THE Philippines has withdrawn from a global initiative on extractives transparency as it cried foul over the body’s “unfair” metrics and procedures for assessing the countries’ compliance with its requirements.
The Department of Finance on Wednesday said Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has already formally expressed the country’s decision to pull out from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which prescribes a standard for transparency and accountability in the mining, oil and gas industries.
Extractive companies in countries implementing EITI are engaged to publicly disclose data on taxes, royalties and other payments they make to the government and their host-communities.
In his June 20 letter to EITI Chairman and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, Dominguez called EITI’s Validation—a quality assurance assessment process—“subjective, biased and unfair.”
“We find that the manner by which the EITI Board undertakes its Validation is unduly subjective, biased and unfair. The Philippines has no confidence in the ability of the EITI to undertake an impartial, transparent, and evidence-based Validation process,” Dominguez said.
The Department of Finance (DOF) chairs the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI), a multistakeholder body that governs EITI implementation in the Philippines.
Dominguez also said in his letter that the Philippines was treated unfairly by the EITI Board with its use of “irrelevant metrics” and reliance on “unvalidated reports in assessing the status of civic space in the extractives sector.”
The DOF said it has repeatedly asked EITI for details on the alleged issues on civic space to enable the government to address these, but their efforts proved futile.
Moreover, Dominguez called out EITI for its “lack of due process and for imposing actions on the Philippines that violate the country’s sovereignty.”
“We refuse to be taken hostage by unverified allegations from foreigners and people who have no mandate from the electorate,” Dominguez said.
Despite the country’s withdrawal from the EITI, Dominguez stressed that the Philippines has the process, systems, and manpower to ensure transparency in the extractives sector.
The EITI Board announced in February this year that the Philippines achieved a “moderate overall score” in its 2019 EITI implementation and urged the government to improve the environment for civil society participation.
While it recognized the country’s efforts in EITI implementation, the EITI Board concluded that the country only “partly met” the objective of full effective and active engagement by civil society, given “government constraints on freedom of expression, operation and association in the EITI process.”
The EITI Board also said that its validation identified “alleged instances of intimidation of civil society activists and journalists,” saying such may be linked to the interventions or stated positions of these individuals on extractive operations or on issues concerning extractive investments.
The EITI Board also identified the “apparent use of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act to justify attempts at police intervention, judicial action or intimidation which may have limited civil society freedoms.”
“These breaches of freedom of expression, operation, and association, in some regions of the country, have had an impact on civil society’s ability to work on EITI-related topics and undertake EITI-related activities,” it said.
The Philippines joined the EITI in 2013. The EITI said the country is a leading producer of nickel, a significant producer of gold and copper, and exports iron ore, chromium, zinc, and silver.
It also produces some oil and gas. Based on the latest EITI disclosure for 2019, the Philippines’s mining sector also contributes 0.6 percent to the country’s GDP and approximately 7 percent to total exports.
EITI implementing-countries undergo validation every three years.
MICC gears up
THE Philippines’s withdrawal from the EITI came as the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) cochaired by the DOF with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gears up to allow more mining projects with the lifting of the open-pit mining ban, and the reversal of other policies of the late and former DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez.
Such policy pronouncement has triggered howls of protest, particularly from anti-mining and environmental groups.
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, warned that a revival of the mining industry would lead to further displacement of communities, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, land-use changes, and food insecurity.