Is there life after mining? Subanen experience in former mine site shows.June 2, 2021
Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte – Darkness still envelops his tiny village, yet Jimmy Lingala is already on his way to his rubber tree plantation. Unmindful of the cold mountain air and the barking dogs that blocked his way, he increases his pace in order to reach the plantation before 3 in the morning – the best time to tap his rubber trees.
A member of the Subanon tribe, Jimmy has been planting, growing and tapping rubber trees for six years now. Actually, it is not only him. His younger brother, father and most of his tribesmen have the same livelihood.
The rubber tapping process is to harvest latex from a rubber tree by slicing a groove into its bark. Latex is the primary source of natural rubber and extracting it in the morning is a good way to optimize one’s yield.
Jimmy works as a farmer and rubber tapper during his off-duty hours from his “day job” as security guard. He works to secure the employees and properties of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD) in Sitio Canatuan of this municipality. This has become his routine after the company gave them rubber seedlings.
Rubber trees become ‘tappable’ five or six years after planting. Newer clones, however, becomes productive at least three years from planting.
This year, Jimmy and his fellow tribesmen began harvesting the rubber. They sell their produce to local traders. Rubber is now one of the main sources of income of the Subanons in Canatuan. TVIRD concluded its mining operation in January 2014.
Jimmy said he earns an additional P4,000 a month from his one-hectare rubber tree farm. He will earn more if the market for rubber latex improves.
Life after mining
Lope Dizon, TVIRD’s Community Relations Officer in Canatuan said the TVIRD has provided the Subanons with rubber seedlings as early as 2007.
“The objective was to provide our Subanon partners with a sustainable livelihood when mining ends. Putting this in place will ensure the survival of the community,” Dizon said.
The first to receive the seedlings were residents near the mine site. However, in 2009, the company also gave rubber seedlings the residents from the nearby sub-villages of Paduan, Tanuman, Solonsongan, Tabayo and Kilometer 8.
TVIRD’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area covers 508 hectares of more than 8,000 hectares covered by the tribe’s Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The company has already planted its MPSA area with rubber trees. It has assigned a team o conduct an inventory of tappable rubber trees within the company’s property.
The company also hired two young Subanons to start tapping this month. “If the result is positive, we will implement a plan that will sustain the rubber industry in Canatuan,” he added.
In 2015, the company had distributed a total of 114,773 rubber seedlings in Canatuan and nearby communities. These seedlings have grown in 229 hectares.
Farmers like Jimmy have already begun to harvest the fruits of their labor.
Jimmy’s father Antonio is one of the tribal leaders in Canatuan.
Antonio thanked the company’s gesture of giving him rubber seedlings. He said the added monthly income from his plantation helped his family survive during the pandemic.
“Ako nagpasalamat gyud sa TVIRD sa ilang gihatag nga rubber seedlings sa akoa. Karon ako na kining napahimuslan. Kun wala pa kami hatagi, mosamot gyud ang among kalisud kay wala man mi laing panginabuhian.” (I really thank TVIRD for providing us the rubber seedlings that we are utilizing now. If these were not given to us before, we will be in a difficult situation because we do not have any source of income),” said Lingala.
Subanons Marelyn Taconing and husband, Dadao, serve as caretaker of the company’s Exploration Staff House. Their daughter has finished college from the income of the rubber trees they planted in their six-hectare property.
Marelyn said her daughter is now helping them send her younger brothers to school.
In addition to Jimmy and his father, Antonio, more Subanon have benefitted from TVIRD’s livelihood program.
Bonifacio Patoh, Zenaida Dandana, Miguel Sapian, Romy Sapian, and others are testament there is life after mining. All have benefited from mining and the livelihood the company has provided after the mining operations ended.
In Canatuan, coffee, coconut trees and rubber trees stand tall and continue to sustain the Subanons’ livelihood – proof that there is definitely life after mining. (amm/PR)
PHOTO: Tribal leader Antonio Lingala is proud of the rubber tree plantation the has grown with the help of TVIRD. With the seedlings provided by the company, the plantation is now Lingala’s major source of income. (TVIRD photo)