The Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation on Monday wrote a P6.4 million check to the provincial government to help in the LGU’s relief efforts targeting those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) with Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), RTNMC made the donation under an agreement with the province to help in the purchase of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) for distribution to Palaweños in different municipalities.
CBNC and RTNMC have donated a combined amount of P30 million in response to the call of Governor Jose Alvarez for a joint public-private sector effort to address the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rio Tuba Nickel mine manager Engr. Cynthia Rosero said that the company as part of the private sector is grateful to extend assistance through its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) funds not only to their impact communities but to the entire province.
“Kami sa RTN, bilang private sector ay grateful na makapag-extend ng tulong sa pamamagitan ng aming SDMP funds hindi lamang sa aming host and neighboring communities kundi maging sa buong lalawigan ng Palawan sa panahon ng health crisis,” Rosero said.
The provincial government sought the assistance of the two mining companies in anticipation of food shortage and the imminent adverse economic impact of COVID-19 on the marginalized and the needy constituents of Palawan.
Community relations manager Reynaldo dela Rosa said that the assistance provided by RTNMC also has an impact on the company as it could extend its support not only to the mining communities within the town of Bataraza but also in the entire province of Palawan.
“Yong partnership sa provincial government ay malaking impact sa RTN at sa management nito kasi ang SDMP funds namin ay basically intended lang sa mining communities ng Bataraza, pero this time ay magkakaroon siya ng extension ‘yong assistance through the provincial government,” he said.
“Kahit sa maliit na bagay na ito dahil sa dami rin nga ng munisipyo pero magkakaroon na rin kami ng maliit na tulong para sa lahat ng mamamayan ng probinsya ng Palawan,” Dela Rosa added.
The RTNMC has realigned its SDMP unutilized funds pursuant to the memorandum issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on March 27 to support impact and non-impact communities due to COVID-19.
The SDMP is a five-year budgeted plan for development programs in the mining communities, which the MGB has allowed to be realigned during this pandemic in order to assist the mining companies’ host communities and neighboring barangays.
MGB MIMAROPA regional director Engr. Roland De Jesus said that a large amount of donated money came from the savings of the 2019 annual SDMP and other realignments with the 2020 SDMP, including the funds for information and education campaign (IEC) and Development of Mining Technology and Geosciences (DMTG).
“Savings of 2019 annual SDMP so a large part of that came from that fund and those savings, meaning to say the project, programs or activities that supposed to be funded during the year 2019 have already been completed and they have certain savings,” he said.
He said that as the livelihood activities of the people have stopped during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), residents are just depending on the support of the local government. The unutilized funds, however, from the SDMP have helped to serve as resources to support the needs of communities such as relief goods.
“It’s a good thing that in those localities where there are mining, this is one benefit of mining,” he said.
Palawan with its 1.3 million population was among the first provinces to close its borders on March 17 to adhere to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) directive of the national government. The closure has particularly hurt the tourism industry of the province which, according to reports, brought in an income of some 83 billion pesos ($1.6 billion) in 2018 alone.
On March 20, Alvarez declared Palawan under a state of calamity.
Earlier, RTN downloaded to the communities in Bataraza a total of P5.5 Million pesos from its realigned SDMP funds, with an additional P560,000 from its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds, for relief operations conducted in the mining communities during the ECQ.
Aside from tourism, mining is another industry in Palawan that brings about economic progress to the communities.
Bataraza Municipal Treasurer, Romana Bermudez, was quoted in a news report saying that RTN and CBNC taxes have a huge impact on the economic growth of Bataraza, a first-class municipality in Southern Palawan where the two companies are based.
According to the municipal treasurer’s record for 2019, RTN has paid P10 million in real property taxes and P33 million in business taxes while CBNC paid P31 million for real property tax and P86 million for business tax.
Alvarez personally accepted the RTN and CBNC donation and expressed his appreciation on behalf of the people of Palawan.
“This will help feed a lot of people in the province,” he said.
The agreement of the provincial government with the two mining companies is covered under Section 35 of the Local Government Code (LGC) which allows LGUs to enter into joint ventures and such other cooperative arrangements with non-governmental organizations to engage in the delivery of certain basic services, capability-building and livelihood projects.