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PIA Press Release
2006/09/01

Mining firm joins green highways project, keeps caring for nature

Tupi, South Cotabato (1 September) -- A mining firm exploring for copper and gold joined Friday the Green Philippine Highways project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated provided 7,700 seedlings-1.5 percent of 516,000 seedlings needed for the massive tree planting campaign

The company also formed its own "Green Army" composed of some 200 employees of SMI and members of SMI-sponsored community groups. They form part of the 5,280-km long "human chain" from Luzon to Mindanao.

"We agreed right away when DENR asked our assistance," said Jose Sebua, SMI's environment manager. "The company always supports projects for the protection of the environment."

The mining company adopted four other project areas covering aside from the two-kilometer highway in Brgy. Crossing Rubber here, said Rolando Doria, SMI's manager of community and government affairs.

SMI is serving as the steward of two project sites in the province of South Cotabato, another two in General Santos City and one in Kiblawan town, Davao del Sur. The roads stretch by a total of seven kilometers.

In South Cotabato, SMI greened the highway connecting the cities of General Santos and Koronadal with 15 other sponsors, including schools, private enterprises, and the 27th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army.

DENR commended the work of SMI. "They are very well organized. They even have a 'command center'," said Bighani Manipula, who is serving as the officer in charge for the DENR XII regional technical director for research. He added that SMI followed the specifications DENR gave. "The saplings are of a good size and the species are appropriate."

SMI's Green Army started working at 9:30 am, half an hour early than the kick-off time nationwide, and finished by 2 pm.

Among the tree planters were members of a rescue team and a women's association involved in a corn husk livelihood project. They are residents of Tampakan town, South Cotabato, where the company's major drilling site is located. Both organizations were formed by the local government in partnership with the company.

To ensure a high survival rate and for easier tending, DENR officials ordered that the trees to be planted should be endemic. They specified Narra, Mahogany and Tuai as the best species to be used.

SMI did not only meet the standards. "We will make sure that the trees will be taken care of even after this activity," said Sebua. "We are planning to assign a seedling for each staff to tend to. Or we will allot time for every department to make regular visits in the project sites."

It is the first time for SMI to be involved in an environmental project outside its vicinity. But Green Philippine Highways is not something new to the company. Since it started three years ago, it has conducted many environmental programs for the towns of Tampakan, Kiblawan, and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat province.

One on-going project is the Tampakan Highway Greening. Through the program, trees are planted along the 12-km road from the National Highway in Brgy. Crossing Rubber, Tupi to the poblacion of Tampakan.

SMI has always been trying to fulfill the commitment of its environment department to adopt "best practices in caring for, and minimizing the impact to, the natural environment in which it operates."

Every year, the company spends for the department an average of two million pesos, a big bulk of which goes to field trials for high value crops like lychee, coffee and strawberry. The crops will later be introduced to the communities as a source of living.

The seedlings used in the Green Philippine Highways campaign came from community nurseries that SMI sponsors. In propagating the seedlings, the company gives technical and financial assistance to the T'boli and B'laan residents. Then it buys the seedlings for P15 each for the tree planting activities that it sponsors.

SMI also requires visitors to its project site to plant trees at Nature's Park of Tampakan and its key sites in the project area.

Meanwhile, more than 29,000 of trees have been planted under the multi-sectoral "Maleh Tu Kayu" (Let's Plant Trees) reforestation program, which aims to rehabilitate 500 hectares of forests in five years.

SMI has also collaborated research projects with three schools, namely University of the Philippines in Los Baņos, Leyte State University and Notre Dame of Marbel University of Koronadal City. The subjects of the studies included water quality and soil erosion in nearby communities and biodiversity in the forests.

In Sitio Maticura, Tampakan, SMI sponsors a butterfly breeding program, which experts say produces world-class species.

The mining company is serious about its corporate social responsibility, especially in fulfilling its role in caring for nature. As Manipula observed during the green highways activity, "SMI is very conscious about the environment and its employees are enthusiastic to support green projects." (SDorado-SMI/PIA 12) [top]

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