SOCIAL CAPITAL FOR MARGINAL SECTORS IN RESOURCE EXTRACTION


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

I have always supported a ‘social capital’ framework for advancing the interests of marginal sectors in resource extraction industries. Particularly affected are the indigenous peoples and the slash & burn planters. The New Nationalism article emphasizes this point clearly.

 

I also had advanced this contention in some other articles. In a speech before environmentalists held in late 2004, I advocated for co-stewardships of mining sites with the same marginal sectors. As an official in the presidential palace, I also wrote a policy paper that stipulated the possibility of such agreements which, to my own surprise, can be legally supported by the Mining Act. This Act, to note, met enormous flak from civil society groups here.

 

The laws of a particular country may already provide entitlements for marginal sectors in the said areas, and may only need to be highlighted via research. In the USA for instance, the native Americans were able to procure concessions to co-own and manage leisure and tourism businesses that are located in their sites, and so far the concerned beneficiaries were jettisoned from out of marginalization to middle class life by this co-stewardship arrangements.

 

I am thankful to all those thinkers who argued for mainstreaming the marginal sectors via ‘social capital’. The likes of Antonio Gramsci, Mahatma Gandhi, PR Sarkar, Paulo Freire, Robert Putnam, and Peter Evans come to mind. They practically echoed the same theme: the significance of trust as galvanizing force for building social networks that can serve as ‘social capital’ for development purposes.

 

All it needs to take is political will and some ingenious methods of accounting to be able to quantify the ‘social capital’ potencies of a group of people in an area. This can be coupled with a calculation of the ‘human capital’ potencies of those who can be involved as laborers and experts of site-related industries.

 

The basic contention culled from the New Nationalism article is reflected entirely below.

 

Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries.

 

Our mining sector had been in the doldrums for quite some time now. The production levels of both (a) base metals and (b) precious metals have surely been at lackluster levels. Meantime, logging has been totally banned to arrest further deforestration and its accompanying desertification and soil erosion. It is only in the energy sector where extraction has been impressively high, and the sector is appreciably a very dynamic one even in terms of R&D considerations. We are now at the crossroads concerning such sectors as mining and forest resources, where a revivified extraction is in the pipelines but couldn’t move because of constitutional and/or statutory constraints.

 

Note that most of the country’s natural resources for extraction are habituated by (a) tribal peoples and (b) migratory slash & burn peasants. Such populations have long ‘guarded’ the resource-rich habitats. It would surely be a faulty policy to drive them away—hidden under the euphemism of ‘relocation’—in order to give way to a mining concessionaire. Likewise would it be unsound to merely integrate some of their members as wage laborers for the extraction operations. Such actions, derived from regarding the people as ‘high disutility’ entities, are plain reactionary, even as they push the populations to the limits, leading to the folks to constitute hostile millennial movements and rebel separatists. The moves are reactionary as they contribute to the weakening of the nation, to the fragmentation of the national community.

 

The most pro-active path to address the concerned issue is to design and concur stewardship arrangements with the said populations. Three things are addressed by the stewardship: (1) the people will stay in the area, with better housing and amenities, who in turn will monitor and safeguard the entire operational sites; (2) where necessary, the same folks will be employed in the operations and administrative jobs where applicable, on a first priority basis; and, (3) the people will be co-owners of the firm, with equity/stock participation derived through a calibration of their productivity potency, historical role in stewardship of the area, and other variables. It is argued that this stewardship path is the win/win formula for the state, investors (market), and the communities concerned (‘social capital’/civil society). Consequently, the contribution to the GDP through resource extraction jumps up to a historic high level.

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