PARACALE, CAMARINES NORTE – A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) and the Samahan ng mga Minero sa Barangay Casalugan (SMBC) to strengthen the partnership and ensure the sustainability of the interventions of the planetGOLD Philippines Project, including the establishment of a Mercury-Free Processing System (MFPS) in the Minahang Bayan located at Sitio Maning, Brgy. Casalugan, Paracale, Camarines Norte.
Paracale Vice Mayor Bernadette Asutilla opened the event and shared that the local government of Paracale looks forward to the construction of the MFPS in Barangay Casalugan. “Kami ay nagpapasalamat sa planetGOLD Philippines sa pagpili sa Paracale upang maging pilot municipality kung saan itatayo ang MFPS. Napakalaking tulong nito lalo na sa small-scale mining community dito sa aming probinsya para maisakatuparan at ma-implement ang best practices pagdating sa pagkakabod. [We thank planetGOLD Philippines for choosing Paracale as the pilot municipality where the MFPS will be built. This will be a big help especially to our small-scale mining community for the implementation of best practices when it comes to small-scale mining.]”
She was followed by Camarines Norte Provincial Information Officer (PIO) Sarah Marie Pante-Aviado who gave an opening message on behalf of the Provincial Government of Camarines Norte. Vice Mayor Asutilla and PIO Aviado have been the Champions of the planetGOLD Philippines project since its implementation in Paracale in 2019.
The ceremonial signing was led by planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate and SMBC Vice President Shirley Suzara at the Golden Pabirik Restaurant, Paracale, Camarines Norte
During her speech, Ocate emphasized how planetGOLD Philippines will ensure the sustainability of the project through the MOA. “This MOA represents the commitment of AGC Philippines and the SMBC to work together in ensuring compliance with government policies on environmentally and socially responsible mining operations, supporting the transition of Paracale miners in producing mercury-free gold through better technologies and capacity development activities, promoting gender-equitable practices, and sharing stories and lessons to other small-scale mining areas in the country.” Ocate further explained that the project also aims to help the ASGM sector by advocating for the reduction of the use of mercury in gold production in the province by raising awareness on the dangers of mercury and other hazards in ASGM.
SMBC President Demver Suzara–through Vice President Shirley Suzara–shared how grateful their community is for the project which has continuously helped SMBC since its beginning. She also highlighted how they wholeheartedly accept the terms in the MOA for the betterment of their community. “Kung ano man po ang nakapaloob sa loob ng MOA ay buong puso po naming sinusuportahan, alang-alang sa ikatatagumpay ng Proyekto. Para na rin po ito sa kaayusan ng lahat at sa kapakinabangan ng mga minero sa aming barangay. [We (SMBC) wholeheartedly support the terms included in the MOA for the success of the project. This is for the improvement of our community and for the benefit of the miners from our barangay.]”
Although the project partnered with the SMBC, which has an estimated 241 members, its activities are expected to benefit all the miners in the area through the following:
- conduct of technical and non-technical assessments on SMBC’s current SSM operations;
- facilitation of formalization efforts across mining activities by establishing linkages with the relevant government agencies;
- implementation of a financial mechanism that may provide opportunities for SMBC to sustain and improve operations continuously;
- guidance to SMBC in complying with the CRAFT Code planetGOLD Version;
- installation of MFPS in the allowed identified area;
- conduct of capacity-building activities based on miners’ needs and interests, including promoting gender inclusivity;
- carry out knowledge management activities to ensure sustainability of best practices; and
- spearhead monitoring and evaluation-related activities in the project site.
After the MOA signing ceremony, Paracale MENRO Rolan Rebonza introduced and led the “Collective Pledge for People and Planet”, a commitment and support statement for the protection of health and environment of the ASGM community. By taking part in the collective pledge, representatives from different local and national government agencies and civil society organizations joined the campaign in making an environmentally- and economically-sustainable small-scale mining industry in the Philippines.
We commit to be Champions of a socially responsible Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector in working towards the recognition of its value in our community through the continuous support and advocacy of its legalization and formalization in the Philippines.
Expressing their commitment were:
- Vice Mayor Bernadette Asutilla from Paracale Local Government;
- Dr. Sarah Marie Aviado from Provincial Government of Camarines Norte;
- Engr. Leopoldo Badiola from Provincial Government-Environment and Natural Resources Office;
- Nestor Franz Fortuno from Camarines Norte PENRO;
- Yancey Seve Guinto from Mines and Geosciences Bureau - Region V;
- Rolan Rebonza from Paracale MENRO;
- Dr. Virginia Barrameda-Mazo from Paracale MHO;
- Chairperson Emman Sayno from Barangay Casalugan;
- Abigail Ocate from planetGOLD Philippines and AGC; and,
- Shirley Suzara from SMBC
The ceremony ended with closing remarks from PG-ENRO Engr. Leopoldo Badiola, who hopes for the sustainability of the project through the MFPS. He also hopes that other small-scale mining communities, inspired by the pilot municipality of an MFPS, will visit Paracale to learn more about the infrastructure. “Sana po makita natin na mag-operate ang MFPS. Para bago man lang matapos ang planetGOLD project sa ating lugar, nakita at nasubukan natin ang sistemang mercury-free. Maipagmamalaki natin ito; tayo naman ang dadayuhin ng ibang municipalities. Kung tayo po ay pumunta noon sa T’boli para malaman ang kanilang success stories, tayo naman ngayon ang dadayuhin ng iba pang mga minero dahil isa na tayong model ng mercury-free small-scale mining. [I hope that we will see the MFPS in full operation so that before the planetGOLD project ends in our province, we have already seen and tested this mercury-free system. This is something we can be proud of and other municipalities will visit us. Before, we went to T’boli to know more about their success stories; now, miners from other municipalities will visit us because we are a model of mercury-free small-scale mining.]”
The MOA signing ceremony was well attended by around 40 representatives from invited local and provincial government offices, community organizations, and media representatives from GMA Regional TV and UNTV.
The planetGOLD Philippines project is implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme, 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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