Key Stakeholder Groups in Benguet Buy Into Constructive Engagement in Mining

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On October 26 and 27, representatives of 3 key stakeholder groups – Indigenous communities from Benguet (barangay Ampucao, Itogon and barangay Camp 3 in Tuba), local governments, CSO's, and Philex Mining Company, participated in a workshop organized by ANSA-EAP. Held at the Maryknoll Ecological Center in Campo Sioco, Baguio City, the workshop aimed for the participants to understand and figure out how Community Scorecards may be used as a tool for social accountability, particularly, enabling communities to demand accountability from government and mining companies.

The premise that Natural Resources – including oil, gas, minerals – are Global Commons, was the backdrop of the 2-day workshop. As a ‘common’, the governance of mining involves 3 stakeholder groups: communities, governments, and EI companies.  For a province that hosts the oldest mining activities in the country, it is assumed that these stakeholder groups have been engaging with each other and making each other accountable for each group’s actions. Is there room to improve the governance of the industry? What tools may be useful for assessing performance, and eventually coming to the table and together, address areas for improvement, weaknesses, and even cracking spaces for raising the bar of mining governance, going beyond complying with the minimum requirements of existing laws?

Ms. Yasmin Hatta, project officer of Samdhana Institute and consultant to ANSA EAP, discussed the importance of looking at the existing Global Standards of Practice in the Extractive Industry (EI), particularly the UN Global Compact and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the provisions of the Mining Act of 1995, as references for understanding the entitlements of communities from the extraction of their resource commons. EITI calls for transparency of companies and governments on payments and receipts from the EI is of immediate relevance to the participants because revenues are generated from ongoing mining activities. Likewise, the operational phase of the company highlights the relevance of discussing the UN Global Compact which calls on businesses to report their performance in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, anti-corruption and contributing to UN goals.

The discussion on the Stakeholders’ rights provided in the Mining Act of 1995 was an eye-opener for the participants. The rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands, and to give or withhold their consent to the mining applications, their privilege for priority employment where local skills match company labor requirements were affirmed. Mining companies are obliged by the law to allocate funds towards Community Development and Science and Mining Technology, and for programs and projects that promote the general welfare of the inhabitants. What seemed ‘new or additional information’ were on the auxiliary rights of mining companies, e.g., timber, easement, water, possession of explosives and the right to enter private lands and concession areas.

Philex Mining Corporation has operated in Benguet since 1958, and claims to have the most mature operations in the country. It complies with the requirements of the law, including paying royalties due the indigenous communities, and providing implementing the Social Development Management Program. These had been confirmed by the LGU/community participants.

The 2 barangays receive 2 million pesos a month from Philex Mines. Monthly reports to the community members on the receipt are done via community assemblies.

Identification of SDMP (Social Development Management Program) projects are by the Community Relations Division of Philex Mines, in close consultation with the communities, who are encouraged to freely give their suggestions on what projects they need. While the community appreciates benefiting from the scholarship and health projects funded from the SDMP of the company, people had expressed the need for infrastructure such as improvement of the road system, especially in light of the imminent phase out of the company, and with their knowledge of occurrences in adjacent communities where mining operations had ceased or had been abandoned.

Philex Mines, in light of its subscription to the principle of transparency, regularly posts information on its website. These include production data, payments, and others, which is accessible to the public. Community members and the local government officials, however, maybe limited in accessing and ‘reading’ such technical information to be able to explain to the common citizens, or to rally the people around developing plans on how to manage their royalties and shares from the revenues in the event of mine closure.

The Social Accountability framework, presented by Ms. Ria Toquero and Mr. Randee Cabaces, both of ANSA EAP, present to be potential handles for improving the current accountability landscape which the participants described:

a) information need to be made more accessible and understandable to the people and on which they would base their recommendations and assertions for projects appropriate to their needs. Basic information on the laws and policies relating to mining and people’s rights should be priority agenda of all stakeholders, most especially the local government.

b) people need to participate in governing their resources, in the case of indigenous people in barangay Ampucao and barangay Camp 3, participatory processes and mechanisms in planning for their future, particularly the appropriate allocation of the windfall from their revenue/royalty shares would bode the future communities well, well beyond the life of the mine.

To kick-off the process of the stakeholder groups working together, it would be important to recognize that there are mechanisms in place, and that all groups are open to constructively engage with each other, specifically on the Social Development Management Program. They agreed to use the Community Scorecard as an instrument to generate more data, provide information on roles, entitlements and laws, identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities and, create a workable and constructive space to promote community welfare and protect people’s rights.

Immediate action points were:

a) The Northern Luzon Coalition for Good Governance will serve as the lead focal organization on the project; it will be supported by its member organizations, the Community Volunteer Missioners (CVM), and the Igorota Foundation. NLCGG will re-convene to finalize the decision and the project agreement with ANSA.

b) A more in-depth training on Community Scorecards to be conducted with the implementing organization/s; the target output for the training is the CSC instrument (input matrix) and a schedule of implementation.

c) Identifying and designating a ‘local’, indigenous to Benguet, to lead the activities in the communities, in respect of the cultural sensitivities.

d) Participants from the local governments will be the ‘champions’ in the communities, e.g., initially explain to the community members the CSC initiative; the participants from Philex Mines who need to report to their supervisors and principals, and seek directives on their further participation.

The workshop participants were in unison in undertaking the CSC initiative. Their assessment, however, was that there were too few participants, for a province that is dotted with mining activities of various scales and minerals, different mining companies, and a whole range of Cordillera tribes, conducting a more inclusive orientation-workshop will open the minds of more people, and create more open spaces for governance.

Benguet Province is the location of the oldest mining activities in the Philippines, in fact, history would trace mining to as far back as pre-Spanish period. The ‘Mines View Park’ shows local and foreign tourists the mountain ranges where mining had taken place for centuries. Benguet is one of the 3 provinces of the Philippines whose bulk of revenues comes from mining. The municipalities of Itogon and Tuba, home to indigenous people, host Philex Mining Corporation.

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