Bulacan residents fear worse floods with construction of new airport

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 09:38 PM

Bulacan residents fear worse floods with construction of new airport 1
Exterior design studies for SMC's proposed New Manila International Airport project in Bulakan, Bulacan. Photo courtesy of San Miguel Corp./File photo

MANILA - Residents of Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan, Bulacan have expressed concern over the impending construction of the 2,500-hectare new Manila International Airport, fearing it might worsen flooding in their community.

Rody Villanueva said once land reclamation in the coastal location — spanning Taliptip and nearby barangay, Bambang — begins, a major river will be cut off.

“Kung ngayon, ‘di pa natatambakan binabaha na kami; pagka natambakan, ‘di lalo na. Kung masasara yung pinakabungad ng ilog namin, maaaring lumubog kami dito dahil walang madadaanan ang tubig," he said.

(Now that the construction has yet to start, we are already experiencing floods. What more once the construction starts, we might be submerged in floods because the water won't have a way out.)

Fish vendor, Glory Joy Joson, and passenger banca operator, Jaime Abreo, agree. Once the river swells during heavy rainfall, the water will have nowhere to go, they say, other than where their houses stand. 

“Kapagka sinara yun wala po dadaanan yung tubig. Nakasara lang. ‘Di ‘pag binaha po dito, pag umuulan, ‘di lalo po tataas yung tubig,” said Joson.

(If they shut down the area, water level will rise when it rains.)

“Maaari pong malubog na po ‘to pag tinambakan na po yun; sasaraduhan po yung ilog po,” said Abreo, who also admits fearing he might lose his livelihood.

(We might get submerged in water, if they close down the area near the river.)

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) will build the over P700-billion airport, aimed at decongesting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City. Once operational, it can accommodate up to 100 million passengers annually. 

Despite Bulacan being a low-lying area, Barangay Taliptip officials assured residents there is no cause for alarm since the project will come with a flood control component.

“Wala naman po tutuusin na pangamba kasi, in the first place po, talagang ang proyekto po ay pinaghandaan at uunahin po yung flood control,” said village secretary, Epifania Samonte.

(There wouldn't be any problems because in the first place, the project is well-thought of and we will prioritize flood control.)

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SMC had committed to put in place a massive flood mitigation program, as it stressed the airport’s design “fully considers all the physical characteristics and long-term environmental conditions within the area.”

SMC said the program is based on “extensive hydrologic studies”.

“The company and its partner banks will not invest on a project without addressing all foreseeable issues and mitigating them,” it said. 

The long-term plan includes a comprehensive drainage management project, both for the airport and adjacent areas. 

Reservoir capacity and structural improvements of the Angat, Ipo and Bustos dams — which play crucial roles in controlling the flow of floodwaters in Bulacan and nearby localities — will also be made.

SMC also eyes dredging major rivers and tributaries in Bulacan that lead to Manila Bay, especially the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system (MMORS).

The company has also embarked on a 76-hectare mangrove-planting program in the province and the rest of Central Luzon, targeting to plant a total of 190,000 mangrove saplings. Mangroves are considered a “first line of defense” against flooding, and also helps maintain the marine eco-system. 

“These flood mitigation measures are all integral to airport development. It’s very important to address these environmental concerns before investing over P700 billion for the airport… The airport project will not worsen the flooding as we have set in place flood mitigation measures that will help the whole province as well,” SMC president and chief operating officer, Ramon Ang, said. 

Local officials also highlight the economic push the airport will bring in, as it is seen to produce some 1 million direct and indirect jobs.

There are ongoing trainings with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), such as for welding, masonry and carpentry work, according to Barangay Taliptip officials.

Abreo has yet to enlist in any of these trainings, but he admits he is hoping to land a decent job at the airport someday.

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