Opening Remarks – Ambassador Rod Smith
Philippines-Australia Resources Education Excellence Program Mining Scholarships Launch
16 September 2009
Undersecretary Paje, Director Ramos, Mr Philip Romualdez (President, Chamber of Mines), Mr Disini (Chairman, Chamber of Mines) Mr Louie Sarmiento (Former President, Philippine Society of Mining Engineers), industry colleagues and officials
Just under twelve months ago, during the 2008 Philippines Australia Ministerial Meeting, Ministers and Secretaries of both countries acknowledged the potential of the mining sector to generate significant economic and development benefits for the Philippines, as it has done for Australia. They welcomed the substantial Australian investment in the Philippine mining sector and noted that Australian expertise in sustainable mining practices could assist the development of responsible mining in the Philippines. They also agreed to work together to develop professional expertise to ensure the growth and management of the mining sector.
The scholarship program we are launching this morning is a practical and tangible expression of this commitment to work together. The Philippines-Australia Resources Education Excellence Program will commence in October 2009 and aims in its first year to fund 30 scholarships for young Filipinos looking to make a career in mining-related disciplines. It will cover traditional disciplines such as geology, mining, and metallurgical engineering, as well as environmental science and management, and community development. In the initial stages of the program, scholarships will be awarded at UP Diliman, Cebu Institute of Technology, University of South Eastern Philippines and Mindanao State University.
This initiative is also an excellent example of government and the private sector working together. The Australian Government is very pleased to be involved in the establishment and administration of the program. But I want to be very clear in recognising the real drivers of this initiative. As Government, we are just the enablers, and that is as it should be. The real drivers are the private sector: the companies and organisations, Australian and Filipino, that are demonstrating through this initiative and in many other ways their commitment to the long-term responsible and sustainable development of the mining industry in the Philippines.
The program is the culmination of the efforts of a number of individuals, companies and organisations who for some time have recognised the need to strengthen professional expertise and training in the mining sector in this country if it is to achieve its potential. I want to acknowledge in particular the Society of Mining Engineers, the Geological Society of the Philippines, the Philippine Mineral Exploration Association, the Society of Metallurgical Engineers of the Philippines and of course the Chamber of Mines. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of former PSME President Louie Sarmiento, as well as the incoming and outgoing presidents of the PMEA, Johan Raadsma and Rob Gregory in particular.
Under the program, individual scholarships will be funded by Australian and Philippine companies. Company sponsors include Sagittarius Mines Inc, Filminera Resources/CGA Mining, Rusina, Leighton Contractors, Orica Philippines, Ria Tuba and European Nickel. These companies are the backbone of this program, and I want to acknowledge their support and commitment.
As businesses, of course, these companies are focused on the bottom line. But their support for this program shows, I think, as do their many CSR activities, that they do so with a clear sense of social responsibility, and a strong and practical commitment to helping to maximise the benefits of mining for the Philippines and for Filipinos. Mark Williams, General Manager of SMI, one of the major sponsors of the program, has told me that “SMI is proud to support the program, to make a difference to the lives of undergraduates and promote education and employment opportunities in the Philippines mining industry.”
I’d like to take this opportunity not only to thank all the sponsoring companies, but also to encourage other companies to join the program and help fund more new scholarships in the future.
Much has been said about the huge potential of the mining sector in this country, as an engine of economic growth, jobs, export income and community development. This program is one small step in helping to achieve that potential. It is in a small way emblematic of Australia’s commitment – the commitment of the Australian Government, and of Australian companies – to assist that process. As a major investor in the mining sector, Australia’s partnership with the Philippines in mining is, we hope, ready to take off.
Thank you for joining us this morning to show your support for this important initiative.