MELANDREW T. VELASCO: SMC’S no let-up infra and environmental projects

There is no stopping San Miguel Corporation (SMC) from pursuing its infrastructure and environmental projects.

These projects promote sustainable development and have been preceded by thorough studies to ensure there will be no irreparable damage to the environment.

One of these is the Metro Rail Transit 7 (MRT 7) spanning 22 kilometers from North Avenue in Quezon City all the way to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. It can accommodate up to 650,000 passengers daily and has 14 stations.   According to SMC, construction work for MRT 7 focused on the first 12 stations and is estimated over 60 per cent complete.

SMC is now constructing the train depot on a 20-hectare property in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. Aside from accommodating the train cars, the depot will house facilities for the maintenance and operation of the trains.

The New Manila International Airport project in Bulacan is also on track after it got the nod of the Dutch government of an Export Credit Insurance (ECI) for the land development phase.

The project’s long-term environmental and social impact mitigation measures were reviewed to ensure the project is sustainable and aligned with the country’s climate ambitions. Environmental and social impact assessment was conducted by a group of experts.

The ECI was extended to Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. to cover its EUR 1.5 billion contract for land development works at the airport site in Bulacan. The New Manila International Airport project is the largest in Boskalis’ history.

The new airport will feature four parallel runways, a world class terminal, and a modern and interlinked infrastructure network that includes expressways and railways.

The designs of the NMIA prepared by the architectural firm Palafox Associates, “reflect the vision of a modern Philippine city that provides built-in solutions to various socio-economic, environmental, and climate issues, and correct the mistakes seen in many urban developments of Metro Manila.”

“These designs presented to us by Arch. Palafox and his team will be close to actual. There will probably be some adjustments by the time we implement, and we will still continue to improve as needed, but in terms of the overall concept, design, and the features, this is it,” RSA said.

He added, the aerocity project is designed and will be built with sustainability in mind. It will be properly zoned, with areas dedicated to agriculture and food production, logistics, health and wellness, aeronautics, finance, science and technology, commerce, residences, education, tourism, entertainment, recreation, and government among others. It will utilize renewable energy.

The design will adopt green architectural and green urbanism guidelines over and above the country’s building and zoning codes, and follow structural codes of other countries similarly situated in earthquake zones like the Philippines.

As SMC undertakes a massive infrastructure like the NMIA, it continues to uphold its commitment to restore and rehabilitate the existing mangrove forest cover at the Bulakan coastal area.  The initiative is a major component of the project to address flooding in Bulacan.

It is admirable that in the business community there are companies like SMC that are actively involved in environment protection.

Last year, SMC signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct major clean-up and dredging of the Pasig River.  Pasig River stretches 25.2 kilometers connecting Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay.  The DENR Pasig Rehabilitation Program lists 47 identified Pasig River tributaries grouped into nine clusters. It is the conglomerate’s commitment in line with DENR’s Adopt-a-River Program and complements efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay.  The clean-up and dredging activities started in July 2021, will improve water flow and mitigate flooding.  SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) identified priority dredging sites: narrow and shallow portions of the river along the Pandacan-Paco area, Estrella in Makati City and near C5 Road, Manila Bay and EDSA.

A total of 437,890 tons of silt and waste from the Pasig River has been extracted by SMC’s dredging teams to date. SMC has allotted PhP 2-billion for the Pasig River rehabilitation effort. From their previous depths of two-three meters, completed sections of the Pasig River now measure five to six meters deep.

Recently, the project got a boost with the arrival of more equipment from Japan shipping giant NYK Line.  The two high-capacity excavators form part of NYK’s $1.5 million donation to the SMC river rehabilitation initiative.

My hope is that more from the private sector will find an opportunity to protect the environment even as they promote their business interests.