In the Philippines, there are around 500,000 miners employed in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector. Despite this large number, these miners operate in an informal environment, making them more vulnerable to occupational, health, and other hazards. Although laws and policies regulating the sector are in place, the operationalization and implementation of these are considered weak and fragmented at the national and local levels.
Based on activities and studies conducted by the planetGOLD Philippines project, a major challenge in the formalization process is that government agencies continue to work in silos. The lack of clear guidelines and harmonized systems in legalization makes it challenging for miners to acquire permits and other legal documents. Additionally, the complexity of the requirements and the application processes force miners to contract out experts such as lawyers and/or engineers to reduce the burden of compliance. This makes formalization inaccessible and heavily dependent on the technical and financial capacity of the miners.
To provide support in addressing these challenges; planetGOLD Philippines convened relevant government agencies for a convergence workshop entitled, “Making Mercury History in the Philippine Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector: Stories from the planetGOLD Philippines Project” on 23 to 25 November 2022 in Quezon City, Manila. This activity is the first in a series of workshops which aim to provide an avenue for agencies to discuss issues surrounding the ASGM sector, and to collaborate on solutions and policy recommendations. Around 40 representatives from selected national and regional government agencies attended the workshop, including:
- Environmental Management Bureau (EMB);
- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP);
- National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP);
- Department of Health (DOH);
- East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC);
- Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE);
- National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA);
- Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); and,
- Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones welcomed participants by emphasizing the importance of continuous collaboration from different agencies to conserve, manage, protect, and develop the country’s environment and natural resources.
I ask you to join us in this journey to ensure we meet the needs of our small-scale miners. Streamlining policies, institutionalizing change, [and] revolutionizing processes is not an overnight journey. It is a development process, one that involves questioning principles [and] challenging norms. So, I would like to encourage everyone to take advantage of this platform, a safe space for collaboration. DENR Undersecretary Atty. Jonas Leones
MGB Assistant Director in concurrent capacity Engr. Juancho Pablo Calvez further emphasized the importance to “work across the silos despite the differences in the mandates of our offices. We [government agencies] need to maximize our potential and expertise and ensure the capabilities of the different agencies and bureaus are actually in synergy. Be the champions in steering the sector toward responsible mining.”
The first day featured a series of presentations from the following experts:
- planetGOLD Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate;
- MGB Engr. Jan Jeremiah Villaroman;
- EMB Chief of the Hazardous Waste Management Section Geri-Geronimo Sañez;
- planetGOLD Philippines National Investment Specialist Kristal Jaylo-Bautista;
- EAMC Head for Toxicology, Referral, and Training Center Dr. John Paul Ner;
- DOH Information Officer Karla Angelica Ramos;
- Independent Gender Consultant Jacklyn Belo Enricoso; and
- Atty. Donatello Justiniani, Senior Legal Human Rights Consultant from The Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS).
To view each of their presentation topics, click here
Snapshots from the event
Meanwhile, the second and third day featured workshops on Stakeholder Mapping, Stocktaking, and Action Planning. The participants were formed into four groups to discuss four thematic areas: 1) formalization; 2) access to markets and finance and gender; 3) technology and health; and 4) communications and capacity development. Each group was asked to present their outputs from the breakout sessions which were then followed by an open discussion facilitated and processed by Atty. Mario Maderazo of IDEALS.
The workshop highlighted the following urgent challenges and recommendations for the ASGM sector:
- Laws and policies to protect small-scale miners are already in place, but there are challenges in implementation since various agencies with different mandates are involved. Issues on environmental protection, occupational safety and health, labor standards, monitoring and regulation of the ASGM sector, research and technology, capacity development, gold trading and financing–these may be addressed by government agencies both at the local and national levels. However, policies and processes must be harmonized and streamlined to ensure alignment and careful consideration of realities in the ASGM communities. The development of policies for inter-agency collaboration has been identified as the initial step to breaking the silos.
- Lack of up-to-date and accurate data on the ASGM sector amplifies the implementation challenges in overseeing the sector. How does one develop a policy intended to protect a sector which is not adequately documented, categorized, and recognized? Lack of data on the sector further marginalizes the ASGM community, which is most often located in far-flung areas–areas that rarely receive attention from the government. Evidence-based policy-making will pave the way for improved regulations to ensure that their needs are addressed.
- There are several provisions in the Philippine Small-scale Mining Law of 1991 that are outdated. The DENR needs to revisit the law and push for its amendment. A more directed effort is needed in lobbying the proposed amendment with champion policy-makers. This is also in line with the current administration’s directive to strengthen the regulation of the sector.
- With the preparation of devolution plans for the Mandanas-Garcia ruling, there is an urgent need to harmonize the specific ASGM functions and services which will be devolved from the national to the local government units. Collaborative meetings with the DENR, MGB, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) should be facilitated to provide space for discussion on regulatory functions and capacity-building.
- While all government offices are required to allot 5% of their institutional budget for gender and development programs, this is not being successfully implemented. There are no existing programs specifically designed for women in the ASGM sector. Inclusion of social safeguards for women in ASGM policies should be considered.
It is our duty in the government to promote, develop, protect, and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth and natural resources, giving due regard to existing rights provided by law. DENR Assistant Secretary Engr. Nonita Caguioa
Assistant Secretary Caguioa also noted Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recent directive to strengthen their regulatory power on small-scale mining to ensure that standards are updated and that mining firms are strictly implementing their respective safety and health programs for miners. She then closed her message highlighting that they have to take advantage of the momentum and push forward with developing the sector further.
The planetGOLD Philippines project remains steadfast in delivering its commitment to facilitate the access of small-scale miners to government incentives and support services to professionalize the industry. In order to achieve this, planetGOLD Philippines will continue to provide spaces for dialogue and avenues for collaboration among government agencies, non-government organizations, the private sector, the academe, the media, and the miners themselves; re-echoing the assessment of the IDEALS–it takes a community to mine and sell gold with dignity.
The planetGOLD Philippines project is implemented by UN Environment Programme and UN Industrial Development Organization, in partnership with the DENR and MGB, and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC).
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