Operation Smile International (OSI) with its partners and sponsors, Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC), and the Palawan Provincial Health Office (PHO), provide a one week free corrective surgery to around 145 Palaweños with cleft lip and palate deformities. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Maria Arlin Josue, chief of Aborlan Medicare Hospital (AMH))

Some 115 Palaweños benefited from a week-long free corrective surgery project of Operation Smile International (OSI) sponsored by Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) in partnership with the Palawan provincial government and Palawan Health Office (PHO).

The number exceeded the project organizers’ original goal of 100 patients.

Dr. Maria Arlin Josue, Aborlan Medicare Hospital (AMH) chief said patients were operated and were given palatal obturators.

“Pinaka-importante sa lahat ay nakapagbigay tayo ulit ng smile at makabuluhang ngiti. Kasi iyan kapag nakita mo sila, ang bingot nila, maaawa ka talaga, mato-touch ka. Pero kapag nakita mo sa post-operation nila lalo na one year after, ang ganda-ganda,” said Josue.

The free medical mission was held from July 13 to 19.

The funding for the mission is shared by Operation Smile International for P2 million and P1 million each for the CBNC and RTNMC of Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC).

A palatal obturator is a roof-of-the-mouth prosthesis to help aid in speech therapy and in correcting articulation problem that which was caused by a cleft palate.

Josue added that 49 foreign nurses surgeons, medical staff, and doctors from OSI volunteered for the project.

Another 40 medical volunteers came from the PHO, AMH, and from Johnson and Johnson also helped, she said.

She said most of the patients came from northern and southern Palawan, where the oldest was above 50 years old from Brgy. Quinlogan in Quezon town and the youngest was less than one year old.

Ernesto Llacuna, community relations manager of CBNC, said the Operation Smile started in Palawan in 2016.

Llacuna said P4 million was spent the for the surgical mission with CBNC shouldered P1 million.

“Ito ang pangatlong mission ng Op-Smile, doon pa rin [ginanap ] sa Aborlan. Actually, ang Operation Smile ang sharing is two million, [then] one million [was] from CBNC and [the another] one million [was] from RTNMC, so the total is four million,” Llacuna said.

Llacuna said they aim to help indigent residents of the province afflicted with the deformity to receive corrective surgery.

He said the mission was supported by medical and non-medical personnel from the USA, Canada, Sweden, China, Egypt, Cambodia, India, Singapore, and the Philippines.