Lopez tells big mining firms to improve community dev’t programs

Rappler.com
Lopez tells big mining firms to improve community dev’t programs
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez says she wants the DENR, mining firms, and the host community to jointly manage the Social Development and Management Program fund

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has called on big mining firms to strengthen their community development programs as the agency looks to revise its social development requirements.

Lopez made the call at a recent dialogue with the community relations officers (CROs) of some of the country’s biggest mining companies.

“What I want to do with the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) fund is for the DENR to jointly manage it with the mining companies and the community.  I want to use their funds in the area development approach for more impact,” Lopez said.

“I want it to be used to achieve area development, not as dole out, but for improving the productivity of the area,” she added.

The meeting included CROs from OceanaGold Philippines, Philex Mining Corporation, FCF Minerals, Holcim Philippines, and Lafarge-Holcim Aggregates Incorporated. CROs are the mining firms’ frontliners, conducting consultations with communities affected by their operations.

Strengthening development rules

The event was the first of a series of nationwide consultations held by the DENR, which is reviewing the guidelines on mining firms; formulation and implementation of SDMPs.

A precondition to starting a mining operation, SDMP is a 5-year plan carried out during the life of the mine to ensure the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.

Lopez said a revision of the SDMP guidelines was necessary, to address some concerns about the implementation of certain programs. These include the lack of community counterpart and weak coordination with local development plans, which lead to the wastage of funds.

Currently, at least 1.5% of the total mining and milling costs of the company is monetized and placed in a trust fund for affected communities.

Of the amount, 75% must be spent on community-development programs; 15% on mining technology and geosciences advancement programs; and 10% on information, education and communication program.

“The SDMP funds should not be limited just to the host communities.  Of course, they’re the ones you should take care of. But if used well, you don’t need to take care of them anymore because they will use their own money.  Then you will widen the scope of the areas you can help,” Lopez said.

Upon assuming her Cabinet post, Lopez initiated an audit of mining operations to check their compliance with environmental standards.

The audit recommended the suspension of 20 mining companies. It has already  suspended 10 firms. – Rappler.com

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