THE ISSUANCE on July 23, 2016 of Executive Order No. 2 on Freedom of Information drew support from the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition as a signal of the commitment of the Duterte Administration to respect and promote the people's right to access information in the Executive Branch.
The Coalition was hopeful that EO No. 2 ("Operationalizing In The Executive Branch The People’s Constitutional Right To Information And The State Policies To Full Public Disclosure And Transparency In The Public Service And Providing Guidelines Therefor") will send a strong message for the Senate and the House of Representatives to finally ensure the swift passage of the FOI Law that could cover all the branches and agencies of the government.
Close to the deadline for all Executive offices to roll out their "People's FOI Manuals", in November 2016 the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) launched yet another ambitious undertaking -- an eFOI Portal that would host access-to-information requests from citizens, and the corresponding action taken by state agencies on the same.
EO No. 2, the People's FOI Manuals, and the eFOI Portal are transparency tools that the Duterte Administration have offered citizens to ease the process of accessing information vested with public interest.
But nine months after EO No. 2's momentous birth, and four months after its full rollout, the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition's informed judgment is that the Duterte Adminisration's work on the FOI front is far from done.
In truth, based on six parallel "FOI Practice" projects undertaken by our CSO members, an omnibus request for and analysis of the FOI Manuals of 22 Executive departments and offices, and a study of the curated requests posted on the eFOI Portal, the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition finds that a mix of forward, backward, and side steps have defined the compliance by Executive offices with EO No. 2.
Given these findings, the Right to Know. Right Now!. R Coalition affirms that there is greater urgency for Congress to enact, without any further delay, the passage of the FOI Law.
The core value of any FOI initiative is how much it could effectively and efficiently assist and affirm the citizen’s right to access information, but also how far it could oblige and require state agencies and officials to disclose information. In both cases, or for both citizens and public officials, the process should be quick and easy, and the desired result, sunshine or full transparency.
Indeed, access and disclosure are two equal parts of the FOI equation. It is thus premature to claim victory for FOI, on acocunt of EO No. 2 alone, because the one, true treshhold that the state must hurdle is how far and how much it has nurtured a culture of openness and transparency in all its parts.
The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition has taken steps to actually test compliance with EO No. 2 against this threshold, through multiple, parallel initiatives by our members.
Six “FOI Practice” projects of our CSO members during the first three months from its full rollout in November 2016 have yielded mixed results of slow to quick action by various agencies on requests for information.
The Coalition filed an omnibus request for copies of the People's FOI Manuals of 22 Executive departments and offices but less than half responded positively, and the others said they did not have Manuals as yet. The "exceptions" enrolled in some of these Manuals have raised concern among us that some agencies would want to remain opaque than open.
Our analysis of data in the eFOI Portal that for now hosts 64 agencies, out of 503 requests posted online as of March 14, 2017, up to 183 requests had been denied, 166 granted, and 154 more "pending or for processing".
On one hand, some offices failed to comply with the clear directive and deadline to provide an FOI Manual and identify the responsible officers in the FOI chain. Some others did not even acknowledge requests sent via email or fax, nor even answer phone calls. Too, there were agency FOI Manuals that enrolled additional grounds for denial that have no basis in the Constitution, the statutes or jurisprudence. It took some agencies weeks and months on end to respond to requests, or well beyond the 15 working days deadline that the laws and EO No. 2 had imposed.
On the other hand, there were also offices that took to heart compliance with the letter and spirit of EO No. 2. While they constitute only a minority of the agencies that had been approached by members of the Coalition, these offices deserve our highest commendation. They promptly and professionally acknowledged letter requests, answered queries, and responded to requests sans the need for multiple follow-ups.
One take-away from our FOI Practice projects stands out: If public officials and agencies mean to do it, appreciate and understand just how important it is to them as much as to citizens, FOI is a good, easy goal to achieve.
In gist, the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition deems it too early for the Duterte Administration to claim its FOI project as a feather in its cap. It would be more propitious to say though that it has taken the first, major steps to lay the foundation for a regime of transparency through EO No. 2, the People's FOI Manuals of executive offices, and its eFOI Portal.
Much work lies ahead for both the citizens and the government on the FOI front. A central common task that must be achieved promptly is the passage of the FOI Law. In this, the Senate and the House of Representatives must not falter and fail anymore than their predecessors in five prior Congresses did.
The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition has waged a 15-year campaign to have the FOI Law passed and with his EO No. 2 as his signal move, President Rodrigo R. Duterte must now, in words as in deeds, push with vigor the passage of the FOI Law by his "super majority" in both legislative chambers.
As best we could and by the standards of transparency, accountability, and good governance, the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition commits to assist the Executive branch improve its FOI mechanisms. This commitment rests, however, on our hope that the Duterte Administration will relentlessly pursue its FOI project across all Executive offices.
Just as important, the Right to Know. Right Now! Coaltion enjoins the citizens, CSOs, academe, the private sector, and all sectors to engage in FOI practice and join the campaign for the passage of an authentic FOI Law.
While full congratulations are not yet in order in the fight for FOI, we offer a partner’s pat on the back to public officials and civil servants in the Executive and Legislative branches who continue to labor tirelessly to ensure that we achieve big and small victories steadily and constantly in our shared journey to an authentic FOI regime.
Investors who play by the rules, do not destroy the environment, and put the common good alongside their business interest have no reason to worry about investing in the Philippine mining industry, a broad coalition of environmentalist groups said yesterday.
Reacting to the claim by an official of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the strong regulatory stance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is “sending the wrong signals” to investors, the Green Thumb Coalition said only mining companies who have no regard for the environment and people’s welfare will not find it worth investing in a country that takes care of its ecological balance and its people.
"The implementation of regulations are not the problem in this issue, but rather these regulations have long been in place precisely in response to the destruction of our country's environment and the livelihood of the people," said Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), one of the conveners of the GTC.
"A strong and strict execution of prevailing laws will only strike fear among those corporations which aim to cut costs by disregarding the welfare of affected communities and the country as a whole," he added. "If investors make sure that the companies they fund follow the rules, they have nothing to be afraid of. Rather, they should be glad that the playing field is being changed for the benefit of better investment prospects which do not sacrifice sustainability and rights for the sake of profit."
The GTC said mining has not been a significant contributor to economic development and jobs generation, contributing less than one percent to employment—and mostly contractual, seasonal, non-permanent jobs.
On the other hand, the local mining industry basically exports raw ore to fuel the industrial needs of developed countries. “There is little national economic benefit from investments in mining, yet the costs to environment, and the hazards they pose are tremendous,” said Tina Pimentel of Bantay Kita, a member NGO of the Green Thumb Coalition.
The GTC said responsible businessmen and investors should, in fact, support the DENR in its effort to make mining companies obey the rules because, in the end, it is the image of the business community, and that of the good and responsible businessmen that are destroyed.
Said the GTC: “Assuming without granting that the country’s image to overseas investors is ‘destroyed’ as alleged by Jose Leviste, co-chairman of the PCCI committee on mining, we’d rather have our image than our environment destroyed by irresponsible mining investors. It would be far easier to repair our image than our environment. It is also less costly.”
“What is a good public image for if it leaves us with a destroyed environment that endangers the lives, health and food security of our people?” Leonora Lava of Greenpeace Philippines, a GTC member organization as well, added.
Siquijor Representative Ramon “Rav” Rocamora called for the early deliberation and passage of House Bill No. 4116 or the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) Law which will mandate companies involved in mining, oil, gas and coal industries to undergo regular auditing and review. According to Rocamora the law will allow the public to see the full picture on how mining resources are used and whether mining activities are benefitting the local communities, and its impact.
“The EITI already exists as a voluntary mechanism for mining firms to take part in. What we want to do is to make it mandatory to ensure that the public is informed of the effects of mining with accurate data,” according to Rocamora.
“With this kind of mechanism, we can immediately avert any potential deleterious effect that a mining operation will have on the environment and the local community,” he added.
Under the law, a multi-stakeholder group composed of representatives from government agencies (including one each from both Houses of Congress), 5 representatives from the extractive industries, 5 representatives from the Civil Society Organizations, and one representative from the Indigenous People’s sector will be in charge of the PH-EITI. There will be regional and provincial formation of the EITI where mining companies operate.
“As much as possible, we want a balanced and well represented body to lead this initiative. This is to prevent any possible conflict of interest and ensure a broad support for this undertaking,” Rocamora stressed.
The PH-EITI Law also requires an annual report which will cover the revenue generated from the extractive industries such as payment to the national government and local government units. It will also include public disclosure of all concessions, contracts, and agreements and joint ventures entered into by the government. It will also include a CSO assessment of the EITI process itself.
“If enacted, this will help current efforts by the government led by the DENR in monitoring mining companies to ensure that they do not harm the environment and that communities really benefit from their operations. Moreover, it will lead to greater citizen’s participation and involvement in government mining policy because they will have a complete picture of the how a particular company operates,” Rocamora added.
As part of its commitment to the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) international Data Extractors Program, Bantay Kita (BK) has soft launched its "Demanding for Action, Transparency, and Accountability (DATA) Portal" in Cebu City last July 13 during the Open Government Partnership CSO participation capacity building.
The DATA Portal was developed by BK's research and communications officer drawing from his background in open data and transparency initiatives. The portal, as he describes it, is aimed at becoming a one-stop shop for data on mining, oil and gas industries for civil society organizations in the Philippines.
The portal currently hosts information on mining tenements, data visualizations on minerals extracted per province and also project level data which were sourced from Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) reports. More data will be added as soon as they are cleaned and made available.
To generate demand for the portal, BK has been conducting open data workshops around the Philippines to gather feedback using the "data user story template" which is a simple tool used to gauge data needs of BK's CSO members. The tools asks workshop participants what advocacy they are working on; who their decision maker or audience is; and what data they would need to arrive at the outcome they are working on. This ensures that data in the portal is not just specific to communities but also relevant to their respective advocacies and needs as a community.
The portal and its approach was recently presented in Madrid, Spain during the International Open Data Conference.
For more info about the DATA Portal, go to: www.data.bantaykita.ph or read this blog about the portal.
An environmental summit dubbed as "People's Summit for the Environment" was organized by the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), of which Bantay Kita is a part of, last October 11, 2016 at the College of Saint Benilde.
The said forum was aimed for its attendees to understand the current state of the country’s environment; assess government efforts geared towards its protection; and unite around immediate and strategic calls, demands and actions.
The event was attended by National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, and other GTC members.
DENR Secretary Lopez presented the agency's plan on shifting from a regulatory agency to a development arm of government. She shared to the audience that they are now looking at areas for development while ensuring community engagement from planning stage to implementation and also injecting development and entrepreneurial skills. She also shared that DENR will be providing funds for the implementation of these projects.
DENR has established a special arm within the department specifically to ensure collaboration between the department and civil society organizations. This is to provide a platform for engagement in implementing development projects from start to end.
A public forum on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Executive Order (EO) of the Duterte Administration was held last October 7 in the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement building attended by FOI advocates.
The event served as an avenue for FOI advocates to share with government agency executives their assessment of what has been done on FOI in the first 100 days of the new administration and what balance of work remains.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez attended the initiative reiterating the department's support to the FOI. She mentioned that the DENR has always been conscious of the need to share information to stakeholders. She said that DENR will disclose as much information as allowed as long as it does not infringe on threats to privacy and national security.
The DENR commits to have the manual ready by the end of the year.
Bantay Kita (BK) is a member of the Right to Know Right Now Coalition, a coalition of 160 member organizations advocating for freedom of information in the Philippines. BK is the coalition's lead organization for DENR.
Bantay Kita's (BK) research and communications officer Marco Zaplan joined and delivered a presentation during the International Open Data Conference (IODC) held in Madrid, Spain last October 6-7.
Mr. Zaplan presented on BK's DATA Portal and also the approach BK has used in gathering inputs from the very users of the portal which are the communities. He shared about BK's experience in organizing open data workshops and also the outputs of the feedback from these sessions.
He stressed the importance of disclosing not just data specific to communities but also those that are relevant to their advocacies. He said that even if there are plentiful data available, making them relevant to the context of communities is one that actually makes difference.
Prior to the main IODC, Mr. Zaplan also attended the Openness in Natural Resources Working Group Peer Exchange from October 4-5. The forum invited participants from various Open Government Partnership (OGP)-implementing countries to share and strategize on the challenges faced by countries in OGP natural resource commitments implementation. The group meeting was set ahead of the OGP Summit to be held in Paris, France this December.
The Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) has finally capped off the EITI Local Government Unit (LGU) roadshow after bringing the program to Palawan (September 14-15), the National Capital Region (September 21-22), and Butuan City (September 28-29).
As in previous roadshows in August 2016, the event has brought together stakeholders from civil society, industry, and government - local and national, to discuss pressing issues in the local extractive industries.
Bantay Kita (BK), for its part, helped bring together local CSOs and presented its advocacies to the forum.
BK Board member Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda of the Environment Legal Action Center presented the Mining Development Framework (MDF) and sat in the morning panel discussion. BK Board Member Dr. Merian Mani, president of the Marinduque State College, was also present in the event and closed the program.
Mr Jaybee Garganera, BK Board member and National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, represented BK in the morning panel discussion of the National Capital Region leg of the roadshow. Marco Zaplan, research and communications officer of BK, presented the MDF in the afternoon. Mr. Zaplan also represented BK in the Butuan-leg of the roadshow.
The inputs from all six roadshows shall be reflected in the next EITI country report.
Funding Opportunity Title:
Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Extractive Industries in the Local Level
Annual Program Statement
Funding Opportunity Number:
APS No. 001
1 October 2016
Deadline for Submission of First Round of Applications
31 October 2016
Submit Applications to:
Download Full Details:
Large-scale miners paid a mere P5.4 billion to government or 0.003% of total government revenues in 2013. This is contrary to claims that the sector contributes P40 billion to state coffers. The said figures are made available through the 2015 Country Report of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Bantay Kita (BK) is pushing for mandatory participation of all extractive companies operating in the Philippines regardless of their materiality. A mining company – small or big, contributes to negative social and environmental impact to communities hence the need for all to participate. Currently, EITI participation is voluntary. The biggest coal mining company – Semirara Mining and Power Corporation, refused to participate twice already.
Beneficial Ownership Disclosures
A recent research by BK authored by Madeleine Aloria found that owners of the biggest mining companies in the Philippines are the country’s elites. This includes the Ramoses of National Bookstore which has a huge stake in suspended Palawan firm Berong Nickel Corporation and also Carmen Copper – the country’s biggest copper mining company. The political clan Villar also owns what is projected to become the second biggest active mining operation in the country - the King-King Project in Compostela Valley.
The international EITI standard requires that country reports to disclose beneficial owners of extractive companies by 2020. BK is strongly pushing for these disclosures to make sure conflict of interests in licensing and extraction of natural resources are avoided and that benefits from these resources are not concentrated among the few.
Mining Monitoring Reports lack substance, P89 million left unaccounted for
According to the 2nd PH-EITI Report, monitoring reports on social expenditures of mining operations lack substance. The report claims that these documents do not explicitly provide concrete accomplishments that are related to their expenditures. The Environmental and Management Bureau also failed to disclose environmental impact assessment documents of 12 mining companies saying that they have lost track of the approved documents.
Duterte Administration should prioritize EITI
Bantay Kita urges President Rodrigo Duterte to certify transparency in the extractives as part of his drive to eradicate corruption in government. The mining industry recently earned the ire of President Duterte for “spoiling the land”. The president who is pushing for international standards in mining should make sure the Philippines become an EITI-compliant country.
A pending bill is currently filed in Congress under Senate Bill 1125 by Senator Joel Villanueva to institutionalize international standard EITI. The current PH-EITI was made through Executive Order 147 of former President Benigno Aquino III.