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.