Aroroy’s flora and fauna and the habitats where they dwell are priorities for Filminera and Phil. Gold. In 2017, Phil. Gold introduced the Reef Ball technology to the Colorada Marine Protected Area (CMPA) in Barangay Tigbao. Reef balls are specially-treated concrete ‘igloos’ with dimples and crevices where corals are planted and grow, and act as instant reefs.
In June 2023, the last of over 4,500 reef balls of different sizes were positioned on the seafloor of the CMPA. These reef balls have been responsible for a dramatic increase of the original marine life in the area, which is also protected by a security force composed mostly of former fisherfolk in Tigbao. CMPA is the only place in the country where reef balls were officially located and manufactured. Almost 60,000 corals were planted on the reef balls from 2017 to 2023 through plugging or direct planting.
Phil. Gold also partnered with the fisherfolk of the eight coastal barangays across Port Barrera in maintaining the expanding mangrove forest in the area. Planting 30,000 each, the eight cooperatives have already planted more than 1.7 million mangrove propagules spread over the 374-hectare mangrove area. These cooperatives represent 400 fisherfolk from the villages of Amoroy, Balawing, Dela Rosa, Don Pablo, Matalangtalang, Panique, Puro, San Agustin, and San Isidro.
The fisherfolk have developed a new livelihood by planting mangroves, and are trained to provide the plants the proper care to ensure the mangrove’s survival.
The MGP Plant Nursery also plays a pivotal role in the reforestation program. Located adjacent to the MGP site, the nursery occupies a two-hectare property where thousands of seedlings are raised. This nursery was established to cultivate fast-growing trees and indigenous trees which are earmarked for reforestation projects and mangroves.
Seedlings of a variety of trees, such as the acacia and narra, are farmed in the nursery. Fruit-bearing trees such as the mabolo, rambutan, and lanzones are also being raised. The inventory also includes seedlings for grass.
The nursery’s location outside the premises of the MGP makes it more accessible to Aroroy folks who wish to avail of the seedlings. The two companies give them away for free to Aroroy residents who might want to use them for commercial purposes or just for their own private garden.
The MGP Plant Nursery is also distinguished for its clonal technology. This allows the nursery to reproduce high-quality seedlings, especially of indigenous trees and plants like the bangkal, narra, and other endangered trees used for timber.
There are also efforts to diversify the species of plants in the mangroves on Masbate Island and identifying crops that can be feasibly grown on the mine site when Filminera concludes mining activities in any areas. At present, crops like dragon fruit, coconut, and pineapple are being tested.
Crops will be chosen based on their ability to survive on the site and the benefits they can provide to the people of Aroroy. The project is being undertaken with the assistance of the agricultural department of Masbate State University.
The nursery was widely used in the rehabilitation of the Syndicate Waste Dump, one of three dumps being rehabilitated by Filminera.
The Syndicate Waste Dump’s rehabilitation was started in November 2015, with the waste ores shaped into a mountain, with proper support and drainage, and then covered with topsoil. The area has since been planted with more than 28,000 forest and crop trees; more than 23,000 intercropping trees, about 400 bamboos, and 17,000 cover crops. Among those planted were mango, chestnut, kalamansi, ponkan, dalandan, rambutan, coffee, pineapple, and dragon fruit. Last June, pili trees, the symbol of Bicol, were also introduced in the area.
For areas around the mine site that need immediate vegetation, Filminera also employed hydroseeding, which means spraying a slurry of grass seed, various endemic seeds, mulch, fertilizer, and water on poor and rocky soil. In a few days, the seeds begin to germinate and sprout to a green cover in the area.
Hydroseeding is a new technology in the country and still a relatively costly endeavor. But in bringing back the greenery in Masbate, Filminera and Phil. Gold know it’s worth it.