With better and stronger mining policies in place to protect the environment and communities, mining companies who comprise the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines have been a taking a sustainable approach in tapping the country’s mineral wealth.  Apart from ensuring that mined out areas are progressively rehabilitated for other productive land use, these companies are also developing human assets by investing in education to boost social and economic opportunities for the next generation.

A major component of large-scale mining companies’ Social Development and Management Program fund, which stood at nearly P26 billion as of December 2020, goes to the Development of Host and Neighboring Communities (DHNC). Since these companies operate in remote rural and mostly poor but highly mineralized areas of the Philippines, mining companies are in a good position to provide erstwhile inaccessible basic services such as education to immediate and surrounding communities.  As such, a huge portion of over P19 billion allocated for DHNC went to education spending.

Experts agree that spending on education is beneficial to upward mobility and helps prevent other social ills, such as teenage pregnancies and school dropouts. This is especially true for developing countries. For instance, Marieke Kleemans and co-authors find that men who benefited from Indonesia’s large school building program in the 1970s, apart from having considerably higher years of schooling, are more likely to be working in the formal sector over four decades later.  Women are also more likely to have fewer children and be in a household with improved living standards.

‘Inspiring love for learning and excellence’

Carmen Copper Corp. in Toledo City, Cebu has sent to school nearly 1,580 children of underprivileged families.  Of this number, 1,221 have already finished their studies.

Last year, Carmen Copper invested in the education of 359 poor but deserving youth  – 130 in college, 88 in technical-vocational courses, and 141 in high school.

Carmen Copper’s academic scholarship program for tertiary learning has a total of 28 graduates. They were all full scholars who enjoyed full tuition, monthly lodging and allowances, among others. Six of them are already employed at the company. Among them is Mining Engineer Kent Harold Largo.

Engr. Kent Harold Largo, Mine Open Pit Mining Engineer, Carmen Copper Corp.

The older sibling in a brood of two, Largo took it upon himself to get a decent college education to help his dispatcher father provide for the family.

After finishing high school, Largo approached his school principal for possible benefactors who might be willing to support his dreams of becoming an engineer. He found his opportunity with the Carmen Copper Scholarship Program, which took care of his college expenses all the way to his board exam fees.

Today, the 22-year-old son is not only able to help his family financially, but also celebrated his second work anniversary as one of the mining engineers at Carmen Copper.

Overwhelming pride

Atty. Georgina Martinez, a senior vice-president for Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), was at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Urgent Care Unit in Bonifacio Global City when she met Dr. Mayvelyn Abiog.

In the part where the patient shares personal details to the attending physician, Dr. Abiog recognizes the company her patient is affiliated to and she gasps and excitedly blurted – “You’re with NAC! My mom was head chemist for RTN. I was your scholar – all the way from high school to med school!” (RTN stands for Rio Tuba Nickel Corp – a NAC subsidiary)

Atty. Martinez says it was one of the greatest meetings she has had as representative for NAC: “One cannot fully express that feeling of pride; it was overwhelming. We took care of her, now she’s taking care of us,” she says.

Dr. Abiog is only one of the many students RTN has helped become a physician under the mining company’s full scholarship program. And RTN has supported thousands more in its over 50 years of operations.
In 5 years alone, from 2016 to 2020, Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) companies have downloaded a staggering P153.76 Million Pesos specifically to support and improve programs, facilities, and infrastructure, for education in the mining communities.

Mining’s legacy

Engineer Ariel Ogiagan is one of the top officials of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO) in the town of Baliguian, a third-class municipality in Zamboanga del Norte Province. And after seeing him in his office, one can easily speculate that this young civil engineer has come a long way.

A son of a farmer and member of the Subanon tribe, Engr. Ogiagan was one of the 91 scholars of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) during its mining operations in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. He is currently an LDRRMO Officer-2 of this town after obtaining his degree in civil engineering back in 2013 at the Western Mindanao State University.

Community service. Prior to being a frontliner, midwife and former TVIRD scholar Jeanette Neri-Asmad has been working for the Department of Health (DOH) in Zamboanga City since ‘retiring’ form the company in 2014. (In file photo above): Jeanette took an active role in the DOH’s mass vaccination programs for communities in the region.

Being among the top performers of his class and a member of his tribe helped him land in the company’s scholarship list.

“The opportunity for a better education and decent life is the best thing that TVIRD has done for me and my family,” he said.

Cynthia Comisas-Lacpao, for her part, says education is the greatest legacy that the company left the Subanon homeland. “It has opened many doors and opportunities for us – and for non-Subanons as well,” she says.

A former scholar who became company nurse for more than a decade, Lacpao worked for the Department of Health after the company had concluded its mining operations in 2015. She was then elected to a seat in Siocon’s legislative body in 2019.

Nurse turns lawyer

Philex Mining Corp. has, since 2003, assisted at least 795 students with its college scholarship program. Of the 167 college scholars who graduated, 134 are employed in various private and public agencies locally and overseas.

Among the bar examination passers in 2019 was Kimberly Gomez from Itogon, Benguet, a Philex scholar. She was granted educational assistance during her last two years of law school and five months of law review classes. In her high school and college studies she was also part of the company’s pool of scholars who were selected and provided with monthly stipend, semestral book allowance, and free tuition fees. She finished her undergraduate course, BS Nursing, at Saint Louis University and passed the nursing examination for licensure exam in 2009.

She says she was inspired by her community to take up law school: “I was at a job that paid the bills but was not giving me a sense of accomplishment. And I could see injustices being committed in the community, especially by people in power to further their self-interest. I wanted to be in a position to be of service to people whose rights have been violated.

“For many people from the host communities, Philex contributes to the development of infrastructure and livelihood,” she adds. “For me, one who has been a student most of her life, Philex is my educational sponsor, for which I will always be grateful.”

In 2021 alone, Philex’s total allotment for its education program is nearly P30 million or 30% of the total DHNC budget. An additional P1.5 million is budgeted under Development of Mining Technology and Geosciences component of the company’s SDMP for the scholarship of 12 students in the field of mining and geosciences. With this amount, Philex is providing the school fees and allowances of 432 college scholars and 17 Technical Vocational students enrolled in different schools. The company also gives monthly stipend for 349 Junior High and 316 Senior High students, as well as subsidizing 291 pupils/students enrolled in the elementary and secondary private schools inside camp.

Some of Philex’s scholars who are now full-fledged professionals in different fields.

Record college graduate scholars

RTN downloaded some P25 million between 2016 to 2020 for its educational programs. To date, RTN prides itself with a record of 443 SDMP college graduate scholars while currently supporting 53 college students in various courses, 249 students in high school, and 160 in elementary school.

RTN has also constructed classrooms, funded various child development programs and other non-formal literacy schools over the years, provided school supplies to both students and teachers especially during this pandemic.

Cagdianao Mining Corp. (CMC), another NAC subsidiary operating out of Dinagat Islands, has dealt with tremendous upheaval in the daily lives of the people in the communities, both in and out of the classroom.
Dealing with Covid-19 and its impact to education, CMC has learned an important life-changing lesson – that the pandemic has not only impacted students but has taken its toll on educators.
Therefore, CMC’s contribution of more than P35 million to education programs in Dinagat Islands, from 2016 to 2020, had not only the students in mind but also the well-being of the teachers

Big, iconic move

CMC focused on the efforts to repair and renovate of school facilities in 4 barangays; supported the construction of a computer laboratory and a speech laboratory in its main barangay of Valencia; improved the day-care facilities and ensuring volunteer teachers and day-care workers had financial assistance; even supporting the building of a school stage in elementary schools and a covered court, even purchasing a school bus that provides day to day convenience to teachers and their students.

CMC employees taking classes in the mine site

But one big and iconic move is CMC’s partnership with St. Paul University of Surigao (SPUS) that has the University offering the degree Bachelor of Science (BS) in Mining Engineering, as a second course, to qualified employees in the mine site.

This is a first for the Philippine mining industry, an innovative educational program.

SPUS is banking on CMC’s generic resources, the mine site as a natural laboratory, plus and an array of state-of-the-art computer software for mining engineering courses.

With the company’s credible lineup of mining engineers, geodetic engineers, geologists and chemical engineers, acting as instructors, the SPUS and CMC collaboration is an excellent initiative.

Digital Jobs Project

Some 50 scholars are undergoing two-month training on digital platforms under the Digital Jobs Project, which is sponsored and conducted by Masbate-based mining firms Filminera Resources Corporation and Phil Gold Processing & Refining Corporation (PGPRC).

The multi-million peso project has put up a Community Business Process Outsourcing Training Center, training facilities and supplies, recruited faculty, provided millions of pesos for trainees’ allowance, set up a systematic job search and placement system. The trainees come from the Montana Relocation Site in Barangay Bangon, Aroroy.

The two mining firms have partnered with the Department of Information and Communication Technology, which provided faculty to train the scholars in these digital courses — virtual assistance, web development, search engine optimization, graphic design, e-commerce, and online bookkeeping, among others.

Initial feedback from deployed trained scholars is encouraging, according to Benjamin Magalgalit, PGPRC SDMP supervisor. For example, a highly trained PWD is now earning more than US$2,000 or over P100,000 a month as a website content developer, while a farmer is earning US$1,000 (over P50,000) a month as a BPO manager specializing in Search Engine Optimization.

Funding scholarships, vocational training

Benguet Corporation’s gold operations has spent P10.61 million for education projects, programs, and activities (PPAs) from its P56.3 million SDMP funds since 2005. The company’s nickel operations, on the other hand, has, since 2013, allocated P11.79 million for education out of its P47.4 million social development budget. This has benefitted total of 403 high school and college students from BengCorp’s host and neighboring communities in Zambales and Benguet Province.

Some of the scholars from a batch of BengCorp’s college and senior high school graduates from Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

Among these PPAs is the Special Program or Employment of Students or SPES where graduate scholars are given a chance to work and do internship for the company and barangays. Under SPES, students do office work and participate in the different activities assigned by barangay councils, such as surgical/optical missions, Brigada Eskwela, and clean-up drives.

Other beneficiaries undergo training on shield metal arc welding under instructors from the Technical Education & Skills Development Authority for the Youth Development Program at the BengCorp Electrical Department.

The company likewise provides assistance to the Child Development Centers, participates in improvement of schools, such as concreting of school pavements, installation of comfort rooms and water tanks, as well as leads in “Brigada Eskwela” activities by donating cleaning materials and supplies, as well as school supplies and equipment such as computers, printers, photocopiers, and other school equipment were also provided by the Company.

STEM Academic Strand lab equipment

For its part, FCF Minerals Corp’s scholarship program has fully supported a total of 35 graduates from all over the company’s host province of Nueva Vizcaya. Currently, FCF continues to support 34 other scholars from its host communities within and around Runruno.

To help upgrade the laboratories of schools with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic strand in the province and to improve learning competencies of students, the company donated equipment to Lamo National High School, Runruno National High School and Bintawan National High School.

To enable the scholars to cope with their online course requirements, FCF provided those in their second and third years of college with laptop computers.

The donated equipment include digital scales, wireless Ph sensors, wireless temperature sensors, plotting compasses, wireless motion sensors, field mapper kits, solenoids, wireless light sensor, microscopes, mini generator, wireless force acceleration sensor, and salinity sensor.
FCF also donated school supplies and equipment to various schools to augment their needs in producing modules for their students during this pandemic.
Through its own SDMP fund, FCF is supporting 18 geosciences scholars. Meanwhile, 16 other scholars are being supported by the company by way of its SDMP contributions to Barangay Runruno.

Supporting learners in the time of Covid-19

Carmen Copper also turned over a digital printing equipment, inks and printing supplies to the Department of Education (DepEd) Toledo City Schools Division, benefiting some 53,000 public school learners in this city whose learning were disrupted by the pandemic.

The RISO digital duplicator, five rolls of ink cartridge and master roll will help fast-track the reproduction of modular learning materials in the new normal

Carmen Copper Corporation turned over the brand new printing equipment and supplies to the Department of Education Toledo City Schools Division.

Since the start of modular classes in public schools in October 2020, DepEd Toledo City would wait for the printed modules from their regional and national counterparts to arrive before they could hand it out to learners.

A total of 32 public elementary and secondary schools operate within the 17 host and neighboring barangays of Carmen Copper.

The company also turned over boxes of school supplies and health kits to public schools located in its host and neighboring communities to express gratitude to the teachers’ unwavering dedication.

Teachers of Old Bucao Elementary School receive school supplies and health kits from Carmen Copper Corporation.

Anticipating life after 2-year modular learning

Carmen Copper has also built 10 school buildings with 19 classrooms and refurbished 26 school buildings with 78 classrooms since 2015.

Holding classes in person after two years of modular learning will be made more rewarding for students and teachers of Magdugo Elementary School with the inauguration of its new school building constructed by Carmen Copper.

Moreover, Carmen Copper funded various researches and other studies, including revalidation of baseline data and other environmental impact of its mining areas. It also provided allowances and safety apparels to students taking on-the-job training at the company.

Shuttle buses are provided to ferry students, pupils and the rest of the community to safely take them to their destinations.

Big ticket projects

Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) boasts of some P65.3 million support to educations programs.
This yet another NAC subsidiary’s big ticket projects include a P21 million share for the construction of a new Taganito National High School Campus; and P20 million share for the construction of Punta Naga Elementary School near the Mamanwa housing. TMC has provided each an exclusive school bus to elementary schools in two barangays plus equipment such as projector, laptop, printer and other day-to-day educational materials for both students and teachers.

TMC records some P22.22 million pesos support for various educational programs from 2016 to 2020. The company is currently providing scholarship and other financial assistance to 424 students.

TMC believes that providing support to education is a sure way to a secured future for the communities and this resolve is strengthened further when the company’s scholars pay forward by showing off academic excellence. The most recent display of such distinction is when one of TMC’s scholars, Engr. Andro Poliran Bayang, graduated Magna Cum Laude and has even bagged the 3rd place in the Metallurgical Engineering Board Examinations in July 2021.

14 mining engineer-scholars

Another NAC subsidiary, Hinatuan Mining, which operates in Hinatuan Island, Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte, boasts of a unique feat of all of its scholars who took up mining engineering all passed on the first take of their mining licensure exams.

So far, HMC has produced 14 mining engineers: Edmar Anahaw, Daryl Anahaw, Rodel Albaran, Ryan Wenceslao, Reynold Lito, Geochel Calunsag, Christian Bocboc, Christian Digman, Christian Centillas, Gino Paguntalan, Anamae Prongo, Alvin Gemparo, and the most recent are, Keenen Caluña, and King Paje

HMC keeps a proud record of 308 graduates from the company’s scholarship program. Currently, they are keeping tab of a total of 1,274 college, high school and elementary scholars.

From 2015 to 2020 HMC has expended some P28.46 Million for education programs and activities.

Other than building computer and speech laboratories and providing equipment such as projector, laptop, and printer, and because HMC’s operations is in the island, it was expected that the company also takes care of transportation for the students and so provided for boats for Sitio Campandan and Sitio Bagong Silang used to transport students and teachers.

Forever grateful

She knows what it is to be poor at a young age, being born to poor parents and raised by a single mother who died while she was in her primary years. The harrowing experience of being bullied because of poverty made Joanamarie Gabayan vow to have a stable job in the future.

At 19, she fulfilled her promise to herself and joined the academe where a decent, fulfilling and stable job as a professional teacher awaited her.

Gabayan earned her degree in elementary education in 2015. She took and passed the professional board examination for teachers then and landed a teaching job the following year – thanks to the scholarship program of TVIRD in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

Our future. Children study and play at the Canatuan Elementary and National High School – an institution that TVIRD helped build during its operations in the area from 2004-2014, and from which time the company has been the host municipality’s strongest partner in promoting responsive education. (TVIRD file photo)

Now 25 years old and already married, Joan is currently teaching the Subanon children at Barangay Tabayo Elementary School of this town. Assigned as an Indigenous People Education teacher by the DepEd, she instructs her pupils on basic education that is responsive to their context, respects their identities and promotes the values of their indigenous knowledge, skills and other aspects of their cultural heritage.

Looking back to her humble beginnings, Joan said she is forever grateful to the company that helped her realize her dream. “I could not have reached this far without TVIRD,” she says.