Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has called on large-scale miners to review their social development and management programs (SDMPs) and adopt a more effective “Sustainable Integrated Area Development” (SIAD) approach to ensure their operations bring sustained economic and social benefits to their host communities.
In a recent dialog with community relations officers (CROs) of some of the country's biggest mining companies, Lopez expressed hope that the mining companies would take a hard look at SIAD as a key to strengthening the SDMP.
“What I want to do with the 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.
The environment chief added she wants to use the fund to improve the productivity of the area. “I want it to be used to achieve area development, not as dole out, but for improving the productivity of the area,” she said.
Among those present in the meeting were CROs of OceanaGold Philippines, Philex Mining Corp., FCF Minerals, Holcim Philippines, and Lafarge-Holcim Aggregates Inc. The CROs are the mining firms' frontliners, conducting consultations with communities affected by their operations.
The dialog was the first of a series of nationwide consultations with mining stakeholders being conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as it is currently in the process of reviewing the guidelines on the formulation and implementation of SDMPs by mining firms.
SDMPs are provided for in DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-21, which is the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Lopez said a revision of the SDMP guidelines was necessary to address some concerns about the implementation of certain programs, including lack of community counterpart and weak coordination with local development plans, thus resulting in wastage of SDMP funds.
A precondition to starting a mining operation, SDMP is a five-year plan carried out during the life of the mine to bring about a sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.
It serves as a partnership between the mining operator and its host and neighboring communities meant to provide alternative livelihood opportunities for mine workers and their families.
Under this setup, at least 1.5 percent 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 percent must be spent on community-development programs; 15 percent on mining technology and geosciences advancement programs; and 10 percent 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," she said.
SIAD, according to her, creates sustainable mini-economic zones that could generate employment and livelihood activities in mining communities. ###