Sariaya, Quezon — A total of 86 families relocated from high-risk coastal areas to a new, disaster-resilient and sustainable housing development built for them by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), are getting more than just a new start in life: they have also remained COVID-19 free–in large part due to the measures taken by SMC to make sure they are safe amid the pandemic.
The development, called the San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes, which sits on a 5.4-hectare area in Sitio Curba, Bgy. Castanas in Sariaya has benefited from the full assistance of SMC throughout the pandemic. It was built in partnership with the local government.
SMC, which has led private sector efforts to help the Philippines deal with the crisis, had put in place strict health and safety protocols, including the installation of handwashing stations, equipping guards with thermal scanners, and mandating the wearing of face masks.
It also provided regular food supplies to residents to reduce their need to go to the market and risk exposure to the virus.
“Mabuti na lang at nakalipat kami dito sa San Miguel-Gayeta Homes bago dumating yung pandemya, dahil maganda yung lugar at naalagaan kami dito,” said 38 year-old Larry Eborde, one of the early settlers in the new community.
Eborde used to work as a tile setter in Manila, but quit his job before the lockdown to be with his family. Together with neighbors Jojit Magsino and Edin Corral, he co-owns the fish store near the village gate.
Prior to the move, Eborde and his family lived along the coastal area, which was classified a hazard zone as it exposed settlers not only to the elements but also to flooding or inundation, due to high tides.
Apart from gaining safety and security, families like Eborde’s also now have properties and homes under their names.
SMC is building a total of 450 homes—all titled properties—for relocatees. The company, which is building an integrated agro-industrial zone with port facilities in the coastal area—has already completed 300 units, with the remaining 150 currently under construction.
It started distributing the house-and-lot packages–with corresponding land titles–for free to qualified relocatees last year.
“Napaka swerte ng Sariaya dahil sa sa pagdating ng San Miguel. Hiniling ko kay Boss Ramon Ang na walang babayaran ang mga dapat lumipat sa subdivision. Nagpapasalamat ako ng sobra sobra sa tulong na ito ng San Miguel sa aking mga kababayan,” said Sariaya mayor Marcelo Gayeta.
Each residence at the San Miguel-Gayeta Homes has a lot area of 54 square meters, with built homes that can fit a bedroom, toilet and bathroom, kitchen, and dining area.
All houses are constructed using “Green Tough” (GT) panels, designed and manufactured by Fadz Design and Construction, Inc., to be far better than conventional concrete and hollow-block houses.
The panels are termite-proof, sound- and heat- insulated, wind-proof, earthquake-proof and environment-friendly.
Said SMC president Ramon S. Ang: “This village is our way of ensuring that relocatees from the coastal area will have good homes that they can pass on to their children. San Miguel has had a lot of experience building large housing communities which we’ve donated for disaster victims all over the country. We have used that experience to try to develop a comfortable, sustainable, and disaster-resilient village here—especially since the residents are coming from a danger zone.”
The community, which was built following Housing Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) standards, has its own overhead water tank with 136,000-liter capacity, a dedicated sewage treatment plant made of natural reed beds, a multi-purpose hall, park, daycare center, and clinic.
The new community is within easy reach of schools (Castanas National High School and Castanas Elementary School), local government centers, services, and business opportunities.
SMC has also taken the extra step to give adult residents who did not finish high school a chance to do so, and become entrepreneurs through the government’s Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Salve Calicoy, a 25 year-old mother of one, is working to complete her ALS education to help her husband, who works as a construction worker and a fisherman.
“Malaking bagay po yung paglipat namin dito sa San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes. Maliban po sa bahay na ibinigay ng San Miguel ay binigyan po nila ako ng pagkakataon na makatapos ng pag-aaral at makapag-negosyo ng catering,” says Calicoy.
She and other graduates are qualified to take courses at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after finishing their secondary education.
SMC has recently partnered with the TESDA-Quezon Provincial Office and Quezon National Agricultural School and Fadz Construction, Inc. for the establishment of a skills and livelihood training center inside the village.
Training programs to be conducted are about food and beverage services, organic farming, driving, electrical installation and maintenance, shielded metal arc welding, and housekeeping.
SMC, also in partnership with the Lucena City, Quezon Archdiocese, and Sariaya provincial government, is also constructing a Fisherman’s Hall near the river channel leading to the Sariaya Bay.
The Fisherman’s Hall will be a safe and secure place to house the fishermen’s boats, their boat engines and fishing implements.
Meanwhile, SMC plans to build a modern, state-of-the-art integrated agro-industrial complex that will include a brewery, a grains terminal and feedmill, a ready-to-eat food manufacturing plant, a fuel tank farm, and port facilities near the coastal area.
The development is seen to bring thousands of jobs to Sariaya and beyond, and significantly boost the local economy.
Fr. Raphael Tolentino, parish priest of the Niña Maria Church in Barangay Castañas is backing the project. “Ang simbahan ay hindi against sa development. Salamat sa pag unawa at pagbibigay ng konsiderasyon sa mga tao. Napakaganda kung magtatayo dito ang San Miguel na mag-aangat sa antas ng buhay at kabuhayan ng mga mamamayan na may pagkalinga sa kalikasan,”he said.
Lucena Bishop Mel Rey Uy also expressed appreciation to Mr. Ang’s help to boost Sariaya’s economy. “Ipinaaabot ko kay RSA ang aming pasasalamat. Napakabuti nya. Sana pamarisan ng ibang negosyante si Mr. Ang. May malasakit at di pasakit,” Bishop Uy said.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even more need to build up and strengthen local economies. That is why apart from helping government, our medical front liners, and disadvantaged communities, we have committed to continue our large-scale investments on new manufacturing capacities and infrastructure projects. This way, we can generate more jobs, livelihood, and boost local economies,” Ang explained.
“But before we do anything, we make sure our communities are well taken care of. We go the extra mile in providing people not just good homes and communities, but also access to livelihood, jobs, and skills training. This village is a prime example of that. Malasakit sa bayan at sa kapwa, will help us overcome this pandemic,” he added