All told, the industry spent over P380 million in 2020 for Covid-19 initiatives from mining companies’ Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) funds, realigned to buttress the government’s pandemic response. A total of 1.1 million households and nearly 300,000 front liners all over the country benefitted from the effort.
The SDMP is a 5-year budgeted plan for development programs in mining communities, which the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has allowed to be realigned during this pandemic. Some companies even complemented their SDMP spending with Corporate Social Responsibility funds to ensure greater positive impact and to reach more beneficiaries.
RELIEF, MEDICAL and LOGISTICS SUPPORT
According to the MGB, the industry distributed nearly 390,000 relief packs and goods, over 6,000 boxes of medicines, some 1,600 hygiene and medical kits, 11,000 PPEs, 194,000 face masks, 5,000 face shields, 3,000 gallons of alcohol, 2,000 gallons of disinfectant and other cleaning supplies, as well as 4,000 units of other medical supplies. Mining firms also provided isolation units for communities, as well as food and logistics support for medical front liners, checkpoints personnel, rescue personnel and volunteers, Indigenous People (IPs), senior citizens, solo parents, and other vulnerable sectors.
In the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, for instance, almost 19,000 households received medicines, PPEs and food supplies from OceanaGold Phils., Inc., whose Didipio copper-gold project has not been operating since July 2019 as it awaits the renewal of its contract with the government. Also in Nueva Vizcaya, FCF Minerals Corp. provided food supplies to 10,500 households in the towns of Quezon and Kasibu,
Filminera Resources Corp. and PhilGold Processing and Refining Corp., for their part, capped their Covid-19 efforts in their host province of Masbate with a Christmas food distribution drive in nearby Albay for some 400 families – about 100 of them IPs – who were among the hardest hit by Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. The companies also donated P5 million to help rebuild damaged houses and distribute relief goods following the 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Masbate.
In Benguet, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. (LCMC) and Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. opened their Casubigan camp to serve as the town’s temporary Covid-19 quarantine facility following the request of town mayor Frenzel Ayong. In addition, the company equipped its Lepanto hospital staff with complete PPEs, isopropyl alcohol, disinfectants, vitamin C, and other medical supplies. With the help of Lepanto weavers, LCMC provided all its 1,600 with face shields and 3-ply face masks. To stem the transmission of the virus, LCMC rolled out mass testing to over a thousand mine employees. Those who were found positive were sent to the company’’s temporary isolation facilities, with free meals for the entire quarantine duration.
Also in Benguet, Philex Mining Corp. (PMC) lent support for the purchase of medicines by several barangays and to augment the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP). Aside from the SAP, the company gave cash assistance to families in Barangay Camp 3, Tuba. PMC, via its subsidiary Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. Inc. (SMMCI), likewise allowed the use of Silangan’s stockyard in Barangay Macalaya as temporary isolation facility of Placer town in Surigao del Norte.
Cagdianao Mining Corp. (CMC) bankrolled the cost of materials and labor for the “Katre-Karpintero” program of Dinagat Islands Governor Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao who sought to address the need for more beds in the province’s quarantine facilities in the province. “Equipped with sufficient materials,” she said, “150 beds were completed in record time (5 days). Of course this also provided extra income for our (21) carpenters.”
The industry likewise supported the establishment of two molecular technology laboratories and a COVID-19 testing center, as well as the procurement of over 17,000 rapid test kits. Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. (THPAL) partnered with Nickel Asia Corp. and its affiliates CMC and Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) in donating P18 million to the Philippine National Red Cross that, in turn, will build a P28-million molecular testing lab in Caraga. The lab can help boost pandemic response in the region through faster diagnostic results, rapid identification of infected patients, and faster contact tracing to limit the spread of the virus.
TMC donated some 5,000 rapid anti-body test kits (RATs) to Surigao del Norte to help detect possible cases of Covid-19 throughout the province. THPAL, on the other hand, provided the Claver town LGU with RATs, antigen test kits, a multicab and motorcycle, and an iChroma II antigen device, which has a higher accuracy rate in detecting Covid-19 than the standard rapid diagnostic equipment. Moreover, THPAL joined the Army 30th Infantry Battalion in providing relief goods to 489 IP families in Gigaquit town. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Villarosa, 30th IB commander, said the effort will help save the IPs from exploitation by rebel groups.
Meanwhile, Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) provided 6,000 RATs and PPEs to the Caraga Regional Hospital, Surigao del Norte Provincial Hospital, Surigao City Health Office, and Claver Rural Health Unit. TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. (TVIRD) turned over several boxes of PPEs to the Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital, while PMC donated PPEs as well to at least 5 hospitals in Baguio and 3 in Benguet.
Face masks, face shields, disposable gloves, isolation suits, and goggles were turned over by PMC to Benguet governor Melchor Diclas and Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong. The same equipment were also distributed to the municipalities of Tuba, Itogon, Sablan, and Tublay for use by front liners. At the PMC corporate office, face masks were distributed to medical front liners at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center through the Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc. Drums of alcohol were donated to the Philippine National Police – Cordillera Autonomous Region and wash stands were provided for the Benguet provincial government as well as to Barangay Ampucao in Itogon. Food assistance was also given to Barangays Ampucao and Dalupirip in Itogon. Various cash and rice donations were also given to the municipalities of Tuba, Itogon, and Sablan.
While SMMCI’s copper and gold project is currently placed on extended pre-mine care and maintenance status, the company still donated PPEs to medical front liners within its host and neighboring communities. It also distributed surgical PPEs to the Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, the Provincial Hospital in Placer, and the Municipal Health Offices of Placer, Tagana-an, and Mainit.
To improve the Cagdianao town’s emergency response and speed up relief operations, CMC provided the LGU here an ambulance unit and a service truck. For its part, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), which has not even extracted minerals in Tampakan, South Cotabato since the company’s inception in the 1990s, turned over a four-wheel drive truck to the LGU for its relief efforts in remote mountainous barangays. LCMC also donated a service vehicle to the Mankayan municipality. Local officials who received the donations for their respective towns said the transport equipment would drastically improve their logistics capabilities.
PMC, on the other hand, provided funds for diesel fuel used by barangay emergency vehicles in hauling goods and ferrying medical patients and front liners to and from Baguio.
Over in Cebu, Carmen Copper Corp. distributed health kits to 175 journalists from different media outlets in recognition of their contributions to the fight against Covid-19.
LIVELIHOOD and FOOD SECURITY
Mining projects also distributed some 92,000 sacks of rice to communities all over the country. Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC), for instance, donated P30 million worth rice for Palaweños following the call of Palawan Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez for a joint public-private sector effort to address the food security threat posed by the pandemic. PMC, meanwhile distributed sacks of rice to families in Barangays Camp 1, 3, and Ansagan in Tuba, Benguet, as well as in Barangays Ampucao and Dalupirip in Itogon.
PGMC allocated P12 million of its P31-million Covid-19 assistance initiatives for the company’s Food Security Project, which aims to provide food on the table and, at the same time, a livelihood source for partner communities. Portions of the workforce that were displaced since the onset of the pandemic compelled the inception of this project, which is jointly funded by PGMC’s SDMP and Annual Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program budgets.
Most of the produce from the project’s communal gardening-cum-organic vegetable farming, egg machines, and aquaculture components are bought and consumed within the community; some are bought by PGMC and its employees. The project, implemented in close coordination with the Claver municipal government and the Surigao del Norte Agricultural Office, has been lauded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as “one of a kind”.
On the other hand, a bangus farming project sponsored by Hinatuan Mining Corp. – another Nickel Asia Corp. subsidiary based in Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte – yielded more than 1700 kilos of bangus in the project’s first harvest ever. Lilibeth G. Becera, President of the 90-strong United Fisherfolk Association of Bagong Silang said the harvest “is a big achievement for us small fisherfolk because the lockdown has limited our movement in the community and the bangus helped many of us during this quarantine.”
Agata Mining Ventures, Inc. (AMVI), a subsidiary of TVRD, distributed more than 5,000 relief packs that included over 11,000 kilograms of organic vegetables from AMVI’s Mabakas Farm School – certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) – and some of its 1,300 graduates. The recipients included the company’s employees in the its Agusan del Norte mine site and Mamanwa IPs, many of whom are farmers themselves who would have otherwise faced the risk of spoilage of their produce due to quarantine restrictions on transportation.
In Carrascal, Surigao del Sur, meanwhile, Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. distributed vegetable seeds to urge residents to start their home garden and grow their own vegetables amid the ongoing health crisis. Dubbed “Gulayan sa Panimalay,” the program is part of the municipality’s food sufficiency strategy, where residents are encouraged to produce fresh and healthy food from their backyard to their tables, save on food expenses during the pandemic, while enjoying a steady supply of fresh produce from their own backyard. A project of the Department of Agriculture, the program also supports local rice farmers through financial assistance, free hauling services and direct purchase of their rice products at a competitive farm gate price.
EDUCATION and SKILLS TRAINING
SMI helped procure 642 transistor radios for students of Columbio Central Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat as part of the LGU efforts to promote the Department of Education’s distance learning program during this pandemic. Columbio town mayor Edwin Bermudez said the local radio station that SMI also helped establish is now being utilized for distance learning. Barangay Datalblao chair Bai Naila Mamalinta likewise attested that SMI has been providing support not only in the area of education, but also for the health and socio-economic well-being of her Blaan constituents for many years now.
Back in Surigao del Norte, Taganito Mining Corp. recently turned over some 7,172 workbooks worth P2 million to the provincial government for the use of public schools in the province. The workbooks were handed over to provincial governor Francisco Matugas.
Looking beyond the pandemic, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. are poised to provide residents of Bataraza in the southern part of Palawan the opportunity to shape a brighter future when the company’s P42 million state-of-the-art training center opens after Covid-19. Once fully operational, the center will offer training courses, such as driving, scaffolding, welding, bread and pastry production, among others. The new facility will have audio-visual rooms and dedicated areas for various workshops, and will be equipped with conveyor belts, overhead cranes, vertical structure platforms, and electrical simulators for the training sessions. It will host classes for skills education and job-preparatory training based on the courses that TESDA offers.
In 2021, mining firms have been allowed again by the MGB to realign their SDMP and Safety and Health Program funds to procure Covid-19 vaccines for critical stakeholders.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomes the MGB decision as this will help support the vaccination of employees and members of host communities. More significantly, this will provide a big boost to the government’s Covid-19 vaccination program and help hasten the nation’s recovery from this pandemic.