Nickel Asia affiliates sign Palawan water deal

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TWO affiliates of Nickel Asia Corp., the country’s biggest nickel miner, signed an agreement with the provincial government of Palawan to build a P140-million water system in the province.

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Under the agreement, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. will pour P70 million for the development of the water system, which will benefit some 10,000 households in 13 barangays in the municipality of Bataraza.

The provincial government of Palawan and Bataraza will give a counterpart share of P40 million and P30 million, respectively.

The level-2 water system refers to public water faucets in areas where the source of potable water used to be wells or springs but did not include sanitation facilities.

The project consists of an intake dam, distribution tanks, and almost 60-kilometer main pipeline from the intake dam to the distribution tanks, and more than 40 kilometers of distribution pipeline from the distribution tank to the household clusters.

Gerard Brimo, Nickel Asia president and chief executive officer, said the P140-million water system could be viewed as a “modified” public-private partnership (PPP).

“There is one big difference between what we are doing here and the classic PPP. Under the latter, the private sector makes money out of the project and after so many years they transfer the project to the government. In this particular project, the private sector – CBNC and RTNMC do not make money out of this project, it is purely a voluntary contribution from these two companies,” Brimo said.

Brimo said that the P70 million funding will be sourced from the two companies’ social development and management program fund, adding that the project is the third CSR-related water project in the municipality in five years.

The first was the P56-million Rio Tuba level-3 water system project, in which households are individually connected to the water system. Completed recently was the P52-million level-2 water system project in six Barangays within the impact area.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the project consists of two water supply systems that will jointly serve the remaining waterless barangays of Bataraza that include Bono-bono, Bulalacao, Malihud, Tarusan, Buliluyan, Malitub, Puring, Sarong, Sapa, Sumbiling, Tagnato, Taratak, Tabud and Tagolango.

Alvarez said the provincial government will take charge of the technical design and feasibility study as well as the management and supervision of the project.

For her part, Bataraza Mayor Katrina Ibba said the project will help bring sanitation and prevent water-borne diseases such as cholera.

“Before this project, only two barangays of Bataraza have potable water supply. Now, all of our barangays can now enjoy clean water supply,” she said.

Bataraza, a first class municipality in the southernmost tip of Palawan, has a population of 63,644 people, according to the 2010 census.

Coral Bay Nickel is a joint venture among Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Mitsui & Co. Mineral Resources Development (Asia) Corp., Sojitz Corp. and Nickel Asia.

Rio Tuba Nickel is 60-percent owned and the oldest operational mine of Nickel Asia, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1965. It started operations in 1975. Their operation in Bataraza is a joint venture with Pacific Metals Co. Ltd of Japan.

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