BAGUIO CITY – An official of the Benguet provincial government accused large-scale mining companies of allegedly ‘dictating’ to the host and neighboring communities the priority projects that should be funded under their annual Social Development and Management Programs (SDMPs) in violation of the guidelines prescribed by concerned government agencies for the proper utilization of the allotted funds for the purpose.
Benguet Provincial Administrator Noel Ngolob made the revelation during the panel discussion of the recently concluded Baguio leg of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) Road Show relative to its 4th country report that was held in the city.
Ngolob claimed that indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities hosting the operation of large-scale mining operations in the different parts of the province are allegedly being deprived of the chance to identify their priority projects to be funded under the SDMP of the companies because it is the firm that reportedly dictates the projects that should be funded under the mandatory SDMP funds which is contrary to the prescribed guidelines in the proper utilization of the funds.
Under the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7942 and other related issuances by the concerned government agencies, mining companies are mandated to allocate 1.5 percent of their direct operating cost to fund the implementation of SDMP projects which will be identified by the host and neighboring communities through the conduct of consultations between the company officials and the people of the said communities.
Engr. Fay W. Apil, regional director of the Cordillera Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR), disagreed with the observations raised by Ngolob, saying that there are already prescribed processes in the identification of the SDMP projects which is actually being undertaken through the supervision of the agency and in consultation with the people living in the host and neighboring communities.
She claimed that the projects funded by the annual SDMP funds of mining companies are actually being identified and selected by the people in the host and neighboring communities that is why agency officials and company representatives cannot do anything if the beneficiaries prefer tohave covered courts as their priority projects instead of the provision of livelihood projects that will translate to improved economic condition of their villages.
Apil added that aside from consultations with the people in the host and neighboring communities, the identification of the projects pass through a series of planning sessions where the people themselves are the ones that finalize the list of their projects that will be funded by the allotted SDMP budget for a fiscal year.
Ngolob expressed his gratitude to Engr. Apil for clarifying the issue, stating among others, that he was referring to other companies that are mandated to provide funds for their SDMP projects to assist in the growth and development of host and neighboring communities.
Mining industry sources claimed that Ngolob might have been misinformed about the issue and insinuating that they might invite the provincial administrator in the consultations and planning workshops for the identification of host and neighboring communities in their areas of operation for him to witness the prescribed procedures of the SDMP projects. By HENT