The Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committees (MRFCs) and the Multi-partite Monitoring Teams (MMTs) of Caraga mining companies have carried on with their respective duties by conducting regular and special meetings and inspections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be recalled that the MRFC is a body that consists of private and public entities. One of its major duties and responsibilities is to ensure that the approved Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP)/Annual EPEP (AEPEP) of the mining and mineral processing projects shall be strictly implemented. The MRFC deputizes the MMT as its monitoring arm.  The MRFC meetings and MMT inspections are regularly conducted quarterly for operating companies and semi-annually for non-operating companies.

The unprecedented effects of the pandemic, which include a series of lockdowns and quarantine protocols, hampered the conduct of the meetings and inspections.  In response to the current situation, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) released Regional Memorandum Order No. 2020-24 entitled “Interim Guidelines/Protocols for the Operations of the MRFC and MMT during the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or New Normal” so that the MRFC and the MMT can carry out their functions in monitoring the implementation of the 2020 AEPEP of mining and mineral processing projects notwithstanding the setbacks.

Some of the stipulated guidelines were the temporary reduction of MMT members which may range from four (4) to seven (7) members only to ensure a very minimum risk of exposure to COVID-19.  Instead of quarterly monitoring, semi-annual monitoring is conducted at the mine/plant site to check compliance with the implementation of the 2020 AEPEP.  As for the MRFC, meetings were conducted after the semi-annual monitoring of the MMT.   A face-to-face meeting is preferred but if not possible then a virtual meeting is conducted or a combined face-to-face and virtual meeting is arranged. In case of a face-to-face meeting, the number of attendees from the mining company is reduced to a bare minimum in order to minimize person-to-person interaction. For both MMT and MRFC, the safety and health protocols such as wearing of face mask and personal protective equipment, social distancing and adherence to established personal hygiene/disinfection/sanitation/good housekeeping were strictly observed. As of October 2020, eighty-three (83) MRFC meetings and fifty-two (52) MMT inspections have been conducted.  The MGB Regional Office No. XIII, together with its stakeholders, constantly ensures that the safety of the members and its employees is of utmost importance as it continues to perform its duties and deliver public service amidst the pandemic.

By Lizlit C. Cabag and Manevil M. Espineli
MRFC Secretariat