Golden dream more achievable-A A +A
Sunday, October 7, 2012
A FEW years back, their dream is to take up a "cheap" college course in Tagum City and get a degree that they hope would give them a better future different from that of their parents who work as small-scale miners in the mountains of Pantukan for decades now.
Then came St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited (SAGCL). The foreign mining company that's undertaking mining exploration in Pantukan, Compostela Valley has given about 27 children of indigenous families a brighter future.
With the company's scholarship program, 21-year old Irene Manlinab; Anna Liezel Madino, 19; Roger Magcantara, 21; Epresy Ecmatan, 19; Lenny Jen Antonio, 20; Dexter Cabeza, 20; John Darwin Amag, 19; and Deborah Manlinab, 23; and 19 other college students were given wider option of a career to pursue.
Two years ago, most of them were planning to take up Education in college as this is the only college course their parents could afford. But now, some of them are enrolled in courses like mining engineer, forestry, social work, pharmacy technician, HRM, education, and business administration.
While many still opted to study in Pantukan and Tagum City, others decided to pursue their dreams here in Davao City enrolling in institutions like the University of South Eastern Philippines, University of Mindanao, and the Philippine College of Technology.
Though SAGCL's scholarship program has started since 2011, it was only recently that the company inked a memorandum of agreement with their beneficiaries.
In a simple ceremony here in Davao City on September 25, SAGCL community social responsibility head Rogelio Bantayan spearheaded the MOA signing between the scholars and SAGCL represented by Clyde Gillespie, Director for Environmental Permitting.
Bantayan urged the scholars to become "agents of responsible mining" in their community.
Gillespie meanwhile told the scholars that SAGCL is proud to be part of what the students are doing. This as he urged them to "be the best that you could be".
"The financial assistance provided to these IP scholars demonstrates SAGCL's commitment to the community and the indigenous people. We are pleased to assist these aspiring young men and women in their pursuit of quality education," said Gillespie.
All of the scholars are graduates of Pantukan National High School. They grew up in the gold-rush town and have personally witnessed how small-scale mining have destroyed their environment and how many lives were lost as a consequence.
Irene said that she used to enter mining tunnels since she was 13 years old. She attested that the life of a small-scale miner is not just laborious but dangerous as well. She revealed if they are lucky enough, they sometimes find high-grade gold.
"Usahay daghan pud gold among makuha mga sobra usa ka kilo siguro to. Pero gamay ra man pud among makwarta kay dili man amoa ang tunnel," Irene narrated.
The same scenario is true to all of the SAGCL scholars. Their parents work hard inside the mine tunnels for decades now, and yet their lives have not changed much for the better.
Thus when the scholarship was offered by SAGCL, they readily grabbed the golden opportunity hoping that this would pave the way to improving their lives.
"This is the first mining company that has brought improvement in our community. They contributed a lot in our town's health, education, livelihood, and environment improvement," said Dexter.
"Tanan kami nakabenefit ug dili lang ang mga IP. Apil na tong ubang tao bisan ug dili sila ganahan sa large-scale miners," added John Darwin.
The beneficiaries however admitted that prior to their becoming SAGCL scholars, they were also against the entry of any large-scale mining companies in their area thinking that the companies are only aiming to mine out the area and leave the locals for naught.
"But now we know that they have a good plan for the community. To think that even though they have not yet started their operation and they have already given so much to the community, how much more if they start their operation. We expect more benefits to be coming our way and we thank them for all their help thus we also promised to help them enlighten the community of the benefits of responsible mining," Dexter said.
Being agents of responsible mining, the SAGCL scholars are actively participating in many activities of the company like tree-planting, coastal clean-up, and information dissemination.
"Because we wanted our community to know that if they are aware of the environment, they could help in the protection of the environment," the scholars said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 08, 2012.