ASGM Forum PH 1B

Empowerment through Engagement and Participation

The planetGOLD Philippines Launches ASGM Fora Series

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Sagada community members visit different information booths of various partner government agencies that offer services during the ASGM forum in Sagada, Mountain Province.

In 2021, the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC)–through the planetGOLD Philippines project–conducted a baseline study to assess the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and practices of the small-scale miners in the Minahang Bayan in Sagada, Mountain Province and Paracale, Camarines Norte. One of the components of the study focused on small-scale miners’ access to information and government services given how information on government support programs and services, incentives, subsidies, training programs, and financial assistance increases the opportunities for miners to improve their productivity, upgrade their equipment, and enhance their skills.

The results of the study showed that small-scale miners rely on their fellow miners as a major source of information; word-of-mouth is their primary mode of information transfer; small-scale miners from the Project sites have limited to no access to the Internet; and small-scale miners are aware of government support programs and services. 

To help address these challenges and to maximize the opportunities based on the results of the study, the planetGOLD Philippines project team launched its ASGM fora series with the theme, “Empowerment through Engagement and Participation: A Forum on Government Information and Services for Small-scale Miners.” Aside from the forum, the series included information booths featuring different programs and services from various government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

The series aims to emphasize the importance of access to relevant and accurate information in bridging the gap between miners and the government. It recognizes the crucial role of accessible information about government regulations, best practices, market trends, and financial opportunities to miners who make choices that align with their goals and improve their operations.

Sustaining Responsible Mining Practices in Mountain Province

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Photo opportunity with guests and participants at the ASGM forum in Sagada, Mountain Province.

In partnership with the Provincial Government of Mt. Province, the Municipal Government of Sagada, and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR), the planetGOLD Philippines held the first leg of the ASGM fora series on 19-20 September 2023 at St. Matthew’s Parish Center, Bangaan Road, Sagada, Mt. Province.

Around 270 participants attended the forum representing the ASGM communities (Sagada, Itogon, and Besao miners), residents, government officials, civil society, private sector, and the media:

  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central and Provincial Offices
  • Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Office and CAR
  • Environmental Management Bureau CAR and Mountain Province Provincial Environmental Management Unit
  • Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas North Luzon Regional Office
  • National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
  • Provincial Government of Mountain Province
  • Municipal Government of Sagada
  • Philippine Statistics Authority Mt. Province
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development Mt. Province
  • Department of Labor and Employment Mt. Province
  • Department of Education Mt. Province
  • Department of Trade and Industry Mt. Province
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
  • Social Security System Bontoc
  • PhilHealth Bontoc
  • Securities and Exchange Commission CAR
  • Cooperative Development Authority CAR
  • Department of Agriculture CAR
  • Philippine Information Agency Mt. Province
  • Bureau of Fire Protection Sagada
  • Philippine National Police Sagada
  • Pidlisan Tribe Organization
  • Cebuana Lhuillier
  • Radyo Sagada
  • Radyo Pilipinas Bontoc
  • Northern Dispatch/Rappler
  • Northern Philippine Times
  • Northern Sagada Barangay Small Scale Mining Association, Inc. (NSBSSMAI)
  • Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association
  • Besao miners
  • Brgy. Fidelisan residents
  • Brgy. Aguid residents
  • Brgy. Pide residents
  • Brgy. Bangaan residents
ASGM Forum PH 4B
[LEFT] Municipal Government of Sagada Mayor Felicito Dula welcomes the guests of the ASGM Forum in Sagada with a speech. He is followed by [RIGHT] DENR-FASPS Director Al Orolfo who delivers the keynote address on behalf of DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones.

Sagada Mayor Felicito Dula welcomed the guests with a message emphasizing how indigenous culture, traditions, and beliefs play a vital role in indigenous ASGM communities like Sagada. “I believe that caring for our environment is embedded in our indigenous culture. Our concept of inayan does not only govern our relationship with our fellow people, but also our relationship with the natural world.” Inayan is an indigenous practice by the Igorot people which means to stop, prevent, or restrain a person from doing something bad to others.

Moreover, Mayor Dula shared the importance of maintaining the balance between livelihood and the protection of the environment. “We live our lives, we earn our living, but at the same time protect and restore the environment. Maila taku ay if we do not take care of our natural world, datako gedan nan mangsagrap sin madi ay epekto na. Dataku gedan nan kakaasi nu adi taku aywanan nan batawa.” (We see that if we do not take care of our natural world, we will experience its negative effects.)

He was followed by Al Orolfo, Director of the DENR-Foreign Assisted and Special Project Service (FASPS) who delivered the keynote address of DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones, Chairperson of the planetGOLD Philippines Project Steering Committee.

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[LEFT] The planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate, [CENTER] MGB-CAR Regional Director Fay Apil, and [RIGHT] EMB-CAR Environmental Monitoring Specialist Engr. Garth Raymundo delivers presentations about the Project and the ASGM sector in Mt. Province during the ASGM forum in Sagada.

The three-hour forum featured presentations on the following topics:

  • From Mines to Voices: Building Bridges between Small-scale Miners and the Government by planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate;
  • Roots and Riches: Unveiling the Impact of Small-scale Gold Mining in the Cordilleras by MGB CAR Regional Director Fay Apil; and
  • Gold Beneath the Green: Navigating Responsible Mining and Ecological Harmony by Environment Management Bureau-CAR Environmental Monitoring Specialist Engr. Garth Raymundo.
ASGM Forum PH 5B
[From left to right] Atty. Raul Edan of PENRO, Mr. Romulo Dawilan of Sagada LGU, Engr. Theodore Rommel Pestaño of MGB Central Office, Atty. Noel Neil Malimban of BSP-North Luzon, and Lawrence Timpac fromNational Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) joins the panel discussion “From Extraction to Empowerment” during the Sagada ASGM forum.

The discussions were followed by a panel discussion entitled “From Extraction to Empowerment: Charting a Path to Responsible Mining, Formalization, and Indigenous Inclusion”, moderated by the Provincial Government of Mt. Province Environmental Management Specialist Wilma Chalotag. Participating as panelists are:

  • OIC-Mt. Province Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Atty. Raul Edan;
  • Office of the Mayor Private Secretary Romulo Dawilan;
  • OIC Chief-Mining Technology Division of MGB Central Office Engr. Theodore Rommel Pestaño;
  • Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)-North Luzon Regional Director Atty. Noel Neil Malimban; and 
  • National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Sagada Tribal Affairs Assistant II Lawrence Timpac. 

The panel discussion became an avenue to share the government incentives and support programs available to small-scale miners; responsible small-scale mining practices and their connection to the sector’s formalization and legalization status; the importance of participation of indigenous communities in decision-making processes in small-scale mining; and the importance of engagement and participation of community stakeholders in the development of the ASGM sector in the province. Below are some of the highlights from the session:

  • The MPENRO serves as the Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), which means that they are responsible for ensuring that responsible mining practices are followed in the province. 
  • The Sagada LGU recognizes and is supportive of the ASGM sector in the municipality; they help facilitate activities towards the formalization of the sector. In the future, the Sagada LGU plans to formalize the mining sector in the municipality further.
  • The DENR, through the MGB, is currently creating policies geared towards the formalization and legitimization of small-scale miners and their operations. Currently, they are working to amend Republic Act 7076, the People's Small-Scale Mining Act, as they intend to address current concerns in the sector, including issues on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
  • The BSP is committed to helping small-scale miners; but only if they are formalized and legal. They are currently cooperating with the planetGOLD Philippines to develop a supplier agreement for small-scale miners. This will be a valuable tool for miners who need to borrow money to finance their operations.
  • To ensure that the indigenous communities are consulted and involved in decision-making processes related to mining, projects that may affect indigenous peoples’ (IP) ancestral domains or traditional way of life are required to undergo the FPIC process through the NCIP.
  • One of the main challenges faced by the small-scale miners in Mt. Province is the rigorous process of securing a certification from NCIP since it requires that all affected indigenous peoples be consulted and given the opportunity to give or withhold their consent before any mining activity can take place in their ancestral domain.

The panel discussion was followed by a question and answer session where the participants could raise their concerns or ask questions to the panelists.

To conclude the ASGM forum in Sagada, DENR-FASPS Chief for Project Management Division Eddie Abugan Jr. commended the planetGOLD Philippines Project team for organizing the forum and for making government services and programs more accessible for ASGM communities in his closing remarks. He hopes that the ASGM forum will serve as a model for the future projects in the country. “I myself was amazed because I think this is the first time this kind of activity–bringing the government services that are necessary to improve our lives, our community, and our environment. into our backyard. One of my takeaways is that hopefully this will also be done by other projects in the future.”

Officially closing the program is Mt. Province Sangguniang Panlalawigan Assistant Department Head Andrew Magwilang who delivered the closing message on behalf of Mt. Province Vice Governor Francis Tauli. In his speech, he hopes that the discussions in the forum helped the participants to have an overview on the government processes related to the ASGM sector. “We have listened to the lectures as well as to the fruitful discussions of our partners from the different departments and agencies. I am sure, your doubts and perceptions towards our partners in the government when you came this morning have changed as you now have a bird's eye view of the processes on how to avail or undergo their processes.”

Addressing ASGM Challenges in Paracale, the Town of Gold

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Participants and guests from various national, regional, and local government agencies and ASGM communities take a group photo after the ASGM forum in Paracale, Camarines Norte

The second leg of planetGOLD Philippines ASGM fora series was conducted at the Ginintuang Bulwagan ng Paracale, Camarines Norte on 22-23 November 2023 in partnership with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Provincial Government of Camarines Norte, and the Municipal Government of Paracale.

An estimated 300 participants joined the event representing the ASGM communities (Paracale, Labo, and Jose Panganiban miners), residents, government officials, civil society, private sector, and the media.

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Paracale Vice Mayor Bernadette Asutilla delivers a speech on behalf of Mayor Romeo Moreno during the opening program of the ASGM forum in Paracale.

Delivering the message on behalf of Paracale Mayor Romeo Y. Moreno, Vice Mayor Bernadette “Adet” Asutilla extended their warm greetings and gratitude to all attendees, participating national agencies, and information booths in the ASGM forum in Paracale. In her speech, she underscored the importance of the program, emphasizing its relevance to Paracale's local governance of the ASGM sector. She also expressed her commitment to represent and fulfill the LGU’s obligations. 

She was followed by a keynote address from DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones who delivered his speech through a recorded video. In his message, he urged everyone to embrace the transformative potential of the forum and work together towards a brighter future for the industry. His address served as a rallying cry for collaboration, engagement, and empowerment, reminding us that collective action can unlock a more sustainable and responsible path for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. “Beyond empowerment, this forum offers something equally valuable: a space for dialogue. By creating a platform for meaningful interactions between miners and government representatives, the opportunity is not just about informing miners, it’s about listening to their concerns, and understanding their needs, and shaping policies that are more responsive to the realities from the ground. It’s about forging a partnership beyond bureaucratic boundaries, and truly serving the greater good with the view of making the road to social equity achievable.”

ASGM Forum PH 9B
[LEFT] The planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate, [CENTER] MGB Region V Science Research Specialist Yancey Seve Guinto, and [RIGHT] Camarines Norte Provincial Environment Unit Supervising Environmental Management Specialist Engr. Jasmin Rieza delivers presentations during the ASGM forum in Paracale, Camarines Norte.

The opening messages were followed by presentations on the following topics:

  • From Mines to Voices: Building Bridges between Small-scale Miners and the Government by planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate;
  • Roots and Riches: Unveiling the Impact of Small-scale Gold Mining in the Bicol Region by MGB Region V Science Research Specialist Yancey Seve Guinto; and
  • Gold Beneath the Green: Navigating Responsible Mining and Ecological Harmony by the Supervising Environmental Management Specialist of Camarines Norte Provincial Environment Unit Engr. Jasmin Rieza
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The panelists of the ASGM forum in Paracale, Camarines Norte take turns in answering the questions from the audiences.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion entitled “From Policy to Practice: Imagining a Mercury-Free Future for Camarines Norte''. Dr. Sarah Marie Pante-Aviado, the Provincial Information Officer of the Provincial Government of Camarines Norte, moderated the discussion. Joining as panelists are:

  • Municipal Health Officer of Paracale Rural Health Unit Dr. Virginia Barrameda-Mazo;
  • Municipal Local Government Unit of Paracale Vice Mayor Bernadette Asutilla;
  • Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Officer of the Provincial Government of Camarines Norte (PGENRO) Engr. Leopoldo Badiola;
  • MGB Region V-Mine Management Division Chief Engr. Antonio Marasigan; and
  • Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-Naga Gold Buying Station Head Neptalie Clacio Jr.

After introducing the panelists, Dr. Pante-Aviado then provided context on the panel discussion and mentioned the objectives of the session, which are to share the government incentives and support programs available to small-scale miners, responsible small-scale mining practices and their connection to the sector’s formalization and legalization status, the role of formalization for the development of the ASGM sector of the province, and the importance of engagement and participation of community stakeholders in the development of the ASGM sector in the province. Below are some of the highlights of the panel discussion:

  • The MGB Region V actively supports interested parties in petitioning for and establishing Minahang Bayan areas to legalize small-scale mining operations. 
  • Currently, the efforts of the Paracale LGU are focused on legalizing and formalizing mining operations in the municipality. They emphasized that collaboration among various agencies and miners is essential for success in these initiatives.
  • Formalization remains a challenge in the ASGM sector in the province. PGENRO encourages the present government agencies, organizations, and community members to work together to speed up the clearance approval of the DENR Secretary.
  • Another challenge in the ASGM sector is that some small-scale miners still operate outside the declared Minahang Bayan in Paracale. Vice Mayor Asutilla emphasized the need to protect the safety and health of small-scale miners by providing health insurance and life insurance. 
  • The Minahang Bayan should be run by a cooperative so that all miners own a share of the mine.
  • Mercury use in small-scale mining practices in the municipality is also one of the main challenges encountered in Paracale. Alternative methods such as using cyanide-amino acid in leaching must be considered as well.
  • The BSP strictly does not accept gold containing mercury. The BSP follows a due diligence process where small-scale miners may risk losing their registration if found using mercury, as it violates their contracts. 
  • Paracale Rural Health Unit calls on the municipal council to create an ordinance for a total ban on the use of mercury and its entry.

The forum participants were given a space to ask questions or raise their concerns through a question and answer session after the panel discussion.

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DENR Camarines Norte PENRO closes the ASGM forum in Paracale with a short speech.

The forum capped off with a closing message from DENR Camarines Norte PENRO Nestor Franz Fortuno, who highlighted the forum's significance in addressing the challenges faced by the mining industry and emphasized the government's support in formalizing mining areas, facilitating market access, improving mining practices, and bolstering knowledge management.

The planetGOLD Philippines remains steadfast in its commitment to address key issues linked to the elimination of mercury and its use in the project sites, through its four-pronged approach: formalization; access to finance and markets; better technologies and technique; and communication and knowledge management. The highlights of the discussion in both ASGM fora in Sagada and Paracale will be shared with the key government partners of the Project.


The planetGOLD Philippines Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council.

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