Residents of host and neighboring communities of large-scale mining operations and exploration projects across the country are gradually experiencing improved quality of life or learning new livelihood skills, thanks to the Social Development and Management Programs (SDMPs) and Community Development Programs (CDPs) being implemented by large-scale mining and exploration firms.  Practically all the mines or exploration sites are located in far-flung rural areas where basic services are wanting and livelihood opportunities limited.

The SDMP refers to the comprehensive five-year plan implemented by mining contractors towards the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.  Each contractor allocates the equivalent of 1.5% of operating costs to fund SDMP projects.  Meanwhile, exploration projects are mandated to allot 10% of their total exploration expenditures for CDP.

According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, since the start of the SDMP, mining companies committed a total of nearly P28 billion to SDMP as of December 2020.  Of this amount, 75% or nearly P21 billion went to the Development of Host and Neighboring Communities, benefitting 881 barangays nationwide from various programs, projects and activities. The balance of P7 billion went to the two other SDMP components: Information, Education, and Communication (15%), as well as Development of Mining Technology and Geosciences (10%).

Through the SDMP, families are being prepared for the eventual closure of mining so they will be able to support themselves long after the life of mine. The projects, programs and activities under SDMP take many forms, but they are all geared towards creating responsible, self-reliant and resource-based communities capable of developing, implementing and managing community development projects in a manner consistent with the principle of people empowerment. Moreover, the SDMP is a tool for the development and implementation of community programs and projects in consultation and in partnership with the host and neighboring communities.

Human Resource Development and Institution Building

FCF Minerals Corporation promotes self-sustaining and economically viable household and organizational enterprises by providing community-based organizations (CBOs) access to funds and technical assistance. Among the 21 CBOs that FCF now supports is the Runo Sewing Services (RSS), which started operations in late 2019.

Apart from assisting in the business registration of RSS, FCF’s Community Relations Office (CRO) staff conducted skills training sessions for RSS members and secured slots for them in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) Community-Based Training on Dressmaking. Six of the 10 trainees who had attended the TESDA program set up a shop that now churns out various sewn items, such as uniforms, pillows, curtains, and rags.  They also provide sewing services to FCF employees and residents of Runruno and neighboring barangays in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya.

Analyn Felix (left) and Fredelyn Escaño now earn more from the sewn products and sewing services they offer at the shop they set up with four other trainees who attended the TESDA Community-Based Training on Dressmaking, arranged by FCF Minerals Corp.

Fredelyn Escaño, one of the six trainees, says the income she earns from sewing has enabled her to save money and provide her children’s school allowances and their other needs.  She has, in fact, started to build a house for her family.  Another trainee, Analyn Felix, says her family’s daily needs can now be met because she earns more from her newly acquired sewing skills.

To further support RSS, FCF made several bulk orders of Calico bags that are now being used in activities of the mining department.  The company’s CRO team also helps RSS market its products and services by encouraging other FCF employees and locals to visit the RSS shop.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. (LCMC), for its part, has been spearheading the revival of weaving in the Cordilleras after similar attempts in the past had failed.  Although weaving, surprisingly, is of fairly recent vintage – reportedly beginning only in the early 1920s in Banao, Bauko, Mountain Province – the art did reach its peak in the 1950s when the wife of the then chief superintendent of LCMC, Mrs. Foster, organized the Lepanto Women’s Club and introduced weaving as one of the club’s livelihood projects.

Under Mrs. Foster’s guidance, the weaving project employed some 200 weavers – including women from Ilocos Norte – who produced weaving cloths, table runners, curtains, place mats, table napkins, and dresses. Lepanto Crafts expanded its market to neighboring towns and provinces; clients included the Baguio Country Club, the historic Manila Hotel, and even individuals from as far as London and the USA.  Their success undoubtedly inspired the setting up of such famous woven materials outfits such as Narda’s, Sagada Weaving, and Easter Weaving in Baguio City.

Lepanto Crafts’ two-decade heyday came to an end when the fosters left LCMC.  In 1999, LCMC helped organize another women’s group and had the members sent to Sagada, La Union, and Abra for training and reorientation.  The company provided the association with two pillars or manual loom weaving machines. The association profitably produced cloths, table runners and blankets for a few years but closed down in 2007 allegedly due to some internal issues.

In 2016, when LCMC through the initiative of its president, Bryan U. Yap, decided to bring back weaving, Suzette Anongos (left) and Pilar Calpotura found themselves over the moon, and decided to forego their other means of livelihood to focus on weaving. Nothing makes them happier.

In 2015, LCMC once again revived weaving as a livelihood program.  The company’s Social Development Department  (SDD) mobilized four women-weavers and provided them the needed materials. LCMC President Bryan Yap donated three new tillars and weaving accessories. With more weavers, the Lepanto Weavers Organization (LWO) was formally organized in 2017.  The SDD helped the LWO source funds to jumpstart a hopefully lasting and viable weaving business for the women.  The Livelihood Association of Lepanto Host Communities was also tapped and proved helpful in this regard.

It wasn’t an altogether smooth comeback for the Lepanto weavers.  Challenges such as limited funding, the need for contemporary designs and further training, and marketability proved daunting at the start but with the full support LCMC, the LWO‘s venture has become sustainable.

A Good Head Start

Meanwhile, down south in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, TVI Resource Development Phils. Inc. (TVIRD) recently concluded its “Good Agricultural Practices Trainers’ Training Program” for some 40 participants from this town’s Subanen indigenous peoples.  The program, spearheaded by tribal chieftains Timuay Lucenio Manda and Timuay Casiano Edal of the Piksalabukan Gukom Di Bayog, provided the graduates guidance in the production of quality abaca fiber.

TVIRD also shared tips on crop protection, including pest control and natural protection against diseases.  The company also distributed 5,000 abaca seedlings to farmers in Barangay Depore in this municipality.

Marvin Edal, grandson of Timuay Casiano Edal inspects abaca fiber that are hung out to dry.  Demand for the product is high as it earns the country some Php4.7 billion in average annual exports.

Manda understands mining is not forever.  He says whatever his tribe will earn from abaca farming “must be spent on projects identified in the Community Royalty Development Plan approved by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.  We will see to it that the opportunity given to us will not be wasted.”

Abaca, he adds, can sustain his tribe’s future.  The crop is suitable to soil type and terrain of Bayog. “It can be harvested in two years and the price is good.  What is needed is our interest and diligence to plant.”

According to the Philippine Fiber Industry of the Philippines, the country is the largest global producer of abaca fiber, supplying about 87% of the world’s requirements for the production of cordage and specialty papers for currency notes, stencil paper, teabags, coffee filters, furniture and fixtures, textiles, cosmetics and skin care products, to name a few.  It also helps boost the local economy with P4.7 billion in average annual export earnings.

With these prospects, Manda is hopeful that the project will give them the opportunity to gain economic independence.  Some 50 beneficiaries will be provided with technical support from TVIRD, tribal leaders, and the government – a good head start for what could be a sustainable livelihood venture prior to TVIRD’s mining operations in the town.

Enterprise Development and Networking

The Gagmay’ng Mananagat sa Wangke (GAMAWA), a cooperative of small fishermen in barangay Wangke, in Claver, Surigao del Norte harvested over 12,000 kilos of bangus (milkfish) – 4,270 kilos last April and 7,928 kilos in December 2020 – earning for members nearly P1.4 million in four months.

GAMAWA is one of the community organizations being supported by Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), since the cooperative’s inception. Edelina Peraz, the Community Development Coordinator at TMC, says “as a mining company, TMC is tasked by law to ensure social and economic development of the communities.  We have long acknowledged the significance of a successful cooperative to achieve this.”

GAMAWA’s biggest record was December 2020 when its members harvested 7,928 kilos of bangus that sold for a whopping P889,292.00.

The success of GAMAWA showcases the effective leadership of its president, Felix Saranza. “It is important to understand the interests of the individual member and of the whole group to keep the organization intact until everyone gets to taste the fruits of everyone’s labor,” he says. “We owe all our accomplishments to the support of TMC.”

Since 2017, TMC has provided some P5.5 million from the mining company’s SDMP fund to help GAMAWA build state-of-the-art fish cages in a 450-square meter area with 3 chambers that can handle 30,000 bangus fingerlings in a single cropping.

“Taganito Mining’s partnership with GAMAWA aims to prove the strength of a collaborative effort between the mining company and its communities toward a shared goal of empowering cooperatives,” explains Engr. Artemio E. Valeroso, Resident Mine Manager at TMC.

In Barangay Danlag, Tampakan, South Cotabato, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) provided P600,000 cash assistance two years ago to the Danlag Women’s Association (DWA) to procure equipment needed for its small backyard turmeric powder operation. DWA, with only five workers producing 5 kilos of turmeric powder via manual procedure then, now produces 200 kilos of turmeric, a ginger variety known for its health benefits. DWA president Virginia Basan says their product now provides additional income for members, mostly housewives and working college students.

They have participated in many trade fairs that gave them the chance to show how SMI, along with the Tampakan local government unit, and the Region 12 offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Science and Technology are cooperating in supporting their project.  DA-12, through its regional director Arlan Mangelen, has since been urging entrepreneurs to emulate the women of Tampakan who have become well known for their turmeric project.

SMI has not even opened a mine in Tampakan and in three adjacent towns – Malungon in Sarangani, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur — since the company’s inception in 1995.

Not Just an “Obligated Provider”

Mushroom growing as an alternative means of vegetable farming in Padcal.

For its part, Philex Mining Corporation (PMC) is espousing the view that the company is more than just an “obligated provider” but in fact a partner for development. Projects implemented under the company’s livelihood program vary from farming and other agroforestry practices, to establishing cooperatives to small-scale trading. This allows stakeholders the opportunity to live their dreams on entrepreneurship while being supported by the technical expertise provided or facilitated by PMC. The Livelihood Program awarded to the mining community depends on its geographical orientation, availability of raw materials, and viability of their product and presence of required skills.

At PMC’s Padcal Mine in Benguet, for instance, latest technology for processing local agricultural products, such as in coffee farming and mushroom growing, is shared with host and neighboring communities. Other simple income-generating projects, like honey bee keeping, vegetable growing, and loom weaving are also being supported and encouraged as a means of livelihood to the communities.

In Masbate, Filminera Resources Corp. (FRC) organized in its host and neighboring communities 37 business associations operating different business enterprises, with support for start-up capitalization, equipment/machineries, technical support and trainings.  These enterprises include eggs and broiler production, organic vegetable production, crab and milkfish fattening, duck raising and duck eggs production, integrated farming, as well as sewing and soap making for women’s groups.  The company also established a community skills and technical-vocational training center where 75 graduates already passed the National Competency assessment levels 1 and 2.

Moreover, FRC organized residents into registered business associations and people’s organizations, and provided them exposure to and practical hands-on trainings on livelihood projects implementations and management.  To ensure the seamless implementation and monitoring of SDMP projects, FRC established and trained barangay coordinators.

Back in Nueva Vizcaya, FCF also donated over P500,000 to seven villages meant for the purchase and planting of more than 1,000 fruit-bearing trees that residents of barangays Caliat, Aurora, Darubba, Maddiangat, Dagupan in Buliwao town and Tadji in Kasibu can use as livelihood source.  Among the trees to be planted are lanzones, avocado, guyabano, satsuma, and rambutan. The company also distributed cacao seedlings to residents of barangays Buliwao and Caliat.

‘Kapeng Barako’

Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp.’s (RTN) venture into coffee farming is proving to be successful as a livelihood source for its host and neighboring communities. Eight barangays around Rio Tuba in Palawan allotted 152 hectares for planting coffee while RTN, another NAC subsidiary, added 48 hectares more, providing a total of 200 hectares for coffee growing in the area.

RTN and its partner barangays collaborated with Rocky Mountains Arabica Coffee for the transfer of technology, and with the Palawan Cooperative Union  and the Cooperative Development Aide Authority for the trainings and sharing of best practices in coffee farming.

RTN started harvesting Liberica beans, popularly known as “kapeng barako”, and is finding ways to perfect the processing of these beans to produce coffee from a mining community that will live up to the quality that Philippine coffee is known for.

Above, a cooperative office rises in Barangay Sandoval after Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation awarded a one-storey building to Sandoval Farmers Producers Cooperative (SANFAPCO), a primary cooperative operating in Sandoval, Bataraza that is engaged in coffee production and other agro-produce. Below, one of the coffee farmers of Rio Tuba.

Last year, the communities in Rio Tuba that are in this coffee growing program successfully made their coffee available for “local tasting”.  The goal is to make this venture sustainable so that, soon, the communities will be able to sell their produce and earn.

RTN and its sister firm, Coral Bay Nickel Corp., have allocated P36 million to support the mobilization of the coffee farming project, which is now in its fourth year.

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) once reported that the world consumes almost two billion cups of coffee every day and that intake steadily grows.  Statistics say that 93 percent  of Filipino households buy coffee products at least three  times a week.

The coffee project was funded by RTN’s SDMP in support of the Palawan government’s  mandate to provide livelihood opportunities to communities impacted by mining operations in the areas.

Assistance to Infrastructure Development and Support Services

Over at Sta. Cruz town in Zambales, Eramen Minerals Inc. (EMI) provided funding for the construction of a communal canal and box culvert at Purok 6 in Barangay Guinabon.  The project now supplies water from Pitugo River to some 105 hectares of farmland in this village, thus helping most of the farmers in the community who rely on irrigation for their produce.

In expressing his constituents’ gratitude to EMI, Guinabon Barangay chairman Diosdado Alota says the project “will not allow water to overflow, which will mitigate flooding in Guinabon.” The diverted water, he adds, can now be maximized for farming purposes.

Top photo shows the completed communal canal and box culvert project after completion and the middle one, before the project started. Bottom, another portion of the completed project in Barangay Guinabon.

The project has other long-term benefits for the environment and ecological stability, including prevention of soil erosion and sedimentation, and water moisture conservation. The canal and box culvert also serves as an alternative pathway for fish and will enhance upland productivity while ensuring environmental sustainability.

EMI also moved to protect farmers’ crops and improve the flow of water in Barangay Guisguis by constructing a 685-meter berm and by desilting and dredging of a drainage canal in the village.  The project is expected to increase crop production and, consequently, farmers’ income, as well as protect their farmlands from water surges during the monsoon season.

Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) helped build houses for families living in Barangay Bon-ot, Panikian, Banban and Gamuton in Carrascal.

A joint project with the local government, the houses were in line with company’s livelihood development initiatives that offers safe and decent shelters to families. Adequate living spaces bring hope and new opportunities for members of the community.

The project directly addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Safe and Resilient Human Settlements and Sustainable Communities. MMDC also built facilities for potable water in Cabangahan, a daycare and feeding centers in Panikian, Parang and Babuyan.

Through its SDMP, MMDC provides  livelihood programs to ensure that equal opportunities to create, build and earn are extended to all sectors of society. Farmers were given rice seeds, organic fertilizers and carabaos to help plow the farm lands and yield more crops for higher income. MMDC also provided chariot vehicles to the farmer’s association for the efficient delivery of market products.

To churn and aerate the soil before planting, rotavator machines were donated for the farmers in barangay Cabas-an, Parang and Bacolod. MMDC also built a rice mill that offers affordable rice clearing services.

Meanwhile, 30 barangays in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur each got P25,000 “seed money” for development initiatives from SMI. About half of the 30 recipient-barangays have centuries-old Blaan tribal domains whose residents the SMI is helping empower through humanitarian interventions despite its not having operated yet since its inception in 1995.

Mayor Carl Jason Rama led the symbolic release of the development grants for 30 barangays in Kiblawan that SMI channeled through his office. (Photo from PhilStar.com/John Unson)

Municipal officials in Kiblawan, in Tampakan, in Malungon, Sarangani and in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat say SMI has already spent hundreds of millions worth of Philippine currency for health, education and socio-economic projects in the four areas despite its not having even operated yet since 1995.

The SMI also released P75,000 worth check each for the barangay governments of Tacub, Abnate and Bulolsalo in Kiblawan, as well as provided with a P75,000 grant each of the Indigenous Peoples in Kiblawan’s Barangays Tacub, Abnate, Bulolsalo and  Kimlawis where there are Blaan tribal enclaves.

The assistance was intended for projects meant to address poverty and underdevelopment in the four Kiblawan barangays, drawn from SMI’s social development program allocation.

Life After Mining

Seven years after TVIRD concluded its mining operations in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, the Subanon indigenous peoples in the area continue to earn from the rubber tree project the company started as early as 2007.

Jimmy Lingala, works as a farmer and rubber tapper during his off-duty hours from his “day job” as security guard of the old mine site, now completely rehabilitated.  He has been doing this after TVIRD gave rubber seedlings to his family and the rest of the community. Jimmy says he earns an additional P4,000 a month from his one-hectare rubber tree farm.  He will earn more if the market for rubber latex improves.

A Subanon resident whose parents are among the beneficiaries of TVIRD’s free seedlings is busy at work in their rubber plantation. Almost everyone in Canatuan owns a rubber tree plantation, thanks to TVIRD’s free seedlings distributed long before the cessation of its mining operations.

Rubber experts say rubber trees become ‘tappable’ five or six years after planting.  This year marks the beginning of the Subanons’ harvest.  They have already been selling to local traders and rubber is now one of the main income sources of Subanons.

In 2015, the company distributed a total of 114,773 rubber seedlings in Canatuan and nearby communities.  These seedlings have been planted and grown in a total area of 229 hectares and farmers have already harvesting the fruits of their labor.

Today, Canatuan is surrounded with rubber plantations in TVIRD’s host Siocon town as well as neighboring RT Lim and Tungawan Municipalities.