BULAKAN, Bulacan – Former settlers of Barangay Taliptip have started moving into their new homes—with many others about to complete construction–following the lump-sum cash assistance given to them by San Miguel Corporation.
This allowed them to voluntarily relocate to safer areas paving the way for the construction of the P734-billion Manila International Airport project.
SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said that the company has been constantly in touch with the former settlers in the coastal area where the airport will be built, to monitor their progress.
“Many have already completed building their houses. What is important is that they are now living in safer areas, in stronger houses they can be proud of and pass on to their children. They will no longer be exposed to the elements and to risk, whenever there are typhoons,” Ang said.
Ang said that while the company has been known for building housing communities for disaster victims or relocates from hazard zones, many Taliptip residents preferred to receive financial assistance. This has enabled them to voluntarily transfer to places of their choice, with some choosing to go back to their home provinces to build homes and start life anew there.
Still, others opted to buy built houses, or land to build their own houses. Many have opted to remain in Bulacan.
Most of the former Taliptip residents worked as caretakers or workers at privately-owned fishponds that have gone out of business. They used to live in shanties or houses built on stilts in the coastal area.
Teody Bacon, who resides in Sitio Kinse with five other families, said he and his neighbors are looking forward to moving out and moving into their newly-constructed houses in Barangay Bambang, also in Bulakan town, later this month.
Unlike in their current dwelling place, where there is no access to electricity, clean water, and basic services, Bacon said they are moving to a place with better living conditions.
“Sa lilipatan po namin ay kapag tag-ulan hindi na kami makakaranas ng pag-alon at malakas ng hangin, dahil mataas po ang lugar at ang bahay ay gawa na po sa bato. Di katulad ng bahay naming ngayon na yari lamang sa plywood at kawayan,” said Bacon.
“Sa tulong ng San Miguel ay nakapag-pagawa kami ng bahay namin. Sa simula pa lang ay sila na tumulong sa amin. Maganda rin ang bagong lugar namin dahil may kuryente at tubig. Umaasa rin kami na mabibigyan ng hanapbuhay ng San Miguel Corporation,”he added.
Ang said that those who were even more prudent in spending the cash assistance have used some of the amount to start their own small businesses, pay off debts, and set aside money for the education of their children.
“They are very happy that they were given a chance to rebuild their lives. If you see their previous homes, you can’t help but feel sad, but at the same time, also admire them for their strength and resilience. All the more we wanted to help them and make sure they will really have a better future,” Ang said.
A total of 277 owners of concrete and shanty houses in Barangay Taliptip qualified for financial assistance. SMC provided owners of non-concrete houses or shanties P250,000 each, while owners of concrete houses were given the appraised value of their homes, multiplied by two, plus P100,000.
SMC also provided cash assistance to 92 others who were disqualified, for a total of 369 beneficiaries.
Upon the request of Malolos Bishop Dennis Villarojo, SMC also distributed the total appraised cash value of the abandoned chapels in Sitio Pariyahan, Sitio Dapdap, Sitio Bunutan, and Sitio Capol to the residents of these sitios. A total of P2,253,000 from the abandoned chapels was given to the 242 residents.
Although many decided to stay in Bulacan, some former settlers have moved back to their home provinces namely, Samar, Negros, Nueva Ecija, Sorsogon, Mindoro, Masbate, Camarines Sur, Malabon, Bataan Valenzuela, Paranaque, Dumaguete, and Albay.
Those who have opted to stay in Bulacan are also being given the opportunity to learn skills they can use to get jobs at the airport, or to start their own small business.
“The airport project itself will be an opportunity for them because it will create a lot of jobs. And right now, we are prioritizing them for these jobs. In fact, we are about to begin training the first batch of 60 former Taliptip residents, with the help of the Technical Skills Development Authority, in various skills needed for jobs at the airport,” Ang added.
Among the courses they can choose from for airport jobs are Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, and Heavy Equipment Operations.
Courses like dressmaking and cookery are also offered for those who opt to put up their own small businesses. In addition to their chosen courses, all trainees will also be given seminars on Entrepreneurship, as well as tools to start them on their new trades.
Ang said that the courses will not be limited to Taliptip residents but will be extended to all residents of Bulacan.
“These courses are open to Bulacan residents who wish to learn and those who would like to prepare themselves for jobs at the airport or establish businesses in support of the airport development. Our goal is to provide as much employment and livelihood to as many Bulakenyos as part of our commitment to the airport’s home province,” Ang said.
The airport project, Ang added, will be the single largest investment in the Philippines by any company. A such, it is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction phase alone—jobs needed to enable Filipinos to better cope with the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Ultimately, Ang said workers will come not only from Bulacan but also from all over Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and beyond.
SMC said it is also looking to hire Overseas Filipino Workers who have opted to stay in the Philippines. OFWs have been returning in droves to the country recently due to uncertain global economic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.