A world-class P740 billion airport showcase

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2020 - 12:00am

Last week, Congress approved the 50-year franchise for San Miguel Corp. to build and operate a P740-billion airport project in Bulacan. This bill was passed on third reading one month after being filed on Aug. 3. I’d written about this project in the past and I think it will be a very important step forward for both aviation and tourism.

According to SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang, the construction on the project will begin in October. Hopefully, it will remain steady and the new airport will be completed in another four years or so. Ang also said that SMC eyes returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and local residents in the construction and operation of the airport. This is good news for the many Filipinos who have been working abroad and now find themselves out of work and uncertain about their future.

It’s really difficult to imagine what the next few years will look like, but I do think that this airport is an important project for the future. Despite the current situation, we still have to invest in our future and the future that we want to build. Although tourism is not as active due to the global health pandemic, it will not always be this way. It’s good for us to prepare early and have new infrastructure ready for the time when things are better again.

This isn’t the first time SMC has looked into the future and made the investments that will matter down the line. I commend them having the courage to move forward despite the uncertainty of the future. These days so many businesses don’t know how to move forward and are more prudent with their investments. But sometimes there are no safety nets and things still have to move forward.

That’s all that we can all do at this point. We all made plans for 2020, only to find that nothing was going to push through the way we wanted. And ever since the quarantine – which often feels like a lifetime ago – we’ve all had to find alternative avenues to move forward. While safety remains a priority I think we’ve all had to look for new ways to work, interact, and create a “new normal” for ourselves or, at the very least, a “new normal for now”.

I’m very optimistic about the next few years. While it’s looking pretty bleak right now, I think SMC is taking the right steps in investing in the future. For now, we need to keep wearing our masks, social distance, and try to keep the curve as flat as we can to help our frontliners and keep our loved ones safe. Hopefully, the vaccine will safely come to fruition and before we know it we’ll all be flying and traveling again.

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However speaking of traveling, we can’t afford to jump the gun when it comes to traveling again. Two Cabinet members have expressed concern over easing physical distancing rules in public transportation which could potentially lead to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases again and end up putting us back in enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) again.

Honestly, it seems like we are trapped in a vicious cycle. We go into ECQ and are very strict in terms of limiting our movement, staying home, wearing masks, social distancing on essential runs, and doing all the safety protocols. But this is not sustainable and we all need to be able to work so after a time in ECQ we go back to GCQ and then more people are out, and that just means potentials for spikes again.

So what can we do? We just need to do the best we can. Be careful and be responsible for ourselves. We can’t control the actions of others, but we can control what we do so let’s not take things for granted just because things are a bit looser now in terms of restrictions. If we can stay home, let’s stay home. If more of us follow, the sooner we can all be free to move again.

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A survey conducted recently showed that the Philippines is the 27th best place for expatriates to live and work. This survey covered over 20,000 expats representing 182 nationalities and living in 187 countries. The areas covered in the survey included quality of life, ease of settling in, work, family life, and personal finance.

I’m not surprised that the Philippines ranked well. I would have even expected it to be higher on the scale. Historically, Filipinos are very open and accepting of foreigners living and working in the country. There are also good job opportunities here with several global multinational companies having offices in the country. Plus there is so much to do in terms of travel and leisure. And of course, add to that how good Filipinos speak English is also an added bonus.

For comments or feedback, you may reach the author at tonyk@yahoo.com

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