A YEAR from now, Bantayanons living in the interior barangays of Bantayan town need not go to the shore or climb a tall tree to get a signal.
They can stay in the confines of their houses or in their tambayan and make/take calls, do Facebook and Instagram, play mobile games, watch YouTube and Netflix, and stay connected to the internet.
By 2022, Barangays Sillon in the west and Obo-ob in the south will each host a 4G LTE capable macro site, giving connectivity to anywhere within a radius of five kilometers.
You will need to upgrade your phones, Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, AVP/Center Head of Smart Corporate Communications and Public Affairs-Vismin, told Bantayanons in jest at the groundbreaking of the macro site in Sillon on April 22, 2021.
The construction of the two Smart cell sites in Sillon and Obo-ob will mean better access to communication, an essential component in what Bantayan Mayor Arthur Despi calls “the transformation of Bantayan.” He sees the need to optimize the presence of Smart’s new cell sites by developing a tourism corridor from the barangays of Baigad to Atop-atop and Obo-ob to Sulangan.
Putting Bantayan’s comprehensive land use plan into action will hinge on the enforcement of the 20-meter easement from the boundary between Bantayan and its neighbor--the beach-studded town of Santa Fe--to Barangay Atop-atop in Bantayan, Despi said.
Bantayan is sandwiched by the smaller towns of Santa Fe in the southeast and Madridejos in the north of Bantayan Island. The three-town island is located northwest of Cebu Province and reached by ferry in an hour from San Remigio town, 91.5 kilometers north from Cebu City via the Central Nautical Highway.
Bantayan Island is generally flat land and its highest elevation, at 26 meters, is found in Atop-atop.
It is at this elevated part of Atop-atop where Despi envisions a structure that will give 360-degree view of the entire Bantayan Island.
He said this elevated part of Atop-atop is accessible to everyone and can be developed into a view deck. He said he has been told that work on the road infrastructure that leads to this part has begun.
“That can be the unique selling proposition sa atong isla sama sa atong hunasan (long and wide shorelines),” Despi said.
With road, communication and tourism infrastructure in place, the development of economic opportunities follows.
When they enter the labor force, the youth of Bantayan will not have to leave the island to find work. They will avail themselves of the job opportunities Bantayan can offer, Despi said.
All this will be made possible with improved communication and access to connectivity, thanks to Smart’s macro sites in Sillon and Obo-ob, the mayor said.
“Only the best for Bantayan,” said Paredes, who has roots in Botigues and Doong, barangay islets of Bantayan.
She said Smart shares the vision of the mayor “to make Bantayan a progressive municipality.”
She said she made a promise in public during the Christmas tree lighting at the plaza in December 2020 to install two cell sites in the town.
Barangays Sillon and Obo-ob were chosen because these are the areas the can serve wide and more.
Barangay Captains Vivian Desales of Sillon and Jedleonil Umbao of Obo-ob thanked Despi and Smart for picking their barangays for the macro sites.
Desales said that whenever the mayor is seen in her barangay, he is bombarded with one question: when do we get a signal?
The sight of the groundbreaking of the cell site in Sitio Evacuation on April 22, 2021 served as an answer. “Hapit na.”
Paredes said providing Bantayanons with economic opportunities is one reason Smart decided to put up two cell sites in the town.
The 30-foot macro tower can provide a signal to the barangays within a radius of five kilometers.
Lailaine Husain, senior manager of Smart Regional Customer Development-Visayas, said civil work usually takes six to nine months pre-pandemic.
“But now, with the Covid pandemic and travel restrictions, civil work will take nine months earliest and one year longest,” Husain said.
She said Smart looked at the profiles of Sillon and Obo-ob and found them to be the right communities to put up the cell sites.
“The livelihood of the barangay folk aligns with the priority of Smart. We want to digitize farmers and fisherfolk on how to do things. And there are many young people here who need to be connected. In this pandemic, they don’t have access to broadband connection,” Husain said.
That will change soon.
“Once the cellsite is activated, makatawag, maka-text, maka-internet na sila. When you open your phone, makita na ang logo sa Smart sa imong cell phone,” Husain said.
Next year can’t come soon enough for the the Bantayan folk. (MPS)