Read up on the experiences of indigenous community of Bataraza, Palawan in understanding mining related data disclosures through the Open Mining Governance project of Bantay Kita.
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Blog by Rose Ann Marie Paragas
When we talk about empowerment of people, I always remember a professor and a mentor back in college who always remind us to define first what empowerment is. The Google dictionary would tell us that it is “giving power or authority to someone to do something”. Prior to that, other important questions would be: Who defines empowerment? Who empowers who? And, how does one promote empowerment?
This has been the principle that caused carefulness, at least in my own journey as a project implementer, of the two-year Voice project entitled “Claiming Political Space: Amplifying Voices of Indigenous Peoples in Minerals Management”. With a quick glimpse of the project, I would assume that the empowerment we’re trying to achieve is to claim that political space which is probably lacking or limited among indigenous peoples – to allow them to meaningfully participate in decision making in the management of their minerals. One of the objectives of the project is to craft their Community Royalty Development Plan (CRDP) using an inclusive and participatory approach. The CRDP is a plan on how to manage the royalties received from mining operations, and prioritizing programs to which the indigenous community led by the Indigenous Peoples Organizations and/or the Indigenous Political Structure, shall allocate the funds. Supposedly, their CRDP should be based on their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Plans (ADSDPP). Consequently, the ADSDPP is a prerequisite for the indigenous groups to acquire a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
My experience at the community level allowed me to validate these assumptions.
To start, it is important to establish that the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities define what is empowerment for them. There is already power within them that only needs to be awakened and strengthened. This is primarily our role as development workers to facilitate such an awakening of spirit by journeying with them and for them.
This definition of empowerment goes beyond merely having a Community Royalty Development Plan (CRDP). To them, empowerment roots back to exercising self-determination over their ancestral domain, the whole spectrum of natural resource governance and the indigenous processes within their land. It is for this reason that in planning, the IP groups considered not only royalties from mining but from all other resources within the domain. To achieve this though, the IPs are faced with challenges that are internal to the group as well as external challenges that may be due to the lack and/or gaps in government policies and guidelines. Consequently, these challenges also need reconciliation of both internal and external controls and interventions to be addressed.
In the case of Luzon particularly in Benguet and Palawan, it is safe to say that the indigenous peoples do have a political space or a platform to amplify their voices on minerals management and natural resource governance. There are existing Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPO) whose members are supposedly part of the Indigenous Political Structure (IPS). Note that there is a need to establish the distinction between the two among IPs and ICCs. The IPS also designates the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the local government units both at the barangay and municipal level. However, it was made apparent that these platforms need to be strengthened and/or widened. Achieving such a result includes reliving the IP Identity and the consciousness as individuals that work together as one unit united by their relationship to their land and their ancestors.
One of the essential keys in strengthening such platforms is the installment of clear guidelines and policies from relevant government agencies, alongside, the support of civil society organizations in providing assistance for collaborative learning and education. At present, some IPs are not yet awarded with their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT). This is oftentimes due to the lack of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). The creation of such a document needs resources which may be the main challenge among IP groups, such that of the Tagbanua and Palaw’an Tribe in Narra, Palawan. This also makes it even more challenging to craft a Community Royalty Development Plan (CRDP) which as per the guideline of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) should be based on the ADSDPP. Even guidelines on CRDP is not in place at present.
Having said these things, we know for a fact that there is so much work left for all stakeholders involved: the IPs, the government, the civil society, and other players. Dreaming about the empowerment of indigenous peoples in minerals management, collaborative actions must be done while still putting the interest of the IPs at the center of every decision making by allowing their voices to be heard and amplified.
Bantay Kita, a national coalition advocating for transparency and accountability in natural resource governance, calls on national government agencies to make its processes transparent, to hold genuine consultations from key stakeholders, and to recognize the right of indigenous peoples to a free and prior informed consent.
Last 20 June 2019, the financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) expired and is currently pending for renewal. However, the local government unit and mining-affected communities of Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya were not made aware of the renewal application of the mining agreement of OceanaGold.
Bantay Kita National Coordinator Pamela Grafilo said, “the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geoscience Bureau (DENR-MGB), as a member of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI), commits to uphold the principle of transparency, including the renewal process of any mining agreement.”
The EITI Standard requires disclosure of information along the extractive industry value chain involving how extraction rights are awarded. Local government units and affected mining communities have the right to access to information regarding their natural resources.
“As stakeholders of the PH-EITI, we urge the MGB to uphold its commitment to transparency on decision-making processes that affect communities as well as to genuine community engagement for sound natural resource governance”, said Pamela Grafilo.
Today, as we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Bantay Kita reiterates its call to the relevant government agencies to uphold their processes in transparency and to recognize and respect any decision made by affected communities and the indigenous peoples.
Bantay Kita also calls on the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to hold a participatory and inclusive free and prior informed consent process among cultural communities. A process that is free from any form of manipulation and provided a platform to be heard and attended to.
The FPIC process shall serve as a safeguard to the right of the indigenous peoples to self-governance over their ancestral domain.
by Rose Ann Paragas
Luzon Subnational Coordinator
POWER, RESILIENCE, PERSISTENCE and HOPE – few words that I think would best represent the indigenous women leaders whom I had an opportunity to rub elbows with during a three-day knowledge- sharing workshop led by VOICE-HIVOS in Baguio City last February. They are the indigenous women leaders from different sides of the globe who share the same stories of struggle, shared victories, hopes, dreams, and aspirations towards complete liberation of women from any form of abuse, violence and culture that prohibits their voices from getting heard and left in the margins.
What then keeps women persist? This was the central of the discussion that gave space for interaction as well as in-depth reflection. The use of “emergent theatre” as a tool for the entire workshop has been very effective in portraying the collective experiences of women on cross-cutting issues on health and nutrition, education, participation in decision-making and natural resource governance among others. I would say that the freedom to choose any form, may it be in dancing, singing, poetry, painting or other forms of expression elicited raw but powerful messages. In this case, the message for me was very clear: Women persist because We Exist. We Can. Therefore, Hear Us. Let Us. This was the same message I got during our community visit in Ucab, Benguet, whose history highlights the struggle of the community against Open Pit Mining. The success of their struggle was actually credited to the women elders who were at the forefront. Take note that a man leader actually claimed this. It is even laudable that this history has been preserved and passed on from one generation to another through poetries and songs.
Having heard and shared discussions with the women leaders throughout the 3-day workshop, I would say that women have come a long way in their pursuit for freedom and equality. Their shared stories provide us the importance of having women to participate in governance and in development. They offer perspectives unique from those of men. In resource governance, for instance, the natural resources including the mountains, forests, water, air both flora and fauna interconnected with the lives of women. Interventions that impact this ecosystem also impact the lives of women, hence, the necessity of saving them seats in the discussion table. This practice was proven effective based on the experiences of the indigenous women present in the forum. The IP women leaders from the T’boli Tribe of South Cotabato, one of the partners of Bantay Kita for VOICE, claimed that women in their tribe are now recognized as leaders. They are now part of the discussion on matters involving their ancestral domain. Also, their tribe had actually gave up some of their traditional practices that go against human rights and women’s laws. In fact, they have written a manifesto condemning rape and violence against women.
These gains and victories for women are well-celebrated the way women deserve to be celebrated. However, we need to acknowledge that our pursuit continues. We need to find ways on how to keep the fire burning. Let me share to you some of the learnings and insights I got from the workshop.
To end this blog, I would like to share with you the lyrics of the song written during one of the workshop activities. We were asked to express our dreams and this song came out – a song that portrays the continuing struggle of indigenous women in defense of their natural resources, democracy and human rights.
At buong pamayanan
Sa buong pamayanan
Bansa at daigdigan
Likas yaman dinedepensahan
Paaralan para magbahaginan
Kaalaman kultura at karanasan
Sa mahirap na kalagayan
Marangal na pamumuhay
may dignidad at demokrasya
Makatarungan at Malaya
Hammering a Productive Dialogue
March 13 - 14, 2019 was a milestone for Bantay Kita (BK), more than a hundred stakeholders from government, mining industry and civil society organizations gathered to discuss in a Forum on Responsible Mining. In collaboration with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), Philippine – Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and Mining (PH-EITI) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the third and bigger set of stakeholders broke barriers and discussed their points of convergences and divergences on responsible mining.
The forum was third in a series of initial three forums to start discussions on what should be the definition of Responsible Mining in the Philippines. In November and December 2018, the multi-stakeholder group of BK, COMP, PH-EITI and MGB organized the first two Round Table Discussions on responsible mining - including large scale and small scale metallic and non-metallic mining. Experts from the academe, NGO leaders, government officials and industry representatives tackled the issue of conflict sensitivity, labor issues, environment, revenue, planet, profit, and people. The discussions were lively, with conflicting opinions but everyone was generally respectful and even good humored in their discourse.
Existing Mining Standards and Monitoring Frameworks: National and International
Assistant Professor Jo Dionisio from the University of the Philippines Diliman Sociology Department, who was one of the panel reactors to the initial discussion results, gave a very good challenge at the end of her session – “Safe statements that highlight convergences are good but acknowledging divergences, even if uncomfortable, is necessary to filter the non-negotiable and to extract compromises from each sector.”
An industry leader shared his insights from his 30 years of experience and gave honest perspectives on their struggles, “We can accept no (as a response to a question if the industry can accept “no to mining” from communities and other stakeholders), but we want a consistent answer – it cannot be yes now and no later, we have to ensure that our investments will generate returns.”
An equally honest and passionate NGO leader shared their struggles and perspectives from the community, “We have been talking about our community issues and concerns for the past 30 years but we do not get reliable answers and assurances.”
Everyone shared their points, everyone listened.
Lisa Sumi; a representative from the US-based Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) - a global non-profit organization with a mission to protect the environment, mine workers and communities directly affected by mining; shared IRMA’s Standard for Responsible Mining. Joan De Venecia-Fabul of Philex Mining Corporation shared COMP’s plan and partnerships with Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) standards from Canada. Rodolfo Velasco and Larry Heradez from MGB presented their Tenement, Safety and Health, Environment and Social (TSHES) monitoring framework and Nieva Natural of Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) shared their mining audit framework.
Their sessions generated a lot of questions and discussions that redounded to specific steps and suggestions on structures and mechanisms on how to improve monitoring and on how bring forward the discussions at the regional levels.
Collaborative Approach: Shared Responsibility, Joint Solutions
The two-day activity resulted in a joint call to action – to have a shared responsibility and therefore shared actions on how to move forward in coming up with more holistic standard on responsible mining. The following are the top action points from the forum and the action planning session: 1) working together to develop responsible mining standard by reviewing current frameworks and guiding laws and policies, 2) identify ways on effective monitoring (e.g. self-monitoring, multi-stakeholder monitoring, third party monitoring), 3) how to prepare and roll out effective transparency and accountability mechanisms using the monitoring results, 4)discuss and collaborate on enabling governance mechanisms, and 5) working together and build on current level of openness and collaborative engagement.
This can effectively happen in a multi-stakeholder platform with effective and meaningful participation of all stakeholders. “All of us are gathered here out of love and concern for our country, for our fellow Filipinos, because we want our nation to develop sustainably. We persist until we achieve our objectives, and we keep working towards convergence and synergy,” said Atty. Karla Espinosa, National Coordinator of PH-EITI.
At the end of the forum, the sentiment that resonated with everyone was, “We all love our country, we are all patriots and we are all committed to move this forward.” Norie Garcia, Bantay Kita’s Interim National Coordinator ended the forum and workshop by thanking everyone for their openness, commitment and attitude to forge collaborative engagement.