Bantay Kita (BK), in cooperation with Negros Organic Agricultural Movement and PROCESS Inc., conducted a one-day forum on the status of the natural resource extraction in the Panay and Negros Islands last June 24 in Iloilo City.
Over 20 representatives from the quarrying industry, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the academe attended the forum.
Jim Sampulna, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 6 Regional Director, discussed the current status of the extractive industry in terms of its ongoing operations in the Western Visayas region.
BK’s sub-national program officer, Loi Manalansan, also gave updates on the organization’s work at the subnational level as well as its advocacy on transparency and accountability. This was followed by an introduction to the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) workplan by Tess Tabada, a BK Board Member and CSO representative to the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG).
On the other hand, representatives from the different provinces provided their own updates on the ongoing operations in the extractive sector in their respective areas. The discussion was highlighted by the updates from the participants who came from Semirara Island.
Semirara Island houses the biggest coal mining operations in the Philippines operated by DMCI. It accounts for 94 percent of our coal production. The coal mining operation in the island started in 1984. The communities expressed concern as they have yet to see the benefits of coal mining in the area.
Based on the grievances expressed by the people of Semirara, the body agreed to help and support the campaign and struggle of the locals living on the island. Stakeholders in Iloilo were also interested in implementing subnational transparency and accountability mechanisms. The group requested BK for assistance on capacity-building.
Another activity will be held on September to lay down initial plans on the possible formation of a multi-stakeholder group in the Panay and Negros Islands.