From Ilocoslovakia, with Love!

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I am writing this column away from home. Yes, away from the mountains where I belong for the past 27 years, and counting. Every year of that 27 years counts, including my tertiary and law years, up to my eventual employment with my dear mining company, there in – “Up beyond those mining lines, where the sprawling Philex Mines. Where the climate is truly fine, the rushing of winds through the pines.”

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Aginnagaw iti sipnget ken lawag when my family and I left the mine site. The camp was still in silent mode as many are enjoying the company and warmth of their blankets. Thanks for the very cool weather as the temperature is continuously dropping. Some 10 kilometers away up the Philex road, I saw the mine camp at its gloriest sight with the sun rising from the east, its rays direct shining on it as if the stage is set for the curtain raiser and main event. Yes, I am momentarily leaving the camp but to be back soon, after a year – that is on 2015! Makatawen aya?

Going down the historic Quirino Highway (formerly Naguilian Road) and up to the winding roads leading to Ilocos, it was a smooth ride for us, save for some sporadic little traffic as we enter town after town with swarm of townfolks trooping to the tiendaan; elbow to elbow with others also rushing to buy something for their midnight parties to wait for the ushering of the new year! It is amazing to see people from different walks of life cramming to bring something for their families. But we are still on the road catching up for some precious time to reach our destination in the quickest possible way. And so we finally arrive in Sto. Domingo, I.S. After a quick lunch – oh, that ar-aro, a local fish caught through a ban-niit, is so delicious. Nagmayat ti umigop iti sabaw na! It was prepared so simply. Ma-itono, then ikkan ti napodot nga danum, kamatis, ken asin, and voila! Blurrpppp! Yes, what a reward for that long and enjoyable ride.

But I have a deadline to do. I quickly retreated to a quiet place and have to finish this. Yes, my dear readers, I am writing from Ilocoslovakia – with love!

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Going back to 2014, I think we have a lot to thank for, and I mean, a lot. We in Philex Mines was finally cleared by the government regulators (the MGB, the EMB, and the DENR) and was given the green light to proceed to operate. Recall the suspension of operations issued by the government to Philex Mining Corp. in its so-called Padcal Mine that resulted from the accidental tailings spill in its Tailings Storage Facility No. 3 (TSF3). That incident, I believe, defined the character and true essence of what a responsible mining is in our country where mining struggles to compete with many industries and sectors of society for so many years now. Philex Padcal Mine, for more than 50 years was severely tested by the TSF3 incident.

A few hours after the incident, our Chairman, Mr. MVP faced national media to report on the incident assuring the public and the government that Philex Mining is owning responsibility of the said incident and will not run away from it. In fact, at that time, our President, Mr. Austin (“Apay sinno kano dayat nga Mr. Austin nga puraw?” – a common question of many people who does not know him) was already in the mine site, bravely risking the wee hours of the night with heavy rains to be in the TSF3 as soon as he can. Upon his arrival and after he saw the enormity of the problem said that at first he was scared. But he stood his ground with Mr. Ricafort, the Resident Manager, and all his managers and employees, leading his men on the front line and faced the challenge of nature.

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A few hours before 2015, we are again being challenged by the uncertainty of a new year to come. Operational concerns are still there but the biggest challenge is the metal price that dictates the rise and fall of a mining operation. In Philex Mines, I believe that the TSF3 incident gave the mines and its employees the courage and confidence to rise once again to continue the legacy this company wish to leave to its host and neighboring areas. The manpower rightsizing program (MRP) was the beginning tool to certainly keep the hope and the fire burning in the Padcal Mine. It is anticipated that the community has finally accepted to work hand in hand to extend further the life of the mine beyond it s projected life, a fact and a matter that is well within their control.

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On a personal note, a challenge is being foisted upon each and every one of us, with what is happening to our country nowadays – that we have to do something positively worthwhile for this new year. Datay man makunkuna nga “new year’s resolution. Big things come from small things. There are so many of them, to name a few: dispose your garbage properly – segregate if possible and practical, conserve energy or power, exercise regularly – daily (kayat ko datoy!), think positively, stay safe  and healthy always, pray daily, and love one another – love more!

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Wen, sapay koma ta sikakaradkad ken naragsak tayo amin nga mangpasangbay iti baro nga tawen! Happy New Year to all.

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