How San Miguel’s Bulacan airport project changed the lives of locals for the better

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Bulakan, Bulacan (CNN Philippines, August 18) — “Walang iwanan. Sama-sama sa pagunlad.”

This is the mantra of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) in all of its projects, one of which is the New Manila International Airport (NMIA).

Located in the town of Bulakan in Bulacan, 35 kilometers north of Metro Manila, the NMIA is aiming to be the country’s next gateway.

SMC’s ₱734-billion masterpiece, also dubbed as the “game changer,” is seen to ease traffic at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Aviation expert Avelino Zapanta said the giant airport will surely benefit the industry and the Philippine economy as a whole.

“Because if the country and the global community recovers from the pandemic at three to five years from now, and a new airport will be coming up by that time, and of course the confidence of the people will probably be restored by then because perhaps a very effective cure will be found then they will all jive,” the former Philippine Airlines chief operating officer (COO) told CNN Philippines.

But how about the locals, mostly fisherfolk, living near the site in Barangay Taliptip? How will they be affected by the project?

Are they going to be left out in the promise of progress that the airport will bring to the Filipino nation in the years to come?

The country’s top diversified conglomerate and the residents themselves happily said otherwise.

A better world for everyone

For 40-year-old fisherwoman Rosel Tuazon, owning her own home has always seemed like an impossible dream.

Since fishing is her family’s livelihood, they thought that staying in a house on unsafe stilts was their destiny.

Memories of a typhoon and huge waves that devastated her family’s house are still haunting her.

“Minsan po tinangay po ‘yung bahay namin na buo, apat na haligi lang po ang natira,” Tuazon narrated, trying to hold back her tears. “Masakit kasi nawalan ka ng bahay, hindi mo alam kung paano ka muling makapagsimula.”

[Translation: One time, our home was washed out completely. Only four posts remain. It's difficult to lose your home, you don't know how you'll recover.]

It had always been a painful cycle for her family to build another makeshift house, only to be destroyed by the next vicious storm.

Their outlook brightened, however, when San Miguel came to help them rebuild their lives for good.

SMC relocated them to a better place from the site where the conglomerate is going to build the Bulacan airport.

Tuazon is among the 382 house owners who received financial assistance from SMC so that they can build a new concrete house.

Owners of non-concrete houses or shanties like Tuazon and many others were given P250,000 each.

Those who live in concrete houses, meanwhile, were given twice the appraised value of their houses plus ₱100,000.

The construction of Tuazon’s new and safer cement-made home is about to be finished in a few months time.

“Masasabi ko po na kahit mawala kami, ‘yung mga anak ko po, mayroon po silang masasabing sarili po naming bahay,” Tuazon added.

[Translation: I can say even if we're gone, my children will have a home to call their own.]

Meanwhile, 66-year-old Resty Velasco, was able not only to build a new and better-looking house painted in different shades of blue.

He also used a part of the cash aid he received from SMC to start a sari-sari store that will also cater to his community.

This gives him income as he joyfully retires from fishing to take care of his grandchildren and children who are still going to school.

“Siyempre yung kaunting pakinabang diyan napupuno doon sa pangkain namin. Kumita kami ng kaunti, makakapuno-puno sa mga pangangailangan namin,” Velasco said.

[Translation: The small income can help with our daily needs. What we earn helps us.[

Meanwhile, 60-year-old Rodnan Sampani of Sitio Camansi, admitted they were reluctant to leave at first.

They eventually decided to willingly vacate the area after lengthy consultations with local officials and SMC representatives.

Sampani said the conglomerate assured to cater to their needs as they transfer to safer grounds.

“Noong una ay ‘di naman namin alam kung saan kami pupunta. At dahil sa San Miguel ay nabigyan kami ng tulong. Heto nga kami ngayon at nagbabaklas ng bahay na para makuha na ang aming mga gamit at mailagay sa bago naming malilipatan,” Sampani said.

[Translation: At first, we didn't know where to go. San Miguel helped us. We are now taking down our house so we can get our clothes to move to our new home.]

A better future for generations to come

Aside from having a new house, 35-year-old Joel Teodoro is undergoing skills training with the help of San Miguel.

He’s taking a course for Heavy Equipment Operation at the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA).

Teodoro said he was given a job as an equipment operator once the construction of the airport begins in October.

The former fisherman is also looking forward to work at the airport once it starts catering to planes and passengers in a few years time.

“Masaya din po kasi ‘yung income noon mas maganda kaysa sa pangingisda, mas kayang bumuhay ng pamilya,” Teodoro said.

[Translation: I'm happy because it's a better income than what I get from fishing. I can sustain my family better.]

The children of his 44-year-old brother Jojit, meanwhile, were also given TESDA and college scholarships by SMC.

This is also on top of a new house made of concrete for his family and a new and higher paying job for him.

He’s also encouraging his children to study well so they can maintain their scholarships and eventually work at the airport.

“Iyong mga anak ko makapagaaral din at pangako rin po ng San Miguel na pati po ‘yung mga anak namin kapag nakatapos, kukunin din po nila para makapaghanap-buhay sa kanila,” the older Teodoro said.

[Translation: My children will be able to study, and San Miguel has promised that even my children, after they've graduated, will be able to gets jobs from them.]

SMC will monitor the attendance and compliance of beneficiaries to make sure they the scholarship grants will be worth it.

An inclusive and green-driven progress

San Miguel said the airport project will bring not only progress for everyone but also better protection for the environment.

SMC tasked 54-year-old local Jimmy San Jose to take care of the new eco park that will be built in nearby Hagonoy town.

The country’s largest corporation in terms of revenue is also helping him build his new and own house near the eco park.

San Jose said he managed Bulakan town’s eco park since 2004. He was also a fisherman at the same time.

“Ang gagawin namin doon sa mga mangrove ay gagawan namin ng dike, lalagyan ng harang para hindi mapasok ng basura and then para hindi matangay ng agos ‘yung mga mangrove,” San Jose said.

[Translation: We will create a dike for the mangroves, put up a barrier so garbage won't get in and carry off the mangrove.]

Barangay Taliptip Captain Michael Ramos said San Miguel has always been taking care of them from the start until now.

Ramos added that SMC President and COO Ramon Ang himself told him that the needs of locals will be the project’s priority.

One instance, he narrated, was when they were immediately given their own ambulance after they requested for one.

“Alam mo ‘yung tipong hindi kami mamomroblema na may papasok na isang negosyante na babalewalain kami. Pero hindi, naging baliktad ang iniisip namin, bagkus tinutulungan nila kami,” Ramos said.

[Translation: We don’t worry about having a businessman come in and ignore us. It's the opposite, they help us.]

They are only among the living examples that in projects that will bring progress to the country like the Bulacan Airport:

“Walang iwanan, dahil ang lahat ay kasama sa pag-unlad.”

[Translation: No one gets left behind, because we will rise together.]