Operation Smile Philippines (OpSmile) third batch of free cleft and lip palate surgery mission, a partnership among various companies with Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) and Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) as primary sponsors, is currently ongoing at the Aborlan Medicare Hospital in Aborlan, southern Palawan, to accommodate about a hundred patients across the province.
Operation Smile headed by its country director, Roberto Manzano, is an international non-profit organization providing free, safe surgery to individual born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. They are currently in partnership with private sectors like CBNC and RTNMC.
“The reason OpSmile Phils does not stop in its work in taking care of children,” Manzano said. “We really find happiness in putting the challenge before us to really make Palawan cleft free.”
According to Manzano, they do not have the exact data of the cleft cases in the Philippines as there is no public or government program addressing cleft cases. He added that it is an accepted criteria that 1 out of 500 live births are born with deformity and it may grow to 4,000 to 5,000 cases in a year.
“We do not have the exact number. Ang mahirap dito sa atin sa Pilipinas, walang baseline data because probably there is no government program. We can only deduce from other sources of information like the National statistics showing some statistics and the incidence of cases but those are just numbers without other details and we have to validate that. It is an accepted criteria that 1 out of 500 live births are born with this case and if you look at population growth rate it translates to about 4,000 to 5,000 are born with this deformity a year. This could grow exponentially with the growth in population.” said Manzano.
Provincial Health Officer Dra. Mary Ann Navarro had earlier stated that less than 10% of children born every year in the province has cleft lip or cleft palate.
Deizel Gabuat, a full time housewife, mother of Willy Gabuat Jr., one of the patients from Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa City said only learned about free operation from social media.
“Nalaman ko po ang impormasyon sa FB ng kapitbahay ko na may libreng operasyon at nabasa ko na ang “nickel mining” company ba yun ang sponsor. Matagal ko na pong ipinagdadasal na dumating ang ganitong mga pagkakataon dahil wala kaming kakayanan para magpa opera.” said Gabuat
Sonia Pormento, from San Vicente, travelled long distance to bring her 9-month old son Sonjie Louise for an operation.
“Sobrang thank you. Kasi po libre at sobra pong asikaso sa amin dito mula sa pagkain at iba pa.”
Rubie Etek and Anjo Etek, parents of a 7-month old Andrea Etek, from Quezon Palawan are happy and hoping that their son’s life will transform through free cleft operation.
“Masaya na merong libreng operasyon para sa mga katulad ng anak ko na merong diperensya.” said Anjo Etek
OpSmile, CBNC and RTNMC in collaboration with the provincial government of Palawan and local government of municipality of Taytay and Brooke’s Point already conducted oral surgeries in 2016 benefiting 48 and 75 patients respectively.
“I am so thankful that CBNC and RTNMC are very supportive of our efforts in Palawan since we started the project,” said Manzano.
The Department of Health has also expressed appreciation to both companies for taking the lead in sponsoring OpSmile.
OpSmile has been doing oral surgeries in Palawan since 2006 particularly in Puerto Princesa and Taytay with 51 and 31 patients respectively.
Operation Smile Philippines, CBNC and RTNMC are set to conduct another round of mission in 2019.
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