Nueva Vizcaya – A Federation of Nueva Vizcaya Civil Society Organizations (Fed NV CSOs), led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and supported by Bantay Kita (BK) and British Embassy-Manila, is pushing for the “Nueva Vizcaya Environment Code” or “The Code” to institutionalize transparency and accountability mechanisms in the province.
Last March 3, 2015, the group gathered in a conference in the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) compound. The conference was a venue for the discussion of salient features of the Code related to transparency and accountability in the extractive industries.
The Code shall be the basis for “genuine and meaningful local autonomy, protection of the environment, sustainable utilization of natural resources, promotion of healthful ecology and development and enhancement of research and management of natural resources.”
The provincial government shall be responsible in the study and approval of mining project feasibility as well as the multi-sectoral monitoring of large scale exploration, construction, development and production of mineral resources.
The Code also prohibits open pit mining operations in the province of Nueva Vizcaya.
According to The Code, mineral operations shall be governed with the assurance that it will contribute to the economic growth and welfare of the constituents of the province. Mining operations shall be socially acceptable and geared towards sustainable environmental development. Small-scale mining shall be governed by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) as mandated by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and shall be headed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Regional Director.
Moreover, monitoring mechanisms were piloted in the area. The monitoring tool was developed by Bantay Kita and implemented by the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU). It tracks the activities of the mining industry and the government while educating stakeholders about the concept of transparency and accountability in the industry by providing information on what important documents should be made available to the public. These documents disclose taxes, fees, royalties, and other payments made by the extractive companies.
In Nueva Vizcaya, mining companies subject for monitoring are Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) and FCF Minerals, specifically the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project.
Aside from The Code, the group of Nueva Vizcaya CSOs also supports the advocacy of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Mr. Ronald Allan Barnacha, PRRM-NV Chairman and Vice President of the BK Board of Trustees cited his recommendations in order to minimize, if not solve, the discrepancies in the reports between extractive companies and government agencies.
“The first PH-EITI Country Report is a welcome development in our advocacy however there are some areas that need improvement at the local level. There should be close coordination between central and satellite offices of government agencies to facilitate database management. We should also aim for the improvement of monitoring procedures for revenues coming from the extractive operations within the area. These revenues include Indigenous Peoples (IP) royalties and environmental funds. Local Governments should work from the ground up in order to support our advocacy at the national level,” Barnacha said.