this time that the first ordinance regulating the use of motor vehicles in Manila (Ordinance 130) was enacted. It imposed a speed limit of 20 miles per hour, along with a warning against frightening horses on city streets.



Filipinos witnessed the first powered flight when American James Mars piloted his Skylark aeroplane from the Luneta Port over the suburbs of Manila.



This year marked the organization of the first motor vehicle registration office, wherein 1,586 motor vehicles were listed. Registration fees for motor vehicles were P10.00, driver’s licenses were P2.00, and student driver permits (good for three months) were P0.30. Total collections by the registration office at the end of its first year amounted to P13,469.00.

Albert Louis Ammen, a former American serviceman in the Spanish-American war, established the A.L. Ammen Transport Company (ALATCO) with a single truck that he converted into a passenger bus. The company served the five kilometers of unpaved roads between Iriga and Naga in the Bicol region.



The Philippine Review magazine recorded 128 American and 26 European brands of cars in the country. It also recorded a traffic program consisting of about 500 vehicles costing P15 million, with gas and upkeep costing P4 million a year.



Alfredo Carmelo became the first Filipino to fly an airplane.



The Auto-Calesa was born. Drawn initially by Harley-Davidson motorcycles, these small vehicles were large enough for five passengers and a driver. They were later fitted with four-cylinder bantam Ford engines. The par excellence freight vehicle at this time was the caravan-drawn Carreton, which was originally constructed with solid wooden wheels.

Luneta Motors and Bachrach Motors advertised a price range between P1,850.00 for a Chevrolet Tourer to P4,000.00 for a Roosevelt. The undersides of houses were now garages for motorcars instead of for Victorias. The new status symbol had arrived.



This period marked the introduction of the metered taxi in Manila. Cars were becoming popular and "automobile trucks" were fast displacing carabaos. Buses were called "passenger trucks," most likely because they more closely resembled trucks than present-day buses.



Road building received added impetus during the Commonwealth period, mainly due to huge sums of money accrued from the coconut oil excise tax.



The Manila International Air Terminal, the first airport in the country, opened at Nielson Field in Makati. The terminal was used by the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company.



The number of motor vehicles registered increased to 56,000, resulting in a total collection of P5,300,090.00. Among the roads that received special attention during this period were the Manila North and South roads, and the Kennon and Naguillan Roads. The last two were constructed primarily to make Baguio more accessible.



A group of businessmen led by industrialist Andres Soriano established Philippine Airlines to service the Manila-Baguio route, using the franchise of the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company. Their first flight was on March 15, 1941. Although its operation was halted by World War II, PAL reclaimed the skies in 1946 via the Nielson Airport, and became the first Asian airline to cross the Pacific Ocean.



World War II caused tremendous setbacks: some 621 permanent-type bridges were either destroyed or damaged, and 3,000 wooden bridges needed replacement. Most highway and paved surfaces were also destroyed. World War II resulting in the Philippines using mostly army-type vehicles. The jeep was transformed into the vibrantly hand-painted "jeepney."



The Tranvia was replaced by the bus, and severely damaged railways were rehabilitated via reparation funds from Japan. As a result of the war, the number of motor vehicles registered dropped to a mere 13,048.



The Motor Vehicle Office reopened at the corner of Morayta and Rada Streets in Manila.


June 20, 1964

By virtue of Republic Act No. 4156, the Manila Railway Company (MRC) was given a new charter, and the company changed its corporate name to the current Philippine National Railways (PNR).



This year marked the creation of the Land Transportation Commission via Republic Act 4136, also known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code. The LTC took over the powers and functions of the Motor Vehicle Office.



This year marked the installation of a centralized driver's licensing system designed for a closer review and control of licenses issued to drivers. A plate-making plant was established, which consisted of 38 automated machine units.



A fire caused substantial damage to the original terminal building of the Manila Airport. Plans to construct an international terminal were subsequently drawn up. In 1981, a new, higher-capacity terminal was constructed.


July 23, 1979

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) was created pursuant to Executive Order No. 546. Under the Executive Order, the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communications (MPWTC) was divided into two separate ministries: the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and the Ministry of Public Works and Highways (MPWH), respectively. The MOTC became the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing, and administrative entity.



The Manila International Airport (MIA) was completed. This 67,000-square meter terminal had a capacity of 4.5 million passengers per year. In 1987, the airport was renamed the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in honor of former Senator Benigno Aquino who was assassinated on its tarmac in 1983.



After years of planning and construction, the first elevated railway system in Southeast Asia, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), began operation. The Baclaran to Central Terminal stretch was opened on December 1, 1984, and the second half, from Central Terminal to Monumento, was opened May 12, 1985.



Clark Air Base, formerly of the United States Air Force, was acquired by the Philippine government after the area was cleared of debris caused by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. With two parallel runways capable of supporting space-shuttle landings, Clark was soon declared an international airport. In 2003, it was renamed Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, in honor of the former president and father of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was rehabilitated and opened for international flights in 2005.



The second terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was completed. It was named the "Centennial Terminal" because its completion coincided with Philippine independence centennial celebrations. The 75,000 square-meter terminal had a capacity of 2.5 million passengers per year at its international wing, and 5 million passengers per year at its domestic wing.



The Manila Metro Rail Transit (MRT) officially started operations from North Avenue to Buendia on the main thoroughfare of Epifanio delos Santos (EDSA).The Buendia to Taft Avenue portion of the MRT was completed the following year.



The Strong Republic Nautical Highway, a network of 63 roll-on / roll-off (RORO) ports, was officially opened and linked the main island of Luzon to key islands in the Visayas and Mindanao. The project resulted in faster and cheaper transport of goods from these aforementioned regions. The Nautical Highway expanded to include three sections, namely the western, central, and eastern sections that go through Mindanao.



The first section of Line 2 of the Light Rail Transit (LRT), which started from C.M. Recto in Manila and continued until Santolan in Pasig, was officially opened.



The Pasig Ferry Service commenced operations with five stations from Escolta to Guadalupe.

The Philippines competed in the 9th World Solar Car Competition, with the SINAG solar car created by Filipino students.



NAIA Terminal 3 opened after years of controversy. The 189,000 square-meter facility was capable of serving 33,000 passengers daily. Mothballed for several years due to allegations of irregularities in its construction, the facility was first used by budget airline Cebu Pacific.



After years of neglect, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) came back to life, with new trains running on freshly renovated tracks in Metro Manila.



To mark the 25th anniversary of the People Power Revolution on the main thoroughfare of EDSA, former President Gloria Arroyo officially inaugurated the extension of the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT 1). The LRT 1 was connected to the Metro Rail Transit, subsequently creating a loop of railway systems around the metropolis.


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