THIRTY-THREE-year-old Richard Garcia has been suffering from testicle hydrocele since 2019. In 2020, he got himself screened and was scheduled for an operation, but this was postponed because of the pandemic.

THIRTY-THREE-year-old Richard Garcia has been suffering from testicle hydrocele since 2019.

In 2020, he got himself screened and was scheduled for an operation, but this was postponed because of the pandemic.

Garcia tried again after learning of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation's (CBNC) surgical procedure programs scheduled for 2023 where he was chosen as one of the patients for the major operation.

He described the successful operation as a “blessing after years of waiting.”

“Naalis sa akin 'yong sakit na 'yon, parang nabunutan ako ng tinik. Hindi na ako nagwo-worry at nagpapasalamat ako sa RTNMC at CBNC na may ganoong opportunity na makatulong sa mga taga-Palawan,” he said.

Even patients with minor illnesses, such as Rey Alojado, were helped by the operation. Alojado, unable to identify his case, decided to take advantage of the free consultation and operation to alleviate his concerns.

“Itong laman na maliit sa ulo ko, may ilang buwan na rin yata. Hindi ko rin alam kung anong tawag, gusto ko ipatanggal kasi minsan masakit-sakit baka magkaroon ng ugat-ugat. Malaking tulong ito kesa gagastos ka pa,” he said.


Garcia and Alojado were among the 526 locals in southern Palawan who qualified to undergo minor and major operations during the annual surgical mission in Bataraza town, now in its 20th year.

The free surgical operation was given to selected patients yearly through the combined initiatives of the RTNMC and CBNC.

Through the mission, treatments were given to 75 patients with major cases and 250 patients with minor cases. Medical and ophthalmological consultations were also given.

Dr. Robinson Baron, the mission’s original proponent, recalled that the program only began with about 20 patients and has since grown to hundreds. From a medical mission, it evolved into a surgical operation mission, which was first carried out in the city of Puerto Princesa and then moved to Bataraza town to reach residents in the southern area.

“Actually, we just want to confine ourselves to a medical and surgical mission, but we want to become bigger and bigger and go back to the Puerto Princesa area. We want to cover the whole Palawan. This place became close to us,” he said.

Baron, who leads a team of 73 medical volunteers in the mission, is looking forward to dealing with more diverse cases, which are typically limited in Manila operations.

Major cases that are treated during the mission are goiter, cleft palate, thyroid, myoma, hemorrhoids, gallstones, and hernia, while minor cases include cysts, tumors, and other removals, as well as cataracts, pterygium, and other ophthalmology consultations.

According to Dr. Ronan Drian Pare, Medical Director of RTNFI Hospital, mining companies’ support is critical in the conduct of surgical missions where various cases are treated.

“Ito ay sponsored ng ating companies na maibigay nang libre, maoperahan at mabigyan ng solusyon ang kanilang medical problems. Hopefully ay ma-maintain natin ang target natin ang at least 200 patients, we hope na ma-reach pa natin 'yong higher,” he said.


This year’s budget for the mission reached almost P5 million from shares of RTNMC and CBNC. The companies both provided other support to the patients and their companions such as the provision of laboratory tests and medicines.

Sanggunian Bayan councilor and CBNC community relations general supervisor Laurence Amores said the company’s involvement in the mission is also part of its support of health programs in the province.

The CBNC assisted with information dissemination and pre-screening, including mapping of patients throughout Palawan’s southern towns. Volunteers extended their service from three to five days, beginning February 6 and ending February 10.

“For the last 20 years, naging partner na ang CBNC sa surgical mission na ito— very evident na aside from education, ito 'yong equally important sa CBNC kasi 'yong health services ay kinakailangan ng mga kababayan natin especially sa south ay malaki pa. 'Yong dapat iabot natin ay malaki pa,” he said.

Aside from the mission, CBNC and RTNMC also both continuously extend support to the town’s district hospital and subsidy to the RTNFI Hospital for indigent locals.

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