Bantay Kita applauds the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI). Through PH-EITI efforts, access to pertinent information on mining, oil, and gas contracts, taxes paid, income declared, and royalty payments due to indigenous peoples has considerably improved. Disclosure has given way to objectively identify challenges and advances in extractive governance, informed public debate, and influenced advocacy for the prudent management of natural resource wealth. Transparency afforded by EITI has gradually empowered stakeholders to demand for accountability, and question the contribution of minerals to sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
However, we underscore our disappointment that PH-EITI has fallen short of the EITI standards and those it has set for itself. Despite having members from regulatory agencies, PH-EITI has yet to engage the participation of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC), the only material coal company. Bantay Kita considers the non-involvement of SMPC a severe blow to PH-EITI efforts. Due to government’s poor data management, full access to the annexes of mining contracts that contain technical details of auxiliary rights of mining companies, to monitoring reports of Multipartite Monitoring Teams, and to other social and environmental compliance monitoring reports, among others, have yet to be complied with. A substantial number of Local Governments, as well as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao have yet to report. The absence of reports from government entities reflects poorly on sincerity of the administration in the advancement of transparency. In terms of participation in the PH-EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG), Bantay Kita emphasizes the need for high level and consistent representation of government agencies, particularly from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Energy, respectively. It is observed that civil society participation in the MSG is limited by the slow and tedious reimbursement process of advances they made to attend PH-EITI meetings and activities. To date, some expenses incurred from 2015 onwards have yet to be paid. This has caused insecurity in the participation of CSO representatives in EITI activities.
We fervently encourage concerned government agencies to keep their commitment to transparency and accountability, exercise their regulatory powers over the extractive companies, and implement proper records keeping, data management, and timely information disclosure. Bantay Kita believes that these elements are essential in the provision of a comprehensive picture the country’s natural resource governance.
We are hopeful that the PH-EITI can further advance financial transparency in resource extraction.
The conduct of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources recent mining audit has recommended the closure of 23 mining operations. While pro-mining advocates insist significant economic losses are to be incurred, Bantay Kita weighs in by showing evidence that this is otherwise under certain parameters.
Mining companies, like any other business operating in the Philippines, pay taxes, employ workers, and generate value for the economy. According to data sourced from the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) Report 2016 for fiscal year 2014, economic contribution of mines recommended for closure are relatively insignificant especially when environmental damage and negative social effects caused by these erring companies are considered.
The full economic and social impact, however, is hard to measure and validate given the lack of transparency especially among closed mines. Currently, the PH-EITI is voluntary.
Bantay Kita welcomes Senator Joel Villanueva’s championing the welfare of our labor force alongside the institutionalization of EITI in the Philippines. We strongly support these initiatives.