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PHL withdraws from EITI over ‘biased’ assessment

REUTERS

THE PHILIPPINES has withdrawn from a global initiative on extractives transparency over the latter’s “subjective, biased and unfair” assessment process, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

The Department of Finance (DoF) on Wednesday said Mr. Dominguez sent a June 20 letter to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Chair Helen Clark, informing her of the Philippines’ withdrawal.

“We find that the manner by which the EITI board undertakes its validation is unduly subjective, biased and unfair,” he was quoted as saying in the letter to Ms. Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand.

“The Philippines has no confidence in the ability of the EITI to undertake an impartial, transparent, and evidence-based validation process.”

The EITI sets the standard for transparency and accountability in the mining, oil and gas industries. The DoF heads the multi-stakeholder body that oversees the implementation of the EITI in the country.

Mr. Dominguez’s statement comes after the EITI board downgraded the Philippines’ score to “moderate” last February.

While the score reflected the Philippines’ high marks in stakeholder engagement, transparency, and outcomes and impact, the EITI board at that time said “the objective of full, effective and active engagement by civil society is only partly met, given government constraints on freedom of expression, operation and association in the EITI process.”

The EITI board also mentioned allegations of intimidation of civil society activists and journalists, and urged the government to improve the environment for civil society participation. It said it will revisit the issue in October.

The DoF said it has repeatedly asked the EITI to provide details on the issues, but the EITI has not supplied such information.

Mr. Dominguez criticized the EITI board for treating the Philippines unfairly “by using irrelevant metrics and relying on unvalidated reports in assessing the status of civic space in the extractives sector.”

“We refuse to be taken hostage by unverified allegations from foreigners and people who have no mandate from the electorate,” Mr. Dominguez said.

Despite this withdrawal, Mr. Dominguez said the government had systems in place to ensure continued transparency in the extractives sector.

“The government will continue to champion better resource and revenue management, and ensure that resource utilization remains open, accountable, and responsive to the needs and aspirations of Filipinos,” he added.

The country has been part of EITI since 2013.

In 2017, the Philippines was declared the first among 50 other members to have achieved “satisfactory” progress in meeting EITI requirements.

EITI implementing countries are required to undergo a validation process every three years. — Tobias Jared Tomas

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