San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has rolled out its P500-M ‘Handog Tulong Pinansyal Para sa Mangingisda” financial assistance program for fisherfolk families residing in Rosario, Tanza, Naic, and Ternate in Cavite as part of its commitment to managing its social and environmental impacts following strict performance standards set by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for its New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project.
The initiative, launched by its San Miguel Aerocity Inc. (SMAI), will benefit some 5,000 fisherfolk families, that will each receive a monthly financial assistance of P5,000 until the company’s operation in the area is completed by 2024.
Eligible fisherfolk were identified based on both third-party surveys and a selection and validation process by local officials and leaders of local fishermen’s groups.
This comes after the company’s recent program to provide monthly food supply assistance to over 8,000 families across all four towns, to help them cope with rising food prices.
On top of this, SMAI has also tapped experts to help implement programs that will minimize its impacts on the environment —including site rehabilitation and restoration —and further embed sustainability solutions to its operation in the area.
Meanwhile, SMAI continues to provide livelihood programs for fisherfolk organizations as part of its Social Development Management Program (SDMP). This include garment production and soap-making, scholarships for children of fisherfolk, and construction-based training in cooperation with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).
Olivia Bautista, president of local fisherfolk organization KAMMALIG, said that SMAI has been responding to their concerns, and expressed gratitude to the company particularly in addressing decreased fish catch and the provision of safety equipment for affected fishermen.
“Nais po naming magpasalamat sa San Miguel sa mga tulong na aming natanggap at sa mga parating pa na tulong na handa nilang ibigay sa amin. Kahit pa lumiit ang lugar na aming pinapangisdaan at tuloy pa rin kami at nasisiguro nila na kami ay ligtas,” said Bautista.
(We want to thank San Miguel for all the help we have been receiving and will continue to receive, from them. While our fishing areas lessened, we still continue to fish, and they make sure that we are safe.)
Apart from the financial and food assistance, Bautista said SMAI, together with its partner and leading global marine engineering firm, Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., has also provided fishermen with safety equipment, including radar reflectors, life vests, life buoy rings, foam buoys, led lights, and rechargeable batteries. They are also regularly updated as to where dredging activities are being undertaken, to further ensure their safety.
“We are well aware of the effects of the ongoing operations of our contractor, Boskalis, in the San Nicolas Shoal, that’s why we are taking all necessary measures to mitigate these. We’re committed to helping fisherfolk families in the area, and we’re very transparent about the project with them. We thank them for their valuable contribution in helping get this priority national project done,” said SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang.
Ang continued: “As we do in all areas where we have operations, we work to establish a good working relationship or partnership with our host communities. For this particular project, we have local teams and offices in the area, as well as a well-established grievance mechanism. We assure them they can come straight to us if they have any concerns at all, ” Ang added.
Ang said that the company is also tapping a third-party organization that will partner with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to study how to improve fishing yields from the shoal. This is to help bring up the volume of catch from the area, even long after Boskalis’ activities are completed.
He added that the company also has programs to employ affected communities or their family members at the airport project.
“We will continue to work with local government units in Cavite and concerned national government agencies like the DENR, to ensure that our operations will have a positive impact on those affected.