Local officials, residents, and various stakeholders expressed their full support for the immediate construction of the new Manila International Airport in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan, saying the project to be built by San Miguel Corporation will further unlock the economic potential of Bulacan province, provide jobs to millions of Filipinos and help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bulacan governor Daniel Fernando, Bulakan town mayor Vergel Meneses, and officials and residents of Barangay Taliptip and Barangay Bambang voiced their support for the P740 billion project during the public hearing conducted by the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Monday.
The local officials and residents said they were formally consulted and had carefully weighed the proposed airport’s benefits for the province and its residents, including the measures to mitigate perennial flooding in the province.
“Ang proyektong ito ay maghahatid ng ibayong kaunlaran at mataas na antas ng pamumuhay,” said Fernando, adding that the province was poised to become a global destination for tourism with the construction of the airport.
Meneses says the town of Bulacan is lucky to have a strategic location fit for a modern airport that will address congestion problems that have affected many air travelers at the country’s current gateways.
“Ang proyekto po ay sinusuportahan ko, ng Sangguniang Bayan at Bayan ng Bulakan. Amin pong ninanais na masimulan na ang proyekto sa lalong madaling panahon, dahil batid naming ang maraming oportunidad na bubuksan nito sa aming bayan,” Meneses said.
He says Bulakan took into careful consideration the economic development, job opportunities and new businesses that the airport project will bring. The town’s council issued a formal decision to support the undertaking in October 27 last year.
Barangay captains Michael Ramos and Jesus Cruz of Taliptip and Bambang, respectively, pointed to the timeliness of the project, saying many of their residents are experiencing poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposed airport will be located in the said barangays.
Ramos says San Miguel has shown its commitment and support to his barangay, particularly the relocated residents, even prior to construction. He added that even prior to construction, residents have already been provided skills training and livelihood opportunities.
Cruz, meanwhile, says it is part of local officials’ responsibility to help their communities during tough times, that is why the Sangguniang Barangay considered the potential benefits of the airport in growing the barangay’s economy.
A total of 364 beneficiaries benefited from SMC’s cash assistance. The company gave 277 owners of non-concrete houses or shanties were given P250,000 each, while owners of concrete houses were given the appraised value of their homes, multiplied by two, plus P100,000. Cash assistance was also provided to 87 others who were disqualified, for a total of 364 beneficiaries.
Former Sitio Bunutan coastal resident Patrick Garcia said “Mas napaganda po ang estado ng buhay namin ngayon kumpara sa buhay namin sa coastal areas. Nung sa coastal areas lagi kaming binabaha at inililikas kami sa evacuation center. Ngayon ay wala na kaming pangamba.”
Another relocatee, Jimmy San Jose, is now in charge of mangrove planting and mangrove crab production that will be undertaken by SMC in coordination with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“Ako po ay tumutulong ngayon sa San Miguel sa proyekto ng mangrove at mudcrab na gagawin namin sa susunod na araw kaya po ay magtatanim kami ng bakawan na paglalagyan ng mudcrabs.” San Jose said.
Under a partnership between San Miguel Corporation and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority partnership, a total of 58 former Taliptip coastal residents were able to complete training in different courses geared towards employment during airport construction and full operations, and to open businesses that will cater to the airport and the surrounding communities.
Arvee Vasquez and Jojit Teodoro were former Taliptip coastal residents who trained under the program. They are now working as heavy equipment operators in the ongoing P1 billion Tullahan-Tinajeros dredging project.
“Nagpapasalamat kami dahil maliban sa pabahay ay nabigyan kami ng pagsasanay at magandang hanapbuhay ng San Miguel. Kami po ay heavy equipment operators sa Tullahan dredging,” Vasquez and Teodoro said.
Apart from the training, SMC, in cooperation with Barangay Taliptip, has conducted community training programs that include fish and meat processing, and entrepreneurship.
A group of former Sitio Kinse residents have established a community store selling Purefoods and Magnolia products under the company’s community reselling program. SMC provided the capital and the initial inventory of products to qualified relocatees, who are now forming groups and cooperatives.
SMC has laid out an extensive flood mitigation plan that includes planting close to 200,000 mangroves along the Bulacan coastlines, and cleaning, dredging, and widening of key Bulacan tributaries belonging to the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS) in Bulacan.
Coastal flooding has been a perennial problem for Bulacan residents, including Taliptip coastal residents who have moved to concrete homes at safer areas in Bulacan province and their home provinces following assistance from SMC.