TUBA, Benguet – They came from far and near. Some had to walk for two hours or more while others were just a stone’s throw from where they would illustrate their outlook of Philex Mining Corp. as a large-scale operation that has put a human face on responsible mining over its 60 years of gold-and-copper production.
There was no arguing about the company being at the forefront of environmental protection, community development, and economic progress—all depicted in the artworks of children who participated Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the On-the-Spot Poster Making Contest, one of the events conducted by Philex Mining in the run-up to its 60th anniversary celebration on Nov. 19.
“Listening to these children while they explain the messages of their drawings … it is so overwhelming that they have portrayed Philex as a responsible mining company,” Eulalio Austin, Jr., CEO and president of Philex Mining, said in a speech during the event. He also told the participants: “Looking at your drawings … you can dispute the negative mindset of other people who don’t believe the existence of responsible-mining companies.”
Derrick Oania, a Grade 8 student of Saint Louis High School (SLHS) – Philex, at the mine camp, and Devon Paleng, a Grade 4 pupil of Lab-ang Community School, in Itogon town’s Brgy. Ampucao, were adjudged champions in the high-school and elementary categories, respectively, of the contest with the theme “Marching on with a Humanized Responsible Mining.”
The nine-year-old Paleng, who walked for more than two hours from his home in Brgy. Ampucao’s Sitio Lab-ang to be at the contest venue—Smith Hall, in Sitio Padcal, of Tuba town’s Brgy. Camp 3—before 7:30 a.m., said, “My drawing is simple. I just illustrated my understanding of Philex as a responsible miner that has helped us build classrooms, a church, and roads.” He added, Philex Mining has also been taking care of our mountains by planting various tree species. I think and feel that we, at Lab-ang, are part of the Philex community.”
“The concept for my drawing is Philex Mining’s adherence to responsible mining over its 60 years of operations,” said the 13-year-old Oania, who, unlike Paleng, lives just a few meters away from the Smith Hall, at the Philex mine camp in Sitio Padcal. “We also enjoy free housing, water, electricity, health services, and education. For the neighboring communities, Philex Mining also extends them assistance in health care and education, as well as builds them farm-to-market roads and other public infrastructure like classrooms, barangay clinics, and potable water systems.”
There were 12 winners in both high-school and elementary categories, composed of two champions and 10 runners-up. The following won as runners-up in the high-school category: Thomas Edson Lumibao (1st), 16, Grade 10, SLHS – Philex; Rustom Tanacio (2nd), 18, Grade 11, Ampucao National High School (ANHS), Sitio Ampucao-Proper, Brgy. Ampucao; Norlie Garcia (3rd), 15, Grade 9, Evelio Javier Memorial National High School (EJMNHS), Sitio Piminggan, Brgy. Ansagan, Tuba; Florenda Delmas (4th), 17, Grade 11, EJMNHS; and Ydrazil Nerlex Calubsing (5th), 16, Grade 11, ANHS. Elementary category: Xander Dean Pinasen, 11, Grade 6, Philex Mines Elementary School (PMES), Sitio Padcal; Rynelle Abalos, 11, Grade 5, Lab-ang Community School; Christian Sabado, 12, Grade 6, PMES; Renielle Saltarin, 11, Grade 6, PMES; and Justine Clifford Caliag, 8, Grade 3, TAPSAN Elementary School, Sitio Tapaya, Brgy. Ampucao.
Geraldine Ateo-an, division manager for Internal Audit at Philex Mining and head of the ad-hoc 60th Anniversary Organizing Committee & Coordinators, said 28 schools participated in the poster-making contest, 22 of which were primary while six were secondary. She added that all participants were all from the host barangays of Camp 3 and Ampucao, and the neighboring barangays of Camp 1, in Tuba, and Ansagan and Dalupirip, in Itogon.
The host and neighboring barangays of Philex Mining’s Padcal operations are both called outlying communities, which are composed of 7,896 households with a combined population of 27,266.
Addressing the participating schools, Austin said: “The company is thankful to all of you—the students and teachers—for gracing this event. You are aware of the status of mining: it is perceived by some as a negative and a destructive industry. … It is true that there is environmental disturbance, but there is an equal environmental protection and enhancement. Mining is just a part of the usage of the land; you can mine today, then do rehabilitation for the next generation to live in and on.”
“In my drawing … at the center is Philex Mining and, surrounding it, are the various projects it has implemented through its adherence to the principle of responsible mining,” said Tanacio, the 2nd runner-up in the high-school category, echoing Austin, who had stressed Philex Mining’s pioneering work in environmental protection.
In his speech, Austin said the company had implemented various programs on environmental protection and work safety even before the mandate for such by government regulators.
Philex Mining has planted over eight million different tree species at its mine site in Tuba and Itogon, shelling out P65 million for reforestation activities since 1987. There had also been a community-based reforestation program in the area that began in the 1960s as a livelihood project for the stakeholders.
Stressing that Philex Mining has been advocating for a holistic lifestyle at its mine camp, Ateo-an said a fun run was held recently to encourage physical exercise among the residents and company supporters. She added that the months-long celebration of the company’s diamond anniversary had kicked off with a tree-planting event dubbed “Nurture-Nature Activity” on Aug. 16 that was followed by a medical and dental mission conducted Sept. 16 in Brgy. Ampucao’s Sitio Sta. Fe, in cooperation with the municipality of Itogon.