The Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) celebrates its golden jubilee, hallmarks the 50 years of responsible mining (Photos courtesy of RTNMC)

The Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) celebrated its golden jubilee this year, planting some 50,000 trees around Barangay Rio Tuba where it began in 1969 to symbolize the occasion.

Remedios Camo, Mine Environment Safety and Health (MESH) Division chief, said RTNMC’s 50th Anniversary was observed through a “simple, yet very memorable” manner — such wholistic approach that captured thanksgiving, health and wellness, and environmental care.

Themed with “Limampung libong Puno Para sa Limang Dekadang Paglago”, RTNMC exceeded its target for the celebration and planted 52,000 trees within the whole of July, she said.

“It was a month-long target to plant the 50,000 trees for the 50th Anniversary. As of July 14 naka-47,000 na sila, so ni-culminate na lang namin to get the target of 50,000. We did not go to the magarbong celebration… it was simple, but lahat ng aspects ng 50 years ng company was celebrated,” said Camo.

Photo courtesy of RTNMC

Ronnie G. Falogme, manager of RTNMC Mine Rehabilitation and Reforestation Section (MRRS) said the trees were of varied species namely the Batino, Narra, and Agoho.

He said these trees were planted within a three-hectare lot in Mangingidong Peak, in pier sites, and all over the offices inside their compound.

“Continuous ang planting activity namin. June lang kasi nag-start ang ulan, so June to December ang target natin. This year may target tayo na 33 hectares…,” said Falogme.

A colorful fun run to salute its 50 years served as a precursor to the two-day celebration on July 14.

Participated by more than 350 company employees, stakeholders, contractors, and dependents, the fun run reiterated the commitment of RTNMC to the health, safety, and wellness of its people.

Zumba dances to emphasize health care and thanksgiving mass to acknowledge the creator of all were part of the two-day celebration.

Brenda Eclevia, accounting division chief said this anniversary was different from their past annual celebrations.

“Naiba ngayon, dati kasi parang party-party, medyo kami nagbago kami ngayon nga style. Naging makabuluhan siya. Nag-form kami ng 50 Years doon sa oval, after that kumain lang then back to work,” said Eclevia.

Core commitments to continue

Mine Operations Department chief, Rodolfo “Bong” Campos said the first exploration of the company was in 1969, while its usual operation started 1975.

The first shipment of nickel ore to Japan happened in 1977. RTNMC he said was in a joint venture with Pacific Metals Co., Ltd. based in Japan.

“Noong pumunta ako dito noong 1990, na-hire ako, nandito pa ang mga Japanese, naabutan ko pa. Itong mga Japanese na ito kumbaga may share sila, magagaling sila,” said Campos.

Campos noted RTNMC generated employment to the people, helped in boosting the economy of Bataraza and its nearby towns, and assisted the communities.

He said their Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) covers all the 22 barangays in Bataraza.

He said this program includes different assistance to the communities in terms of health, education, and other growth-oriented training and activities.

“Ang mga nagne-negosyo dito nabiyayaan din, kasi nag-boom up ang economy dahil maraming pangangailangan [an gaming na-create for goods and services],” he added.

Aside from SDMP projects, the 1.5 percent of RTNMC’s billions of pesos annual total operating cost serves as the yearly share of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Bataraza for a royalty payment, he said.

He said employees of RTNMC are well-compensated, have good retirement ¬benefits, and are being offered with subsidized education for their children and free health care and medical treatment for their families.

Campos reiterated they are committed to pursue and continuously implement what they call “progressive rehabilitation” of the mine sites.

“Iyong rehabilitation din hindi namin pinababayaan, talagang nagtatanim kami ulit ng puno, ibinabalik namin. Iba ‘yong progressive rehabilitation namin, kapag nag-mina kami sa isang area, let’s say five hectares, bago kami lilipat sa isa pang phase ng hektarya, at the same time nire-rehab na naming itong limang hektarya,” said Campos.

He pointed out that RTNMC has its own forester from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños who study the proper trees to be planted.

He also denied that they are planting fast-growing trees like Gmelina, and pointed out that endemic tree species are being planted for rehabilitation.

“Noong una, ganoon ‘yong pananaw [na magtanim lang ng puno na mabilis tumubo at lumaki regardless of its species], pero noong marami na ang magagaling, nag-hire kami sa Los Baños, Laguna. Kung ano ‘yong tumutubo talaga diyan, iyon ‘yong ibinabalik namin. Pinag-aralan ‘yong species dito, na natural growing trees [ulit ‘yong maitatanim namin in the rehabilitation process],” he said.

41 years of health care services

Dr. Bimbo Almonte, MMHOA (Masters in Management, Major in Hospital Administration), the present medical director of RTNMC Foundation Inc. Hospital said he witnessed the growth of the hospital since he was a little boy.

A son of an RTNMC staffer, he was able to learn the history of the hospital he is now leading.

Almonte noted the present 30-bed capacity hospital, which was already accredited by PhilHealth and Department of Health (DOH), only started as an infirmary in 1968 to cater the malaria cases contacted from the fields and forests by those who performed the mining explorations.

“1978 nagpagawa na sila ng hospital. Lumaki ako na part ako ng lugar talaga. Dito may monitoring din kami [ng mga employees], hindi lang kami naka-focus sa treatment. Aim naming na hindi na sila magka-sakit. Ang hospital ay geared towards enhancing ng aming program for prevention,” he said.

The RTNMC Foundation Inc. Hospital now has around 130 employees composed of 15 doctors wherein four are their resident general practicians, 33 nurses, nine medical technicians, two pediatricians, an obstetrician gynecologist, three radiologist, dentist, pharmacists, anesthesiologist, nutritionist, ophthalmologist, family medicine specialist, internal medicine specialist, surgeon, and a cardiologist.

The hospital offers free services to the employees and registered IPs in the area, and gives subsidies to the indigents. He added they have now high-end radiologic services.

Almonte said the RTNMC Foundation Inc. Hospital is now looking forward for further service expansions and will soon acquire additional high-quality medical equipment.

“We need to comply hindi lang sa regulatory, kundi kung ano ‘yong need ng community. Iyong need ng community ang magma-matter talaga, without compromising the law,” said Almonte.

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