Photo credit: Diwata.org
As Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc. (“Diwata”) marks its tenth-year anniversary on July 18 this year (incidentally, also Nelson Mandela Day), it takes pride announcing the launch of an award to recognize the best Social Development & Management Program that specifically benefits indigenous peoples, specifically women and girls.
When Diwata was founded ten years ago, it sought, among others, to serve as a positive platform for dialogue on contentious issues on mining and natural resources and to promote understanding by bringing together and promoting meaningful connections among stakeholders. It also sought to protect and safeguard the rights of indigenous people, women and communities. Its flagship project, Tanging Tanglaw: Turning Grandmothers into Solar Engineers [more popularly known as the “Solar Lolas” Project in cooperation with our partners, the Land Rover Club of the Philippines and the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA)] has enabled the training of Aeta Women from 2 communities in Bamban, Tarlac and Gala, Zambales at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, India to assemble, repair and maintain solar panels.
The Solar Lolas have since returned to their communities where these panels have been installed and are now working. The second phase of the project was a financial literacy program, which Diwata ran in collaboration with FWD Insurance, to reinforce the idea that the principle behind the project is that the community will put the money they used to spend on kerosene and other sources of energy into a fund which will now be spent on the solar panels and other community-administered livelihood projects. FWD Insurance will remain Diwata’s partner for the third phase of the program, a longer-term livelihood program with the locators at the Clark Development Freeport Zone. Diwata has an MOU with Clark Development Corporation and the Bases Conversion & Development Authority for the use of two classrooms at the Clark Skills and Training Center, Clark Green City, which are charged to these agencies’ respective Gender & Development Funds.
The Solar Lolas Project was originally conceived and pitched to mining companies a possible model for community development, which we hoped was something that could be successfully replicated in different areas of the Philippines. However, despite the generally positive response to the project, some mining companies were lukewarm to the idea. Among the disappointing responses were: “it does not tick the boxes to comply with the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) under the Mining Act”; “the current project is beyond our project area – it will require us to go beyond what the law requires”; and “the communities have gotten used to company dole outs”.
Under the law and its implementing rules, the SDMP refers to the comprehensive five-year plan of the companies to conduct their actual mining and milling operations towards the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities. Specifically, it covers:
- Promotion of general welfare of those living in host and neighboring barangay communities
- Advancement of mining technology and geosciences
- Institutionalizing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programs for greater public awareness and understanding of responsible mining and geosciences
Companies are required to allocate an annual budget of one and half percent (1.5%) of their annual operating costs for their respective SDMPs, allocated as follows:
The companies are also required to prepare their SDMPs in consultation and in partnership with the host and neighboring communities to ensure that the programs are responsive to the communities’ needs, demands, and concerns. The program should also be reviewed every five to accommodate the changing needs of the recipient communities.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) periodically allows realignments of the SDMP.
In the past, mining companies were allowed to realign the unutilized/unspent SDMP funds to assist typhoon victims within the host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities.
In 2020, pursuant to MGB Memorandum dated 27 March 2020 mining companies were again allowed to realign unutilized SDMP funds to assist the host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities, during the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19. In this regard, many mining companies could be considered “frontliners” in responding to the needs of host and neighboring communities, as well as the non-impact barangays in their respective localities during the pandemic as could be shown in the final report issued by the MGB Central Office on the utilization of the total of PhP 407.6M budgeted by the companies, with PhP 380.1M expended.
The companies’ community relations offices regularly submit reports to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau detailing their compliance with the SDMP. Considering, the significant resources that are required to be allocated to the SDMP, and the real opportunity for companies to create self-reliant communities through the programs they implement, it is important for them to choose programs which are truly transformative and which have a lasting impact on the lives of the members of the community.
Since the primary objective of SDMP is to help create sustainable communities, Diwata would like to support this effort by launching our award to recognize and encourage companies that not only comply with the requirements of the law, but also go above and beyond by offering fresh and innovative approaches, particularly in promoting the rights and welfare of IP women.
As this column is being written, Diwata is finalizing the criteria for the award to be announced on the date on our tenth anniversary on July 18, with the award to be given at the PMSEA’s Annual National Mine Safety & Environment Conference in Baguio in November 2022. Watch out for the details!