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How new infrastructure projects can help San Jose del Monte City

The upcoming MRT-7 and Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, both under SMC, is bringing progress to San Jose del Monte City.

There was little reason to travel to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, just three years ago. Novaliches was probably as far as the good roads would take you, and San Jose del Monte (SJDM) City, just south of Caloocan and only 42 kilometers from Manila, was too provincial to many big-city residents.

That was then. The benefits of Metro Manila’s urban sprawl are penetrating smaller cities like SJDM. Before the turn of the millennium, the city was primarily known as a resettlement site for informal settlers. Later on, SJDM’s low-cost housing attracted its share of urban migrants, creating a robust local economy that was still primarily tied to agriculture and livestock farming but now has a thriving manufacturing industry centered around ironworks and furniture.

"Very peaceful, walang crime, laging may police patrol,” says Magie Dancel, a housewife residing in SJDM for around 30 years. The locals have nothing but high praises for their city. “Sentro sa lahat – market, mall, church, school – walking distance lahat,” Magie adds. Alfredo Tolosa, a former resident of Caloocan, claims he moved to SJDM for its accessibility and space convenience. “Maganda dito, maluwag,” he says. They claim to have few struggles in terms of their daily lifestyle due to efficient city planning and continuous urban development.

MRT-7: expanding spaces, connecting places

However, at major intersections, there is some evidence of the downside of urban success: the daily traffic jams.

“Ma-traffic sa labas papunta sa area…pag matraffic talaga umaabot one hour, kapag walang traffic, minutes lang,” says Henry Sumangid, one of SJDM’s dwellers who feel inconvenienced by the current road conditions in the city.

San Miguel Corporation’s rail and road project, MRT-7, will awaken the burgeoning area, connecting SJDM to the broader economy and potentially bringing long-term benefits for the larger Bulacan province and neighboring provinces. Residents hope it will ease traffic and increase opportunities in the area.

Gym owner Danilo Monte recognizes how problems like access to water and transportation affect his town and its people. Looking forward to the day when it will take all of 20 minutes from Quezon City to SJDM, “Ginhawa talaga kung may mga ganyan,” he says.

“In a sense, it might be an answer,” says Magie. She notes how it can increase employment in the area, and create better routes for their existing modes of transportation such as the tricycles. “Talagang we’re looking forward to have that kasi yung inconvenience ngayon while it is being constructed, syempre ang pang matagalang benefit hindi lang sa atin, abot pa natin sa next generations pa hopefully.”

“As a San Joseño, it is very beneficial,” she remarks.

Directly connecting to the LRT-1 and MRT-3 in Metro Manila, MRT-7 will ferry an estimated 85,000 passengers per day. With Bulacan real estate values still relatively more affordable than Metro Manila's, business owners, investors, and locators looking for accessible and cheaper alternative sites will definitely come knocking. Property developers have begun building in earnest, particularly along Quirino Avenue and in areas close to the MRT-7’s alignment. Commercial developments, including malls and fast-food chains, have also set up shop.

With fast, direct rail access, once built, it will take only 20 minutes from Quezon City Circle. SJDM is increasingly becoming an option for the overcrowding in Metro Manila.

Danilo Monte, who owns a gym right inside the SJDM market and has been a resident since 2002, looks forward to the project’s future benefits. “Okay naman ‘yan kasi kapakanan ng tao ‘yan, para sa trapiko o ‘yong magta-travel papuntang Manila. Okay lang din kahit nandito kami sa malapit sa bundok, pagdating ng araw baka magamit din ng mga apo namin at anak,” he says.

And yet, rail is just one part of the equation. On the SJDM station of MRT-7 will also rise an intermodal transportation terminal that will connect directly to the North Luzon Expressway via the 22-km road component of MRT-7, making San Jose del Monte a transport hub for travel to and from northern Luzon.

Bulk Water: quietly solving a resounding, local issue

“Problema namin sa San Jose ang tubig,” Danilo claims. Currently they are being served under San Jose Water System and Prime Water System. However, some locals have been suffering from water shortages as of late. According to Danilo, the water cut-off can last for as long as three days. Albert, a tricycle driver and Magie’s husband, candidly shares, “’Yong mga customer ko nga nagre-reklamo kasi daw yung mga pampaligo ng anak wisik wisik nalang.”

SJDM hosts another major infrastructure asset, SMC’s P24.4 billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project. Despite its proximity to Angat Dam, Bulacan province has long been dependent on deep wells. The project will provide millions of residents from 24 water districts in Bulacan access to fresh, potable surface water, while balancing the competing needs of a growing population, industry, and agriculture.

The cost of water is P8.50 per cubic meter, the lowest anywhere in the Philippines. Operational since mid-January, Bulacan Bulk Water is currently serving seven municipalities.

A lot of residents say they have not heard of the project. However, they all perceive this as a positive addition to the community. “Mas dadami supplier ‘di ba? Tulad ng convenience store kung isa lang ‘di ba siksikan kayo. Eh kung dadami yan, madami kayong pagpipilian. Ganoon lang naman yan,” says Danilo.

With the government trying to shift the country’s growth engine away from its traditional dependence on Metro Manila and other established manufacturing centers, the new mass transit system, roads, and other services like the bulk water facility will make relocating factories and offices to smaller centers like San Jose del Monte easier.

At present, the city has some 3,000 registered businesses. Eager to attract more investment, the local government has introduced business-friendly policies such as lower taxes and stepped up government services like better street lighting. San Jose del Monte, says its mayor, is a “slumbering giant.”

So far the locals are positively anticipating these developments. Magie says she has heard of these projects as early as 10 years ago. “Kasi may mga friends kami na ang issues nila dati e ‘yong pag le-let go ng lupa nila…bine-bear nila yung inconvenience na affected yung family nila, na makukuha yung portion ng ganito ganyan pero maluwag sa kalooban nila kasi alam nila na soon e magiging beneficial.”

Danilo acknowledges the impact of more investments towards SJDM. “Mas maganda kasi dun natin nakikita ang ekonomiya e, umuunlad ang ekonomiya kapag dumaraming investor dito ‘di ba? Kelangan natin yang mga investor na yan.”

“Ginhawa talaga kung may mga ganyan,” he says.

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