IT was an animated, friendly yet frank discussion between Bulacan’s local leaders and the head of the country’s biggest conglomerate, San Miguel Corp., about the company’s biggest project: the New Manila International Airport.
Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando and Vice Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado led a team of mayors and vice mayors to visit SMC vice-chair, president and chief operating officer, the visionary Ramon S. Ang, who was clad in a simple blue-collared shirt and black pants. Whatever formalities melted away once the man known in political, social, and business circles as RSA entered the dining room and welcomed everybody with a big smile. The meeting held on Tuesday (September 17) at SMC’s executive dinning hall gave an opportunity for local leaders to raise the concerns of their constituents.
Over a bowl of tinola soup, the discussions focused on the synergy between San Miguel Corp. and Bulacan local government units to ensure that the airport project will not result in more floods and massive dislocation of affected residents. Bocaue Mayor Joni Villanueva, the sister of Senator Joel Villanueva, sought an assurance that local officials would be given a concrete and comprehensive presentation on the airport project that they can share with their constituents.
The businessman-philanthropist assured local officials that relevant information materials are forthcoming and that San Miguel’s communications team is also preparing a video that would answer many of the questions that most Bulakenyos may have in mind. According to Ang, the airport project cannot prosper unless the flood situation in Bulacan is sufficiently addressed. He said dredging of Bulacan waterways, including the frontage of Manila Bay, will be a continuing project for the next 50 years, and the construction of a coastal road that would also serve as a spillway will keep the high tide away from coastal communities.
“What the national government has not been able to do—which is to stop the flooding in Bulacan—we will now handle as part of the airport project,” Ang said.
He also assured the mayors that relocation sites for affected residents would come with individual housing units, a school for the kids, and access to jobs and livelihood programs. “We will take care of them,” the businessman assured the mayors.
Why did he choose Bulacan as the site of a world-class international airport? Ramon Ang cited the good relations that he has with then governor and now Vice Governor Willy Alvarado. “His strong leadership made this project possible,” Ang said. He also paid tribute to the political will and decisiveness of President Duterte who wanted a world-class airport built for all Filipinos to be proud of.
The New Manila International Airport will stand on roughly
2,500 hectares of land in Bulakan,
Bulacan. Mayor Vergel Meneses, who shares a passion for basketball with RSA, looks forward to the start of the P735-billion project considering the number of jobs and business opportunities it would provide to his constituents.
The flatness of Bulacan’s terrain and easy access points to and from Metro Manila would make the international airport a convenient and safe landing strip. It would have four parallel runways and a passenger capacity of over 100 million, three times the design capacity of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
RSA estimated the initial number of workers needed to be at least 200,000. He said that San Miguel is also looking for several hectares of land to build its construction office, a staff-house, a private hospital and school for the airport workers. Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando said the provincial government can offer some available locations to choose from.
That there is constant communication and constructive dialogue between Bulacan’s leaders and San Miguel Corp. will lead to the smooth implementation of the vast airport project. Both parties agreed that San Miguel and the provincial government of Bulacan will jointly implement the necessary flood control projects, including the much needed dredging of Bulacan waterways. Environmental issues would also be jointly addressed.
Observing San Miguel’s COO up close, I think that he is inspired to work hard and deliver because of his understanding that true wealth comes with service to the country. His humility and kindness in dealing with people regardless of their station in life gives everyone who listens to him enough reason to hope for a brighter future.
In a speech before the graduating class of his alma mater, Far Eastern University, which granted him a doctoral degree, Ramon Ang had said: “What is the key to my happiness? Allow me to share with you what I have armed myself with in dealing with people: Be a man of your word. Know how to keep a secret. Work harder than anybody else. Be decisive. Be a risk-taker. Nothing is impossible. Believe in a bigger purpose.”
It is to this visionary and his world-class Philippine conglomerate that we now entrust the building of the best and most modern airport that every Filipino had long been dreaming of. Carry on, RSA. The historic province of Bulacan is behind you.
Susan V. Ople heads the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a nonprofit organization that deals with labor and migration issues. She also represents the OFW sector in the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.