Ten Years of Diwata and More

By: Patricia A. O. Bunye June 29, 2023

Photo: Mining Mission in Perth, Western Australia

This issue marks a special occasion in the history of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc. (Diwata), celebrating a decade of achievements from Diwata’s founding on Nelson Mandela Day.  While 2013 is actually our 11th year of existence, the pandemic did not allow us to have in-person activities in 2020-2021.  Our “10th-anniversary” celebration at the Ayala Museum this month is therefore significant: we are back at the same venue where we were launched on 18 July 2012, where we can look back and thank all the many partners and supporters who have been with us every step of the way, and renew our commitment to the development of the Philippines’ wealth in resources.

In these pages, you will also hear from our Chairman, Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert, about how and why Diwata was founded.  I am grateful to her for having tapped me to serve as Diwata’s founding President (2012-2015).  Not only have I had the opportunity to work alongside women (and men) who are similarly committed, I have had the privilege of learning so much from Ambassador Albert’s example and continue to do so every day.

It has likewise been a rewarding experience working with the members of our Board of Trustees and the Presidents who succeeded me [Yody Acosta Marzo (2015-2017), Eliza R. Laudencia (2017-2018), Joan Adaci-Cattiling (2018-2021) and Eleanore A. Layug (2021-present)], and our members who generously volunteer their time and talents.

It is also auspicious that a woman is at the helm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as Diwata celebrates its milestone anniversary.  On more than one occasion, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga has publicly referred to Diwata’s mission which includes enhancing diversity, inclusion, and equity in mining.  

In her speech at the Philippine Mining Luncheon in March 2023, Secretary Loyzaga acknowledged that the mining industry is traditionally dominated by men and cited a 2020 scoping study commissioned by Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Philippines (PH-EITI) identifying the  following key issues that women in the mining industry in the Philippines face:

  1. gender division of labor, where women constitute a minority of the workforce and only a few women occupy technical and leadership positions;
  2. environmental problems linked to mining operations, such as pollution of rivers and drying up of water sources;
  3. lack of sustainable livelihood outside of employment in mining companies;
  4. absence of guidelines on the inclusion of gender-responsive projects in the social development management programs (SDMP) and minimal participation of women in the development of these programs; and
  5. gaps in content and implementation of policies and frameworks that address the gender dimensions of mining.

She stressed that there is a need to ensure that women's representation in the mining industry is both meaningful and in all levels of decision-making to ensure that this sector becomes an enabling and empowering environment for women. In this regard, she stressed the need to work together in the following areas:

  1. reskilling, upskilling, and strengthening STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to motivate women to pursue careers related to this industry; 
  2. revisiting the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 vis-a-vis the Magna Carta of Women;
  3. continuing to generate national and comprehensive sec-disaggregated data on gender and mining;
  4. ensuring that SDMPs are gender-sensitive, inclusive, and equitable.

On the fourth point, Diwata has launched its “Pagkilala: Likas-Kaya Pag-unlad” Award to support the primary objective of SDMP to help create sustainable communities.    In giving this award, Diwata wishes to recognize and encourage companies that not only comply with the requirements of the law but go above and beyond by offering fresh and innovative approaches to promoting the rights and welfare of IP women and girls.  While Diwata launched the award in November 2022 at the Comrel Conference of PMSEA’s Annual National Mine Safety & Environment Conference and was supposed to announce the first set of awardees this year, we decided to defer this to next year to give us time to refine the award criteria and selection process.

In addition to kicking off our 10th-year celebration, Diwata has had a busy first half of 2023. 

On 08 March 2023, Diwata received a grant from USAID Energy Secure Philippines (USAID ESP) for our flagship project, “Tanging Tanglaw: Turning IP Women into Solar Engineers” (more popularly known as the Solar Lolas).  Although Diwata has been engaged in this project since 2014, our work with indigenous women from the Aeta communities in Bamban, Tarlac, and Gala, Zambales, who were trained at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, India to install, repair and maintain solar panels in their respective communities, has always been supported by funding from sponsorships.  With the USAID ESP grant, we now have the means to take our project to its next phases, which include: (1) studying the community’s water needs and installing solar-powered water pumps; (2) training more Solar Lolas; (3) funding educational programs; and (4) replicating our project in other communities.

The grant will be implemented over two (2) years, during which Diwata, under USAID ESP’s guidance, will work on these initiatives which we hope will leave a lasting positive impact on the community.

Mining Mission in Perth, Western Australia

At the end of March, we were also privileged to join the Mining Mission to Perth, Western Australia, organized by the Australian Trade & Investment Commission Manila (Austrade), which was led by Her Excellency, HK Yu, Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines.  On the side of the Philippine government, the delegation was led by Department of Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr., DENR Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna, and Department of Tourism Assistant Secretary Mae Elaine Bathan.

The Mining Mission coincided with Philippine Airlines’ inaugural direct flight to Perth, which now makes it easier for mining professionals and investors to travel from Perth to Manila and vice versa.  Indeed, with the relatively short flight time of 7 hours (which our pilot, PAL President and COO Stanley Ng completed in about 6.5 hours) and ideal schedule (departing Manila at midnight and arriving in Perth at 7 am), passengers would still have a full day to conduct business upon arriving in Perth, which is exactly what we did.

On our first day in Perth, we hit the ground running by going to our first meeting at Murray Engineering which specializes in the manufacture, refurbishment, and maintenance of equipment for the mining industry, including electric vehicles. I particularly enjoyed the next meeting with the Chamber of Minerals & Energy (CME) of Western Australia (the counterpart of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines), as they have a robust program on diversity in the mining industry which we in Diwata can collaborate with them on. The day ended with a gala dinner hosted by PAL at the Westin for all the members of our delegation, including members of the Manila media who had joined the flight and the local Filipino community.

On the morning of Day 2, we met with member-companies of Austmine, the leading not-for-profit industry association for the Australian METS sector with over 650 member companies.  In the afternoon, we had a comprehensive discussion with officials of Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) on mining policy issues. The exchange of ideas got us so excited that we are looking forward to a possible part 2 in the future. Before the final event in the evening (a reception hosted by the Australia Philippines Business Council, the Philippine Embassy, and the Department of Trade and Industry), we had drinks at Elizabeth Quay, our only break during this very hectic trip.

Our final full day was a particularly long one, which started with the delegation leaving our hotel at 5 am to catch a domestic flight to Kalgoorlie. It was a sight to behold an airport full of miners ready to go to work in their PPE.  [Diwata Past President/OceanaGold Philippines Joan Adaci Cattiling was the “best dressed” in our delegation in her OceanaGold orange PPE.]  Clearly, Kalgoorlie is a city that revolves around the mining industry.

The first stop was Curtin University and the Western Australia School of Mines which are at the forefront of research in the mining and resources sector.  Accompanying us on the trip was Filipino-Australian metallurgical engineer Dr. Richard Diaz Alorro. We were also welcomed by post-doctoral researcher Jonah Gamutan who joked that she specializes in “playing with fire”. Seriously speaking, we were so impressed with Jonah as a role model for women in the mining industry that we want her to speak at a future Diwata event about her experiences at Curtin.

Perhaps the highlight of our day was the visit to the “Super Pit”, one of Australia’s largest open-pit gold mines. It is a fascinating example of how an operating open pit mine engages with the community and mitigates environmental risks.  In the public area of the Super Pit, there is a viewing deck with educational exhibits on the history and operations of the pit, information for children and science classes, and even an area for families to stand on and pose with the giant tires of mining trucks.  It is yet another best practice that local companies may wish to adopt to help the general public understand and demystify the mining industry.

It has been truly rewarding to have been involved with Diwata and its projects which we hope contribute to highlighting our industry’s role in national development.


Patricia A. O. Bunye is a Senior Partner at Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia where she heads its Mining & Natural Resources Department and Energy practice group. She is also the Founding President of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc., a non-government organization advocating the responsible development of the Philippines’ wealth in resources, principally through industries such as mining, oil and gas, quarrying, and other mineral resources from the earth for processing.

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