Human dignity through good health


A report on TVIRD’s health & sanitation initiatives for the Subanons

It was like a scene from a television soap opera. A man nervously carries his pregnant wife, writhing in pain in her blood-soaked blanket. She has been in labor for two days, but the baby is breech. Man puts his already weak wife into a waiting vehicle, which then careens toward the direction of the clinic. Stunned family members and neighbors stand in silence and helplessness.(Please see related blog item “No discrimination” here)

The scene actually happened four years ago in Canatuan, a remote mountain village in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte – one of the many medical emergencies that were addressed through the health and sanitation initiatives of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD) for the Subanon indigenous people (IP) hosting the company’s gold-copper mining operations here.

A TVIRD doctor checks a boy for scabies during one of the company’s medical missions in its impact communities. People in these far-flung communities say no other group has ever showed cared for them the way this mining firm does.

A year before it began operations in July 2004, TVIRD constructed the first-ever clinic in Canatuan. Since then, the clinic has been manned by a doctor and a registered nurse who are on call 24/7, ready to serve employees, their dependents, and members of the community. The medical services are open to all – from consultations to minor operations, whether the patients are Subanons or not, or whether they are for or against the company.

Before the clinic was set up, those afflicted with illness or injury in Canatuan or neighboring barangays (smallest political unit in the Philippines) had to travel through treacherous terrain and several river crossings to reach the nearest hospital in Siocon town proper 36 kilometers away to the east or at Ipil in adjacent Zamboanga Sibugay Province 64 kilometers to the west. Today, the reverse has happened. A number of Siocon residents go to Canatuan to get proper medical attention at the clinic.

TVIRD, through its Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO), has since drawn up and implemented a comprehensive Health and Sanitation Program – one of the company’s four Quadrants of Development – for its host and impact communities. The Program includes the holding of training sessions and seminars on traditional medicine, the construction of community water systems, the provision of materials for the construction of sanitary toilets, the conduct of medical and dental missions, and the granting of medical assistance to indigents. In 2006 and 2007 alone, TVIRD spent some P3.5 million for its health and sanitation services to Canatuan and surrounding communities.

“There is no question that sustainable development can only be attained if people are healthy and their surroundings are clean all the time,” Feliece Yeban, TVIRD vice president for Social Commitments, said. “Through our Health and Sanitation initiatives, we endeavor to uphold the fundamental human right to live in dignity. We hope that, as we continue our partnership with our Subanon hosts in the development of mineral resources in their ancestral domain, we can also sustain the positive impact our Health and Sanitation initiatives have had on their well-being and economic productivity.”

Above, Subanon mothers and children wait for their turn to be attended by TVIRD doctors. Below, a child get measles immunization from company midwife Malou Prestoza. Through its Health and Sanitation initiatives, TVIRD endeavors to uphold the fundamental human right to live in dignity.

Above and below, members of the Siocon Subanon Women’s Association, Inc. learn health and wealth skills during a traditional and alternative medicine workshop. The skills they have acquired can help not only in curing the sick and maintaining the health of their loved ones, but also in augmenting the income of their families

Clean surroundings, healthy people

Theresa Limpin, CReDO manager, said TVIRD’s host and impact communities can only sustain good health with continuous education on the value of health and sanitation, clean surroundings, proper hygiene, and clean water sources. These have been the focus of the company’s Health and Sanitation Program in the last three years.

From July to September 2007 alone, TVIRD spent nearly half a million pesos to build water systems in impact communities Tanuman, Solongsangan, Agolo-Diversion-New Village, as well as toilets for Sitio Kilometer 8, Barangay Kilalaban, Baliguian town and Paduan Ridge in Canatuan. The community water systems and toilets were put up with materials provided by the company, and through manual labor provided by the residents.

“By sharing sweat equity, community folk learn to value these projects,” Limpin explained. “Since they were actively involved during the construction of the water systems and toilets, they now see to it that the structures are properly and regularly maintained. The partnership also promotes ownership among the residents, and discourages the dole out mentality. The company wants its beneficiaries to help themselves.”

Emilio Anoy, a Subanon employee of TVIRD, said the toilets help the communities two ways: they encourage residents to maintain clean surroundings, and to sustain good hygiene. “Karon di na bisan asa na lang molabay sa iyang hugaw ang akong mga anak. Aduna na kami toilet nga magamit (Now my children do not have to squat anywhere when they want to answer nature’s call. We have toilets now,” he said, proudly pointing toward the 6-cubicle toilet structure that he and his neighbors constructed while during his time off from work.

TVIRD CReDO Manager Theresa Limpin (far left) represents the company during the ceremonies marking the turnover of the water system that TVIRD put up with beneficiary-residents of Sitio Solonsangan. “This partnership promotes ownership among the residents and discourages the dole out mentality,” Limpin says.

Health is wealth

Rural mountain communities are breeding grounds of tropical diseases such as filariasis, tuberculosis, scabies, measles, and dengue that tend to go haywire when left unchecked. To address mounting cases of these diseases in and around Canatuan, CReDO and clinic staff members conducted several medical missions in remote villages. With the help of personnel from the government Department of Health and the Maple Tree Foundation for Mountain Comunities, TVIRD employees provided immunization to residents who haven’t been affected yet, medication and prophylaxis treatment to those who have been afflicted, and lectures on prevention and control to everyone. These, in addition to the regular monitoring of, and constant reminders to, patients resulted in a drastic decline of filariasis and dengue cases, and in the total eradication of tuberculosis, measles, and scabies in Canatuan and nearby communities. About a thousand individuals, including nearly 400 children, benefited from TVIRD’s health campaign.

Company nurse Lois Esnane has become a much-loved figure both in Canatuan and its neighboring barangays where she attends to the health needs of IPs like Vicente Tii (above), now cured of tuberculosis, and of children (below) during a medical mission in a remote village. Esnane is the lady in blue carrying a Subanon baby.

TVIRD also trained some 75 Subanon women on traditional and alternative medicine, which can help not only in curing the sick and maintaining the health of their loved ones, but also in augmenting the income of their families. CReDO employees and resource persons taught members of the Siocon Subanon Women’s Association, Inc. basic training on shiatsu (a traditional Japanese hands-on therapy based on anatomical and physiological theory), acupuncture (a technique of inserting and manipulating needles into points on the body where the flow of energy is thought to be blocked meridians), moxibustion (an acupuncture procedure that uses dried herb, commonly known as moxa or mugwort, burned so that the heat is transferred to specific points on the body to increase energy), acupressure (kneading or reflexology massage), and ventusa (of similar procedure, but using glass). Many of the participants are now using the skills they learned in the workshops at home.

With the help of government and private health experts, TVIRD held a lecture session on reproductive health to company scholars and some 40 members of the Subanon Youth Organization during their 2007 Summer Camp in Canatuan.

TVIRD likewise partnered with Jerome Foundation, Inc., an NGO dedicated to providing free treatment to those afflicted with harelip or split-lip condition, in giving 18 children from R. T. Lim and Siocon a chance to have normal lives with no physical deformity. Jerome surgeons operated on the children free of charge, while the company shouldered the cost of medicines and other incidental expenses.

(Above) Gail Bacatan, Department of Education Siocon District nurse, discusses with members of the Subanon Youth Organization (below) the value of responsibility during a lecture on Reproductive Health, part of the series of activities of the Summer Youth Camp in Canatuan in 2007.


“We are aware of the expectations of our host community with regards to the continued provision of socio-economic benefits as stipulated in our agreement with them,” Yeban said. “But we are also aware that they will be in a much better position to maximize those benefits if they remain healthy throughout and beyond the life of mine. That is why we will continue to give equal priority to our Health and Sanitation Program, alongside the other Quadrants – Responsive Education, Sustainable Livelihood, and Infrastructure – for the duration of our stay in Canatuan. We have a long way to go. And if our accomplishments in the past four years were to be a gauge, we believe we can do so much more.”

For the second phase of its operations in Canatuan, the Sulphide (copper-zinc) phase, TVIRD has earmarked P4 million for the construction of a hospital, equipped with modern medical facilities. The amount does not yet include funds for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, as well as for medicines.

Looking forward to having the dream hospital, Sisa Medianero, a Subanon IP said: “Maayo unta ug dili malangan ang pagmina sa sulfide aron makatukod ta ug ospital. Segurado ako nga aduna na gyud ta ana tungod kay ang kompanya wala sukad mamakak. (I hope there will be no delays in the Sulphide operations so we can have our hospital soon. I am sure that we will have one because the company has never lied to us.)” (Lullie Micabalo)

TVIRD employees travel through thick forests, raging rivers, and unforgiving terrain to provide medical and dental care to residents of the company’s impact communities. Residents will be in a much better position to enjoy the socio-economic benefits of mineral resource development if they will remain healthy throughout and beyond the life of mine.