TVIRD crew leads Sulphide Project info drive
Armed with laptops, visual aids, a multimedia projector and a portable public address system, a team of young employees from a mining company braved the scorching tropical heat, mid-summer downpours and, in many instances, treacherous terrain, to bring the message of hope and development to remote, underdeveloped villages in one of the poorest, post-conflict areas in southern Philippines.
The team, composed of junior staff members from different departments of TVI Resource Development (TVIRD) Philippines, Inc., embarked on an intensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign in an effort to inform the residents of the details – and potential impact on their lives – of the company’s Sulphide (copper-zinc) Project, the second phase of TVIRD’s operations at Canatuan in the mountainous eastern portion of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. Please see The View from the ground
(Photos above) Inside barangay halls and madrasas (a covered structure for Islamic instruction), or under the shade of mango trees, the young TVIRD crew informed residents in far-flung communities of the details and potential impact on their lives of the Sulphide Project.
The IEC team members – Rocelle Magpayo, Programme Officer for Human Rights Initiative; Jose Dagala, Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO) IEC Officer; Noelle Nazareno, CReDO Communications Specialist; Julma Villanueva, CReDO staffer; Rowena Inion, Environment Supervisor; Gemma Tolentino, Forester; and Rene Patangan, Public Affairs Officer – also sought input from their audience for TVIRD’s Social Development and Management Plan (SDMP). The SDMP, currently being drafted for another five-year implementation period, will serve as the company’s guidebook as it continues to support the welfare of the people in its immediate and secondary affected communities. Moreover, the SDMP document will provide the framework for the programs and projects the company will continue to do for its host and impact communities in the areas of livelihood, basic services, health and environmental safety, socio-economic enhancement and sustainability during and beyond the mine life.
Rain or shine, the team forged ahead, sometimes through virtually impassable areas blocked by felled trees; through flashfloods and across an overflowing spillway to reach nine mostly secluded barangays – the smallest local government unit in the Philippines – of the multi-cultural Siocon municipality, namely: Pisawak, Siay, Malipot, Datu Sailila, Tagay,tay, Mateo Francisco, Matiag, Tibangao, and Sta. Maria. In explaining the benefits of the Sulphide Project and in their consultative dialogues with the leaders of these communities, the team brought fresh hope for development and improvement in the quality of life for residents of some of the most impoverished rural areas in the country.
(Top photo) CReDO IEC officer Jose Dagala shares a light moment with residents of Barangay Malipot. (Middle photo) Barangay Datu Sailila village folks applaud the IEC Team to show their support for the Sulphide Project. (Bottom photo) Muslim women inspect samples of copper concentrates that will soon be produced from TVIRD’s Canatuan Mine.
These nine barangays were added to the 11 that are already included as impact communities under TVIRD’s (gold-silver) Gossan Project, for which decommissioning activities began last April. These additional secondary-affected communities are essentially those that are located along the approximately 34-kilometer route from Canatuan to Sta. Maria Port in Siocon, where TVIRD will load copper and zinc concentrates for shipment when the company begins its Sulphide operations in late 2008 or early 2009. Groundwork and pre-construction activities for copper-zinc production facilities are already well underway.
The TVIRD IEC Team had to cross an overflowing spillway (top photo), a submerged bridge (second from top photo), raging floodwaters (second from bottom photo), and clear a fallen tree from a remote road (bottom photo) to bring the message of development to some of the poorest rural areas in the Philippines.
“We greatly appreciate TVI(RD)’s efforts in conducting this orientation activity down to the smallest geographic unit; to the sitios within the barangays,” Barangay Chairman Genaro Montemayor of Datu Sailila, a predominantly Muslim community, said before his constituents. “Now all of us know about their (TVIRD’s) project and there will be no more questions or complaints that only the members of the Barangay Council approved the project or that the villagers weren’t properly informed about it.”
Since mid-2004, when TVIRD began operations in Canatuan, up to the Gossan Project decommissioning last April, the company has implemented some P17 million worth of community development projects for its Subanon host community and for non-Subanon impact communities under TVIRD’s initial 5-year SDMP. The amount exceeds the required budget prescribed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Pursuant to its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Philippine government, TVIRD is committed to abide by the principles of responsible mining within and around the 508-hectare MPSA area which, in turn, lies within the 8,213.42-hectare Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title area owned by the Subanon indigenous people of Canatuan.
Power outages and lack of adequate covered facilities did not deter the TVIRD IEC from doing its mission of informing, and listening, to residents of the company’s impact communities. (Top photo) Residents of Barangay Malipot watch the TVIRD audiovisual presentation on a makeshift screen, while those in Barangay M. Francisco (second from top photo) protect themselves from the sun under fruit trees as the consultation/information campaign goes on. Second from bottom photo shows the “three Marys” of the IEC Team, Noelle Nazareno (in black), Weng Inion (in navy blue), and Roc Magpayo (in green bandana) using visual aids to clearly explain details of the Sulphide Project to their audience. Last photo is that of another “Mary”, Gemma Tolentino, a TVIRD forester, discussing the environmental protection and management initiatives of the company.
“We welcome TVI(RD)’s initiative to let us understand well their planned Sulphide Project,” averred Hamulod Lambana, councilman of Barangay Siay, another Muslim-dominated county. “It’s good to know that the company cares for Muslim residents in its impact barangays. Through this forum, we could openly air our apprehensions and concerns.”
The IEC Team welcomed the opportunity to correct misunderstandings about the project, whether they came from genuine misgivings or NGO opposition campaigns. The patience of the team members and their thorough explanation were warmly received and well appreciated by barangay folk, especially the women who had developed anxieties about the possible effects of mining on the health and safety of their families.
“We are happy that your team came here to explain to us what the Sulphide Project really is and how you plan to operate and transport your product. Now we can let go of our fears,” said Erlinda Eribal, an Ilocana-Visayan mother from Barangay Malipot.
Residents from the new impact barangays also revealed that they ignored calls made by some sectors to boycott the IEC. The residents said they want to know the truth about the Sulphide Project and the benefits they can derive from it.
For his part, Siocon Vice Mayor (and acting mayor) Ceasar Soriano applauded TVIRD and to the IEC Team for their efforts to inform his people and for listening to their concerns and priority needs: “It’s good that you are carrying out orientation and consultation sessions down to the sitio level. The open dialogue and ongoing interaction between TVIRD and the local communities will help to correct any misinformation.,” Soriano said.
Hadji Maulana Endal Bua, the acknowledged Moslem leader of Siocon town was equally appreciative of the sincerity demonstrated by the team in giving attention to the concerns of his people. To show his support for TVIRD, Hadji Bua attended the consultative meetings in Siay and Malipot. Barangay Chairman Lope Sablas, another respected community leader, was likewise present in Siay and in Taas Lubi.
“We are glad to know that TVIRD is not anti-Moslem and that the company is concerned not only for the welfare of the Subanons and the Visayans, but of Muslims as well. We strongly support TVIRD’s Sulphide Project,” Hadji Bua declared. (Rene Patangan)
(Top and middle photos) The IEC team walked across narrow foot bridges and mountain trails to reach their audiences. (Bottom photo) Hadji Maulana Endal Bua (in headgear and sunglasses), a respected Siocon Moslem leader, gamely poses with members of the TVIRD IEC Team: from left, Rene Patangan, Jose Dagala, Roc Magpayo, Rowena Inion, and Noelle Nazareno. “We strongly support the Sulphide Project,” said Hadji Bua.