The Bio+Mine Social and Water Teams visited Tublay and Atok, Benguet on May 22 to 24, 2023 to secure partnerships with schools within the project’s vicinity and engage with the community to explore their expectations about the social aspect of the project.
On May 22, the team met with the principals of three schools in Tublay, Benguet: Mr. Remus Beray of Pontino Elementary School; Mrs. Flora Tubal of Tublay School of Home Industries; and Mrs. Brigitte Beray of Sto. Niño Elementary School, to discuss possible collaborations.
During the meetings, Dr. Dennis Alonzo introduced the project and its aims, particularly in implementing social intervention programs. The three school principals agreed to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the project with proposed activities, including establishing reading centers, conducting science fairs and capacity building initiatives, and providing technical support for student and teacher research activities.
The team also paid a courtesy visit to the office of Brgy. Captain Sison Balawen of Ambassador, Benguet to ensure the barangay’s support of Bio+Mine activities, specifically the community meeting to be held the following day.
On May 23, the Water Team conducted an ocular inspection for possible treatments in four sites in the Sto. Niño legacy mine alongside Dr. Renan Ma. Tanueca from the Department of Civil Engineering, De La Salle University. The team visited four sites: Sto. Niño Upstream, Sto. Niño Waste Dump Stream, Sto. Niño Green Wall; and the Garcia Village. Plans such as installing weirs in the upstream to store surface water which can serve as a water source for agricultural use during the summer season.
The same day, the Social Team conducted a community meeting with the Sto. Niño residents to plan social intervention programs. Three local organizations were present during the community meeting: Binnadang, an organization of 25 livestock farmers formed in 2023 which aims to focus on organic farming initiatives; Sto. Niño Farmers Association, a farmers’ association with 120 members which aims to provide local farmers’ needs so that they wouldn’t have to travel to Baguio or La Trinidad to buy farming necessities; and Sto. Niño Credit Cooperative, a local cooperative with 170 members which helps fund local proposals from Alay sa Kapatid International Foundation, Inc. (AKAP) for homegrown livelihood initiatives.
The groups shared their aspirations on what the Bio+Mine project could possibly support them. The Binnadang members expressed their hopes for training on organic formulation of organic fertilizers. The Sto. Niño Farmers Association wants to establish a refilling station utilizing water sourced from local streams. They also need more financial support to provide more inputs to increase crop yields. Lastly, the Sto. Niño Credit Cooperative stated their plans for expansion and expressed their intent to join training sessions to be conducted in the future.
On May 24, the Bio+Mine PH team met with Hon. Angelito Galao, Sr., Vice Mayor of Atok, Benguet to seek access to a site under the municipality’s vicinity for sampling analysis.
Dr. Arnel Beltran, the project lead, provided a brief introduction of the project, its goals, and its current progress. He also discussed possible opportunities for collaboration, stating that results of future sampling activities and further studies shall be turned over to the local government unit to aid them in addressing local issues.
Vice Mayor Galao invited the team to the Sangguniang Bayan regular meeting scheduled on June 5 to formally present the Bio+Mine project to the mayor, municipal councilors, and the department heads.
The conducted activities are part of the commitment of the Bio+Mine project to continuously engage with the community. Involving the Tublay community through social intervention programs and strengthening connections with all stakeholders intensify Bio+Mine’s aim to rehabilitate the Sto. Nino legacy mine.