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SMI projects for Blaan expected

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LEADERS of the Blaan and T’boli tribes in South Cotabato attend a recent forum. — PHILIPPINE STAR/JOHN FELIX M. UNSON

KORONADAL CITY — Blaan tribal folk and local executives in four southern towns are certain of a massive expansion in 2024 of the humanitarian projects of a mining firm soon to start engineering preparations for its copper and gold exploration in South Cotabato province.

Two mayors, Joel D. Calma of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur and Maria Theresa D. Constantino of Malungon, Sarangani separately told reporters here on Monday that big fractions from the P66 million the Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) had spent for its socio-economic, education and health projects in 2023 went to Blaan communities in their respective towns.

“Certainly, we shall have more SMI-assisted community projects in Malungon in 2024. This firm will surely reach out to more impoverished communities once its much awaited operation begins,” Ms. Constantino said.

Last week, Ms. Constantino received a new P1.2-million Kia light truck donated by SMI to the Indigenous Peoples of Malabod Marketing Cooperative in Malungon. The cooperative can use the vehicle for transporting farm products from isolated barangays to trading centers.

Ms. Constantino and Columbio town Vice Mayor Bai Naila M. Mamalinta expressed confidence in SMI’s report to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, revealing a P66-million expenditure for corporate social responsibility projects in 2023, despite not having operated since 1995.

“In our municipality alone, about 50 Blaans and non-Blaans completed college education through its scholarship program in the past five years,” mentioned Ms. Mamalinta.

The government engaged SMI, at the approval by Malacañang, to explore an estimated US$200 billion worth of copper and gold in Blaan ancestral lands in Tampakan town, covering hinterlands in Kiblawan, Malungon, and Columbio towns. — John Felix M. Unson

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