On December 7, 2016, Ms. Regina Paz L. Lopez, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, paid a visit to Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) both located in Rio Tuba, Bataraza Palawan.
Accompanied by Rodolfo L. Velasco Jr., Chief of the MSESDD of MGB-CO; Takanori Fujimura, President of Sumitomo Metal Mining Philippines Corp.; and Jose B. Anievas, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), Regional Director Roland A. De Jesus of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-MIMAROPA Region arrived first in the Rio Tuba Airport. Fifteen minutes later, the advance party was followed by the main group headed by Sec. Lopez, accompanied by Leo L. Jasareno, former MGB Director and Undersecretary of the DENR; Gerard H. Brimo, NAC Chief Executive Officer and President; Martin G. Zamora, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Planning of NAC; and Takeshi Kubota, SMM Director and Managing Executive Officer.
Sec. Lopez’s delegation was welcomed by the officers of the two companies based in Rio Tuba, members of the Indigenous Peoples Development Organization, officials of the LGU of Rio Tuba, and selected school children.
With no time to spare, the group headed straight to the COMREL Information Center where an exhibit of the companies’ milestones, awards, Social Development Management Programs (SDMP) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of both companies were being displayed. A short meeting ensued where the companies presented an overview of their operations, environmental protection activities, and SDMP accomplishments. This was followed by a tree planting activity in front of the center.
Sec. Lopez and party then visited the RTNFI Hospital and Leonides S. Virata Memorial School (LSVMS), observed the ongoing mining operation of RTNMC, and visited the GP-4 Rehabilitation Project Area of RTNMC and Tailings Storage Facility No.1 Rehabilitation Project of CBNC.
By afternoon, the group proceeded to visit Sitio Bongkol-Bongkol where Sec. Lopez entered one of the Gawad Kalinga house and spoke with the owner. While in GK Bongkol-Bongkol, the group witnessed the opening and blessing of the Bongkol-Bongkol Cultural Artifacts Center that was part of the 2016 ASDMP of CBNC and RTNMC. Last in the itinerary was the causeway area where Sec. Lopez observed the fish pen established by CBNC, a bio-indicator project.
Before leaving the mine site, Sec. Lopez gave her overall impression of the operations of RTNMC and CBNC in an impromptu dialogue at the RTN’s Guest Lodge, quoting:
“Your SDMP and your people do seem really happy. I feel that in my experience. Sa experience ko in doing any kind of development work is if you have a model, what you are saying is pwede pala, kaya pala natin and this sets the bar and Leo who has handled the MGB for six (6) years and has been with DENR for 38 years had said, Ma’am you know this is really the best,” she said.
She further commended the two companies for the rehabilitation works that they have conducted and expressed her interest of working together with them to create a bigger impact in the community, which will happen if the government and companies communicate with each other.
“And I want to let you know that I would like to work together with you to make an even bigger difference in the whole area. I asked Gerry, is it ok if we work with you, with your SDMP funds na talagang pagbutihan, develop the ability of the community to make money, which is independent of the mine site. Then you’re developing the economic potential of the area, not just dependent on you. I feel that is where you want to go so that if one day you stop then this thing just goes on. I just want to say that in my experience in doing development work, the best development work is if we communicate with each other,” she added.
In the end, she concluded that as long as the company and the government were in the same page then this can go a long way.
Arrival of MGB MIMAROPA Regional Director Roland de Jesus, SMMPH Dir. Takanori Fujimura, NAC SVP and COO Jose B. Anievas and MGB Central Office MSESSD Chief Rodolfo L. Velasco Jr.
Students warmly welcomed the DENR Secretary Lopez who arrived together with former MGB Dir. Leo L. Jasareno, NAC President and CEO Gerard H. Brimo, NAC SVP for Marketing and Strategic Planning Martin G. Zamora and SMM Director and Managing Executive Officer Takeshi Kubota.
Secretary Lopez at the exhibit
The group listening intently at the presentation during the meeting
Secretary Lopez participating in the tree planting activity
At the RTNFI Hospital
Students eagerly waiting for the DENR Secretary
LSVMS Principal welcomes the Secretary
At the TSF No.1 rehabilitation site of CBNC
Walking along the Flower and Butterfly Garden inside the decommissioned TSF No.1
Secretary Lopez talks candidly with a house owner at GK Bongkol-Bongkol
GK Bongkol-Bongkol children sang a song to the visitors
Opening and blessing of Bongkol-Bongkol Cultural Artifacts Center
Dialogue with members of the community at the hangar