Residents seek relocation as Bulacan airport construction nears

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Bulacan (CNN Philippines, August 23) — Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation will soon build the country’s biggest and most modern airport as part of the government's solution to decongest the country's main airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The development also means some residents will have to be relocated.

A total of 340 families from nine sitios will have to be relocated as part of the preparations for the construction of the new airport.

Most of the residents living in Sitio Capol in Bulakan town, Bulacan province are fish pond workers who earn P200 daily. The sitio is one of the coastal villages often referred to by locals as the “water world” as it is situated near Manila Bay and surrounded by vast fish ponds. The houses in the sitio stand on a narrow strip of land.

Resident Dang Libao said the life in the sitio is anything but easy.

"Aakapin mo na po kung anong buhay dito. Ito na rin buhay mo eh. Kaya po nagtiis na lang po kami. Ang hinihiling lang namin na kami po ay mailipat sa maayos na lugar. Na may tirahan talaga kami na hindi lang kami basta paalisin dito." he said.

[Translation: You will embrace your life here, because it's the kind of life you have. All we're asking for is to relocate us to a decent area where we have a permanent home.]

The nearby sitio of Bunutan is frequently flooded during the rainy season. Despite this resident Mary Grace Garcia finds it difficult to leave her dream house with the impending airport project. She built it with hard-earned money just four years ago.

"Willing kami pero dapat nasa maayos na pamumuhay din ang paglilipatan namin at ayaw namin sa ibang lugar gusto namin dito rin sa Taliptip," she said.

[Translation: We are willing to relocate as long as the state of living there is good. We also want to stay in Taliptip.]

Most residents in the sitios share the concerns of Libao and Garcia; they want a decent place to live.

San Miguel Corporation said it is committed to making sure that the affected workers of Bulakan, Bulacan — fishpond workers and some fishermen — will have good homes, better living conditions, and more importantly, more capacity to improve their livelihood.

"We are looking forward to engaging them in a more meaningful and formal dialogue soon, so we can discuss the project and, more importantly, our plans for them," it said in a statement.

The company vowed to provide a suitable site for relocation that considers the residents’ livelihood prospects.

The government has recently awarded the contract to San Miguel Corporation to build and operate the new airport, poised as the country’s new main gateway. Villagers will have to leave soon, as construction may begin early next year, according to San Miguel.