National Coordinator Ordenes on formulating "what we want with EITI in the Philippines".
When the Philippines decided to implement the EITI, President Benigno Aquino III made it clear that the EITI was part of his government’s broader agenda to institutionalize reforms in the mining sector. Even before EITI, he issued Executive Order No. 79 stating that transparency and good governance was needed in the mining industry.
The timing was therefore perfect, and the political landscape ripe for a bold initiative such as the EITI, which was considered by stakeholders in the Philippines as a readily available mechanism that the government can utilize in advancing its reforms process.
As required by the EITI Standard, the Philippine EITI multi-stakeholder group formulated its objectives for EITI implementation which served as the framework for its work plan. The overarching consideration behind this process is the MSG’s vision that the impact of the EITI must be felt and seen in the governance of natural resources. This is evident in the approach taken by the MSG in finalizing its objectives and its work plan.
Formulating what we want with our EITI
To formulate the objectives for EITI implementation, the MSG delved into a discussion per sector on what they consider as major issues in natural resource management in the Philippines. Among the issues that surfaced are the lack of transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, weak governance in terms of policy enforcement, lack of understanding of how the industries operate, and the long-standing conflict among stakeholders.
Given the above concerns, the MSG then examined how they can capitalize on the information and procedures prescribed by the new EITI standard in order to address these issues. For instance, the MSG decided that information on social expenditures – which is encouraged under the standard – should be divulged so that an assessment of its impact on local communities may be fairly evaluated. In addition, transparency in subnational transfers also surfaced as an issue that the MSG wants to examine.
As an output of the above discussions, the MSG articulated its expectations from EITI implementation. The MSG envisions the EITI as a platform for informed discussion and dialogue that will contribute to improved natural resource governance and will foster trust among stakeholders. The EITI process can help achieve this goal through regular MSG meetings and continuing consultations with stakeholders. In addition, the MSG envisions a level playing field among industry players as a result of transparency and accountability among extractive companies. The information that will be disclosed under the new EITI standard which is now broader in scope will help in realizing this objective.
The MSG then determined their common goals and proceeded to finalize the following objectives that dovetail with the agenda embodied in EO 79:
- show direct and indirect contribution of extractives to the economy;
- improve public understanding of the management of natural resources and availability of data;
- strengthen national resource management and strengthen government systems;
- create opportunities for dialogue and constructive engagement in natural resource management in order to build trust and reduce conflict among stakeholders;
- strengthen business environment and increase investments.
Choosing the right actions to get right results
With the foregoing objectives serving as framework, the MSG then developed a work plan to translate these objectives into concrete results.
The approach taken by the MSG in determining the activities was simple: careful attention was given to existing conditions either in the industries or in government systems, and based on existing conditions, a determination of the activities that will be prioritized in the work plan was made. To illustrate, the MSG’s objective of improving public understanding of the management of natural resources may be cited as an example. Before determining the nature and frequency of activities that should be implemented to attain this objective, an examination of existing conditions on the public’s level of awareness about the extractive industries was made.
Among the questions asked during the discussions were how much does the public know about the operations of the mining and oil industries? Is knowledge concentrated only on a few people, or is there enough campaign to educate as many people as possible especially in the localities where these industries operate? Are public consultations regularly made to make sure that local communities understand the impact of such operations? What is the current process followed by government offices before one can get the information he needs? Are these current practices transparent enough?
Recognizing the gaps in existing conditions, the MSG determined a workable approach to address these gaps. Seeing that there is a need to educate the public regarding the extractive industries, the MSG prioritized outreach activities that will inform specific sectors about the industries and about EITI . Among the sectors identified as priorities were local government officials and local communities where the impact of extractive activities are most felt. Therefore, a good number of outreach activities are included in the work plan, with the objective of providing technical assistance to local units on EITI implementation. Considering geographical considerations, however, it was recognized that reaching out to local communities could only be done regularly if more MSG members and secretariat members will be capacitated to cascade information at the local level. Thus, priority was also given to capacity building activities for the MSG and secretariat.
Harnessing the rising expectations
When the individual sectors separately discussed their objectives, the differences in their priorities inevitably surfaced. While the business sector is concerned with publishing exactly what they pay, the CSOs are concerned likewise with how these payments are spent. Government, on the other hand, is keen on eradicating the impression that there is corruption. Extensive dialogues among the sectors revealed, however, that while their priorities may be different, their end goal remains the same, that is, to promote transparency and accountability in the extractive industries. Thus, the MSG recognized that while their motivations may differ, their objectives may be consolidated into broad themes that align with their individual priorities. With this mindset, the finalization of the MSG’s objectives became a smooth process for everyone.
It is safe to say the there is now a growing interest in EITI implementation in the Philippines. People are curious to learn how EITI can address recent issues in the country, such as the proper management of funds coming from the oil and gas sector, and the adoption of the proper fiscal regime for mining.
How EITI can be useful in providing the necessary information to address these issues in the Philippine context remains to be seen. But while the public’s expectations may be steep, hopes continue to run high that with a solid set of objectives, the impact of EITI implementation in the Philippines will be felt and seen by many as envisioned by the MSG.
Marie Gay Alessandra V. Ordenes, National Coordinator of the Philippine EITI