20 August 2021

Former residents of Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town–where the country’s future premiere gateway is to be built–have joined efforts to help address widespread flooding in Bulacan province, after San Miguel Corporation (SMC) partnered with government to initiate a coastal cleanup that will complement its river rehabilitation initiative, and provide extra income for locals.

Relocatees from Taliptip comprised the first batch of workers hired under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program under the joint initiative of SMC, Barangay Taliptip, the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) of the Provincial Government of Bulacan, Office of Sen. Joel Villanueva, and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the emergency employment program by the government, the relocatees will receive minimum wage per day to help remove trash and other plastic wastes from communities and the shoreline off Barangay Taliptip.

While TUPAD is a government program, SMC helped push for its implementation to enable some former residents to gain additional employment, even as it continues to provide training and livelihood opportunities for relocatees from the area.

SMC also shouldered cleanup costs, including the purchase of all needed equipment, supplies, and protective gear, and handled the coordination work for the cleanup activities.

“This initiative shows how government, the local barangay, private sector, and local communities can partner and work together to make a big difference not just in helping our less-fortunate countrymen, but also teaching them about environmental stewardship,” said SMC president Ramon S. Ang.

“Too often, when it comes to plastic pollution of our rivers and seas, we have gotten so used to seeing the problem everyday that most of the time, it just seems too big to solve. But I think we just have to start. The task is no less daunting, but together, we’ve got the ball rolling; we’re teaching locals the importance of cleaning our bodies of water, and at the same time, many of them earn from helping the environment,” Ang added.

Ang credited the national government agencies, the provincial government, and the Office of Senator Joel Villanueva, who endorsed the project, for making the cleanup possible.

He added that regular coastal cleanups would complement SMC’s upcoming river cleanup and channel improvement project for the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system (MMORS), a major component of its flood mitigation initiative for Bulacan, and Taliptip.

Last year, SMC completed an initiative to help provide around 300 former settlers from Taliptip their own titled house-and-lot properties in safer, nearby areas.

SMC has also partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to train relocatees on various courses to prepare them for jobs at the airport project, or to become home-based entrepreneurs.

Recently, groups of former residents have also banded together to become part of SMC’s growing network of community resellers of its popular and trusted food brands nationwide.

“We want the airport project to be a sustainable model of development that will take into account the need to improve the lives of people in our communities, as well as enhancing and preserving the environment,” Ang added.

Plastic waste, according to Ang, is a major concern globally, and wastes coming from our tributaries have made their way into oceans and threatened traditional fishing grounds.

The nearby Meycauayan River is one of seven Philippine rivers that contribute the most plastic waste to the oceans, according to a report released by scientific online publication, “Our World in Data” early this year.

Other Philippine rivers in the list are the Tullahan River, Pasig River, Pampanga River, Libmanan River in Camarines Sur, Rio Grande de Mindanao River, and the Agno River in Pangasinan.

Under SMC’s river channel improvement program for the MMORS, it will dredge, clean, widen, and deepen the Alipit or Taliptip River, Sta. Maria River, and the Meycauayan River, to enable more floodwaters to naturally flow in them, thereby reducing flooding.

The company has undertaken the P1 billion Tullahan River Cleanup that helped reduce severe flooding in the cities of Navotas, Malabon, and Valenzuela.

As of August 12, a total of 359,677 metric tons of silt and solid waste were extracted from the Tullahan River.

SMC will also implement a P2 billion cleanup project for the Pasig River that to aims extract 50,000 metric tons of silt and solid waste monthly or a total of 3 million metric tons for five years.

Apart from partnerships with the government in line with its sustainability goals, SMC has also cutting its Group-wide utility water use by 50% 2025, and through its power unit and other business units, is eyeing to plant more than 7 million trees and mangroves nationwide.

The company also dropped all future coal power projects in favor of cleaner and renewable technologies under its long-term power capacity expansion.