Generally, in the Philippines, mining is perceived as a dirty business, literally and figuratively. This industry is perceived to be inherently destructive for it causes environmental destructions, various human rights violations and encroachment of the ancestral land of indigenous people consequential to the displacement and dislocation of people. However, mining companies are now extremely exerting considerable efforts to prove to the general public that they can operate responsibly and that the idea of responsible mining is a reality that can be practiced.
Several operating mining companies are now adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a business strategy; while some are on the process of incorporating human rights paradigm as their moral compass in business operations, others are on their way of adopting international standards in doing business such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), United Nations Global Compact, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and other relevant international tools and standards to provide them a substantial guidance on what constitutes good or acceptable levels of performance and specific management frameworks to guide them on the ongoing management of environmental and social impacts.
As these significant changes take place in the mining industry, we can see at the same time that an opportunity is also unfolding – opportunity for the host communities to maximize the benefits that can be derived from the mining operations toward achieving sustainable development. How this is happening is something that is worth documenting. Furthermore, this can be highlighted to be framed in the context of Millennium Development Goals.
The realization of the MDGs in the Philippines in year 2015 cannot depend exclusively in the current efforts of the Government. A continued effort in exploring for strategies to expedite these goals is something that must be boldly pursued by policy makers, researchers and academicians even if this means trekking in the unfamiliar realm.
As a student and development practitioner and having gained considerable experience in the mining industry, I strongly believe that this industry can be a strategic partner in the ongoing efforts to realize the MDGs.
Mining companies nowadays are tremendously pouring millions of pesos in the name of community development and environment protection and enhancement program. This changing landscape in the conduct of mining operation is providing windows of opportunities for us to advance the achievement of MDGs in the Philippines.
Most, if not all, mining companies operate in mountainous parts of the Philippines where their Host communities are under the category of DDUs or the Deprived, Depressed and Underdeveloped communities. Under the Republic Act 7942 also known as the Mining Act of 1995, a mining company is mandated to spend at least 1.5 % of its annual operating cost (from the original 1% of the annual direct mining and milling cost) for community development and the development of mining technology and geosciences. This 1.5% is proposed to be divided for community development and for development of mining technology and geosciences.
The SDMP is considered as the vehicle to maximize opportunity for social and economic development and facilitate the equitable distribution of benefits. Ideally, the SDMP should be utilized to provide alternative livelihood opportunities for employees, their dependents, and the neighboring communities during the life-of-the-mine. (http://www.mgb.gov.ph/iec.htm)
Aside from SDMP, R.A. 7942 also mandated mining companies to have their Environmental Protection and Enhancement Plan (EPEP) and Final Mine Rehabilitation and Development Plan (FMRDP) to ensure the health and environmental safety of the community during and after the mining operation. Meanwhile, Indigenous People have the right to receive Royalty from the mining companies operating in their ancestral domain. This Royalty will be used by the IP communities to fund their Ancestral Domain Sustainable and Protection Plan (ADSDPP).
These responsibilities of mining companies provide huge opportunities for individuals, groups and institutions that are pushing for these MDGs in the Philippines.
With the projected booming of the mining industry, it is expected that several mining companies will start their operations in conjunction with the formulation and implementation of their SDMPs in the next three to five years. However, mining companies are utilizing different frameworks and strategies for their SDMPs since the Mining Act of 1995 did not provide a comprehensive framework of development for the formulation and implementation of SDMPs. Furthermore, no studies have been conducted yet to identify whether developments in the host community are being achieved through the SDMP of a mining company. The lack of a comprehensive framework for SDMP makes it difficult to identify and track the effectiveness of this tool/mechanism.
I believe that if SDMP will not be framed within the framework of sustainable development, the financial resources of the company will just be squandered. The main challenge therefore for a mining company, through its SDMP, is to leave behind an economically vibrant and self-sufficient community after its mine life. Thus, a successful SDMP is one that will be able to meet the minimum basic needs of the mining communities; optimize people empowerment to attain self-help, self-reliant and self-managed community; provide opportunities for sustainable livelihood, thus, decreasing dependency on the benefits derived from mining; and protect the socio-cultural values and local customs amidst improved economic conditions and human advancement.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a good framework for the development of SDMP of a mining company. The eight goals, along with its appropriate targets and indicators, can be adopted by the mining company and by the host community as their guide in identification and prioritizing programs during the preparation and development of SDMP. This will ensure that the programs under SDMP can really bring substantial change in the socio-economic condition of the host communities.
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/May/01)