Miners allowed to realign funds for COVID-19 vaccines

Published February 8, 2021, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has allowed mining companies to re-align their social development funds the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

MGB has released a memorandum allowing mining companies to use their funds under SDMP and Safety and Health Program (SHP) for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine for the mass vaccination within mining communities.

The memorandum aims to help the government in purchasing an additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines through the initiatives of the mining industry.

Such a decision was made upon the request of some mining companies to the government, though no official lobby has been made. These funds include those for existing programs their annual Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).

In a text message, Rocky Dimaculangan, vice president for corporate communications at Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), said many COMP members did request the MGB’s permission for the realignment of funds “given that mass immunization from the deadly virus is our nation’s most pressing concern at the moment”.  

“We entrust the procurement and administration of the vaccine to our members who have a better sense of the situation on the ground,” Dimaculangan said.

“We encourage the widest possible coverage of the vaccination campaign and will monitor the progress of our members’ vaccination program,” he added.

COMP is composed of some of the largest mining companies in the Philippines. 

For his part, MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano said there was no official lobby made by mining companies regarding the decision of the agency. 

“We just thought that since in 2020 we allowed the re-alignment of SDMP funds for COVID-19 response by mining companies, it will also be logical that MGB can allow the re-alignment of said funds in 2021 for the procurement of the vaccine,” Moncano said in a separate text exchange.

“We welcome the MGB decision allowing the minerals development industry to realign SDMP and SHP funds for the vaccination of employees and members of host communities. This will provide a big boost to the government’s Covid-19 vaccination program and help hasten the nation’s recovery from this pandemic,” Dimaculangan said.  

Moncano noted, however, that mining companies should first consult with the representatives from their respective host and neighboring communities to avoid redundancy in the vaccination.

This, as the host local government unit (LGU) may have already allotted its own funds for the vaccine procurement.

He also said that it’s the host communities that will be the one to determine what projects, programs, or activities that will be deferred or canceled amid the re-alignment of the SDMP fund allocation.

The SDMP requires mining companies to set aside funds for the development and implementation of community programs, projects, and activities for the host and neighboring communities of a mining project.

This is a five-year plan geared towards the development of a responsible, self-reliant, and resource-based community capable of developing, implementing, and managing development programs, projects, and activities.