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Eco-friendly nickel plant to rise in Surigao

by Eugenio Lira, Jr.

An eco-friendly $2.5-billion nickel processing plant will soon rise in Nonoc Island after rehabilitation works of the mothballed nickel refinery will be completed following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between two giant corporations witnessed by local executives recently.

“The old nickel refinery owned by Philnico Mining Corporation will be rehabilitated by San Miguel Corporation, this year, which committed to replace it with a modern nickel plant using the electro-magnetic processing technology in extracting nickel ores. It’s eco-friendly for it does not use chemicals unlike decades ago,” City Mayor Ernesto Matugas said.

He said that on Jan. 4, San Miguel Corporation, represented by Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang, entered an MOU with Philnico President Evaristo Narvaez where it promised to undertake payment of $300 million in back taxes which the latter had owed to the Philippine government. The same was reached following an earlier buyout agreement for the nickel plant with the approval of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, he added.

Matugas said Surigao City will soon become one of the top earning local government units with an estimated USD 25 million in annual realty taxes, or approximately P1.075 billion, derived from one percent of the $2.5 billion refinery cost. The processing plant would operate on a 106-hectare property owned by the city government, he said.

“Once fully operational, the nickel refinery will employ about 6,000 skilled and non-skilled workers wherein, not less than 2,000 of which will be Surigaonons. Businesses in food, transportation and the like will definitely sprout in Nonoc Island and will also add employment opportunities for our people,” Matugas said.

The mayor said Ang committed to give $1.162 million, or approximately P50million, for the construction of an additional 800-meter runway at the Surigao City Airport to accommodate large aircrafts and the same will be deductible from the company’s tax obligation with the city government.

Aside from Ang and Narvaez, the MOU signing was also attended by Mayor Matugas and Rep. Francisco Matugas of Surigao del Norte’s first district. (PIA-Surigao del Norte)

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