BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE – Institutionalization of partnerships between the civil society, government, and the community is fundamental to achieving a safer, cleaner, and more profitable artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector. Aside from strengthening collective responsibility and accountability in the mining sector while addressing the complex challenges associated with ASGM, it is through institutionalized partnerships that a balanced approach is created.
On 11 July 2023, a ceremonial MOA signing among the Mt. Province PMRB, the NSBSSMAI, and the AGC Philippines was conducted in Bontoc, Mountain Province. During the event, the MGB-CAR also awarded the updated small-scale mining contract (SSMC) to the NSBSSMAI, emphasizing a commitment to supporting and regulating responsible mining activities in the area. This momentous occasion reflects a collective dedication to promoting environmentally conscious and socially responsible mining practices in the province.
Present during the ceremony were representatives from:
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources Mt. Province Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO);
- Mt. Province Environment and Natural Resources Office (MPENRO)
- Provincial Government of Mt. Province;
- Municipal Government of Sagada;
- Mt. Province PMRB;
- Barangay Fidelisan Local Government Unit (LGU);
- AGC Philippines; and
Mt. Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. opens the program with the expression of his hope that the members of the NSBSSMAI will continue the efforts done through the planetGOLD Philippines Project. “Today is indeed a special day for all of us, especially for our kakailyan (fellow people) from Northern Sagada. It has been years since the project started. Indeed, we have been waiting for this occasion. We would like to thank the planetGOLD Philippines Project for their continuous support of the association. I hope that our small-scale miners will help maintain and sustain the Project [initiatives].”
To provide an overview of the MOA, planetGOLD Philippines National Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Mildred Arucan enumerated the partnership’s main objectives, which include further strengthening and institutionalizing the Project's efforts in facilitating an enabling environment for the development of the ASGM sector in Sagada, Mt. Province as one of the project sites of the Project.
Moreover, Arucan emphasized how the event signifies a crucial step towards empowering small-scale miners and upholding responsible mining practices. “Together, we embark on a journey that holds immense promise for the future of small-scale mining in the province. Again, we are honoured to stand alongside the NSBSSMAI and PMRB, and we look forward to forging a path of progress, innovation, and sustainable development for the ASGM sector.”
The ceremonial signing was led by the planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate, MGB-CAR RD Fay Apil, and NSBSSMAI President Mathew Malicdan. Adding to the significance of the event, MGB-CAR–as the Chair of the PMRB– headed the signing and awarding of the SSMC to the NSBSSMAI.
During her speech, Ocate highlighted how sustaining partnerships in ASGM is a step towards positive change in the sector. “We know that the journey towards changing the public perception of small-scale mining as a livelihood is still far ahead. But, with us working hand-in-hand, we can effect positive change in the ASGM sector and make a world of difference in small-scale gold mining.”
Meanwhile, RD Apil shared how proud they are of the partner mining association of the planetGOLD Philippines Project in Sagada–the NSBSSMAI–for being one of the few ASGM associations in the region with a legitimate contract to perform small-scale mining operations. “Through the help of the provincial and local governments who have explained how to legalize ASGM operations through Minahang Bayan (People’s Small-Scale Mining Area) declaration, the NSBSSMAI realized and decided to apply for a small-scale mining contract. “Simula noon ay nagtuloy-tuloy na and they became the only association operating within a Minahang Bayan in Mountain Province. In all the declared Minahang Bayan, kayo ang second sa pagkuha ng SSMC kasi nagtulong tulong kayo.” (It continued since then, and they became the only association operating within a ‘People’s Small-Scale Mining Area’ in Mountain Province. In all the declared People’s Small-Scale Mining Area, you were the second to get their SSMC because you have helped one another).
RD Apil also reminded the association members to refrain from putting the efforts of those who helped obtain their SSMC to waste. “Huwag nating sayangin yung pinaghirapan nila. Sana agmay maysa kayo—ada ti problema but bear in mind what is best of the association.” (Let’s not waste what they have worked for. Hopefully, you will be united–there are problems, but bear in mind what is best for the association.)
Representing NSBSSMAI, President Mathew Malicdan expressed how grateful they are for being one of the chosen small-scale mining associations of the planetGOLD Philippines Project. “As the current president of the NSBSSMAI Inc., I cannot take credit for the success of this event but for my fellow miners, primarily through Mr. Alfredo Somebang, who persevered for us to be granted a declared Minahang Bayan.
Moreover, he believes that the partnership has become beneficial to their community because of the training and support provided by the Project. “As to our project partner, from the Artisanal Gold Council implementing this planetGOLD Philippines, thank you is not enough for all the support you have been giving us, from training, formalization of our operations, and now with the ongoing construction of our centralized processing facility. We cannot compare our luck to other small-scale miners around the country who have to do it on their own. On behalf of the NSBSSMAI Inc., let me say thank you.”
He ended his speech by expressing their association’s commitment to protecting the environment and their community. “What we can give in return would be our commitment. Commitment to have responsible ASGM–protecting our environment as well as protecting our community. Commitment to follow the rules and regulations of our LGU, from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other partner agencies.”
Witnessing the historic signing event were Barangay Fidelisan Capt. Peter Patong, MPENRO Atty. Raul Edan, PMRB small-scale mining Rep. Herman Soliaban, and Mt. Province Provincial Gov. Lacwasan. Members of the NSBSSMAI and the media were also present.
After the signing ceremony, MGB-CAR RD Fay Apil introduced and led the “Collective Pledge for People and Planet”, a commitment and support statement for the protection of the health and environment of the ASGM community. By taking part in the collective pledge, representatives joined the campaign to make an environmentally and economically sustainable ASGM industry in the Philippines.
Attendees sign the planetGOLD Philippines' Collective Pledge for People and Planet
The ceremony ended with a closing message from Brgy. Fidelisan Captain Peter Patong reminded the association of the importance of unity to achieve progress. “Nan dawdawaten, ituloy tako. Ta no maiwed nan urnos, maiwed nan progreso. Ket nu mail-ila da nan urnos tako, ket maila nan teken ay agencies nga tumultulong ket baka pay umali da. Ituloy tako, resputuen tako nan insapata tako tapno matungpal ken menbayag. (What we are asking, we should continue this. If there is no unity, there is no progress. If they see our oneness, other agencies might come to assist us as well. Let us continue this, we should respect what we have committed for its fulfillment and sustainability.)”
He was followed by MPENRO Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Atty. Raul Edan emphasized in his closing remarks that the SSMC comes with a great responsibility for the community. “We hope that you see the main reason why we granted the SSSMC to your association, which is for the benefit of your community. That’s why, dakayo mangisakit (You are to take care of it.) Be responsible with your ASGM practices. Remember that we are doing it as a source of livelihood and to support our families.”
A question and answer session with the media and guests took place after the event.
The planetGOLD Philippines project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme, and 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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