Villanueva pitches ‘FOI for mining’ bill as PH meets global standards on extractive industries transparency

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Sen. Joel Villanueva presides at a Senate hearing. FILE PHOTO FROM SENATE PRIB

MANILA – The Philippines has met all the requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an internationally recognized framework and practice that monitors revenue and public benefit from mining and other extractive resources.

The development was hailed by Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday, as he reiterated his call to institutionalize the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or PH-EITI, which acts as an oversight body of the extractive sector.

Through his measure, Senate Bill No. 1125 or An Act Providing for the Creation of Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the PH-EITI is mandated to disclose all data of material, national and local payments, and revenues sourced from the extractive activities covered by the scope of the PH-EITI; make available to the public all concessions, contracts/licenses, agreements and joint ventures of the government; and to publicly release all data, information, reports on the extractive industries that allows the public to freely use, re-use and redistribute them, for any purpose, without restrictions.

The Villanueva bill does not only cover mining but also other sectors in the extractive industry such as oil, gas, coal and all other sectors that require the extraction of non-renewable natural resources for commercial use.

Validation report

According to the ‘Validation’ report which is the EITI’s independent evaluation mechanism, the Philippines has gone beyond the minimum requirements set by the EITI standard. These areas include disclosing information on the legal and fiscal framework, disclosing contracts, revenue management, revenue expenditure and social expenditures.

According to the report, the engagement of the PH-EITI in formulating recommendations for reform and driving these proposals in the sector, including the distribution of mining revenue from central to local levels and revenue management within local governments, “has ensured the EITI has had tangible impact, particularly in terms of reform of government systems.”

The EITI Board considered that the Philippines has achieved the broader objective of revenue transparency despite challenges in covering the coal sector. The report, however, emphasized the need that the coal sector participated in the EITI.

“All stakeholders in the multi-stakeholder group value transparency in the manner by which the development and management of the extractive sector must move forward. What has been validated for the Philippines is the perseverance of all stakeholders to do what is right and what is best not only for the extractive industries but more importantly for the country and our people.” Teresa Habitan, Assistant Secretary of Finance and Chair of PH-EITI, said.

Cielo Magno, Secretary of the Board of Bantay Kita, a civil society network, said: “The results of the Philippine validation reflect the hard work and commitment of the different stakeholders to improve governance in the extractive sector. It affirms that having a political space to work together as co-equal facilitates convergence of interests. PH-EITI is a success because we aimed to be relevant. There are still tons of work to be done so I hope we will continue to be effective, open, critical and radical.”

In Villanueva’s proposed arrangement as embodied in his bill, meanwhile, the PH-EITI shall be composed of a broad coalition of stakeholders, including representatives from the government, the private sector, the indigenous community, and non-governmental organizations. It will be headed by a Chairman appointed by the President.

“We laud this achievement and we see the importance of transparency in policy making particularly in extractives. It is important that the EITI also covers other sector like the small-scale mining and non-metallic sector like quarry which is being done in most areas. To ensure smooth and effective implementation, I propose that it be institutionalized to mainstream transparency and participatory governance in the extractive sector,” Villanueva said.