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Philippines – Trust building: an essential ingredient of an effective coalition

Introduction

Bantay Kita-PWYP Philippines has created a model for coalition organising that seeks to strike a balance between formal structure and proximity to communities through relations based on trust and a commitment to elevating community voices.  

 

About the coalition 

The PWYP Philippines coalition, Bantay Kita (shortened here to BK-PWYP), is unique in focusing on Natural Resource Governance issues in the Philippines and its strategic goals align closely with those of the global PWYP Vision 2025 strategy. It was formed in 2009 around the need for strengthened accountability in the extractives sector and has been highly active in the implementation of Philippines EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative), which began in 2012. 

The coalition is the second largest in the PWYP network with 80 members, many of whom (around 3/4s) are local groups at a significant distance from Manilla, some in very remote areas. The membership includes a diversity of languages and cultures. It also includes diverse views on extraction, from those against mining that has adverse social and environmental impacts, to others more focused on the transparency and accountability aspects of extraction (as opposed to whether extraction should take place or not). The coalition membership is also highly diverse in terms of types of organisations, ranging from Manilla-based organisations with technical expertise on transparency, data disclosure and natural resource governance frameworks, to organisations representing people’s groups directly affected by mining (see the table at the end of this section for more details). 

 

Bridging the gap between local and national 

The structure of the coalition is intended to help bridge the gap between what is of concern at the national and at the community levels; and the coalition advocates for strengthened national governance frameworks while also seeking to create local systems of accountability. It does this by seeking to enable communities affected by mining to have their issues addressed through local level multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs), with the option of escalating  issues through the coalition up to a national level where necessary.  Some of these multi stakeholder groups are connected to EITI implementation as well as other local and regional decision-making structures.

Given the shape and complexity of the coalition, key to its good functioning is its highly organised coalition secretariat that conducts open and extensive consultations with members to build and maintain trust.

 

Mainstreaming a multistakeholder model

While the EITI and data disclosure constitutes a major focal point for the coalition, BK-PWYP now aims to enable communities and citizens groups to seek accountability on any issues pertinent to them in relation to local extraction. The coalition strategy therefore focuses on enabling civic groups to form and participate in multi-stakeholder fora and exercise power locally. BK-PWYP tries not to limit the fora for engagement to EITI MSG-type formations, but also recognizes the potential for empowering citizen’s groups to use existing formations, such as local or regional development councils. The coalition secured funding from USAID, for example, to help empower civic groups to access decision-making in this way. Under the 1990 Local Government Code, certain powers are devolved to localities, while others, for example certain decisions on licensing, are still within the remit of Manilla. The aim e is that where local issues can be resolved locally, communities aren’t obliged to escalate issues to national level. But where power disparities between companies, local government and communities mean that the communities are not being heard at local level , community groups are enabled to amplify their voice to a national level with the help of members in Manilla.  

 

Adapting approaches to be more relevant to communities 

The BK-PWYP Secretariat also seeks to adapt coalition projects to make them more relevant to communities. One way they do this is by identifying community issues as the starting point, and then reflecting on how EITI or other data may or may not help solve these issues, rather than simply applying a ‘data solution’ where this may be only marginally relevant. EITI implementation at a national level may have little relevance to communities, who may have specific concerns such as Indigenous Peoples’ land being taken without proper consultation. BK-PWYP seeks to provide mechanisms on the ground to enable communities to seek accountability for these issues locally through local multi-stakeholder groups, often in situations in which communities previously felt largely voiceless. 

The BK-PWYP Secretariat also learned that making data accessible in itself does not create change. To put this learning into practice, the coalition began working with indigenous peoples to empower them to advocate for issues that precede, and/or go beyond, accessing data and information on royalties due, to claiming fundamental rights under the Mining Act and Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. As a result, the BK-PWYP Secretariat witnessed a ‘boost of confidence’ among community members from their strengthened knowledge of rights under the law. In the course of building this knowledge, BK-PWYP also enabled indigenous communities to ask for data concerning development interventions on their ancestral domains to enable them to participate meaningfully in discussions on natural resource governance and make decisions about their own lands.

 

Coalition leadership 

The coalition has a very active and organised membership and a strong secretariat that sees its main role as facilitating members to lead the coalition, keeps things moving and ensures members are engaged. The emphasis of the secretariat is on facilitation – enabling the leadership of members as opposed to the leadership of the secretariat. While the secretariat leads in driving the coalition forward operationally, ultimately it is the membership as a whole that decides on the direction the coalition takes and makes significant decisions, through very open, regular and close consultation, in which trust is the central organising principle. The very broad coalition membership – from grassroots organisations upwards – is consulted as a matter of standard practice. In this regard, BK-PWYP operates in similar ways  to a people’s movement model. 

In practice, the secretariat is given a mandate whereby the members give their consent to execute certain tasks or processes.  Key to the functioning of this arrangement is trust, so a secretariat priority is in making sure that things are “always laid out on the table”, enabling members to comment or input into important decisions, with an acknowledgement that some members will be more active and have more capacity to input than others. In terms of coalition advocacy strategy, the BK-PWYP secretariat proposes strategic options to the yearly national convention of members to discuss, feedback and make decisions on, with final approval by the 13-member elected board.  

 

Sustaining trust with ‘Core’ members as well as less engaged members 

The national coalition coordinator identifies that while building trust amongst members is essential to the effective functioning of the coalition, given its broad span and dynamics, iiInevitably some members will have more sway over the direction of the coalition than others. The coalition board is very hands-on and board members tend to be drawn from more active members of the coalition – a core of about 20 organisations (about ¼ of the whole membership). In effect, while election for board membership is open and transparent, the board is self-selecting as the organisations more active on natural resource governance issues tend to stand for board places (as is the case in many PWYP coalitions).  

In this context the BK-PWYP secretariat’s focus on trust-building and consultation is highly important. Where members have low capacity or are less actively engaged, running open processes means that members have the opportunity to input when they see it is critical to do so. Open processes are seen as essential to creating continued buy-in from members; to building consensus where possible; and critical to creating trust within the coalition.  The secretariat reports that consultation is a priority, a constant and ongoing process and one that often has challenges, while the coalition is, on the whole, relatively successful in building consensus despite differences in opinion. 

In order to facilitate fundraising, as well as to build credibility with advocacy targets, BK-PWYP is registered as an organisation in its own right. This is not the norm across the global network, where most PWYP national coalitions operate informally, with member organisations taking on institutional responsibilities for hosting staff or managing funds.  Having this legal status is another reason why it is critical for the secretariat to  very consciously maintain closeness to coalition member organisations and the communities they serve. The BK-PWYP coalition has a reputation within the PWYP network of effectively managing this delicate balance of formalisation and professionalisation while maintaining closeness to the communities the coalition serves.  

 

The need for trust in managing tensions 

Trust is also essential to manage the tensions between what is asked for at a national level and what is needed at a local level. For example, coalition advocates engaged in national level processes have spent seven years advocating for government and industry to address the basic tenets of the EITI and create a national system of accountability. But specific communities may demand modes of accountability that go beyond EITI requirements in order, for example, to be able to monitor social payments and royalties, in a context in which companies say, ‘what more do you want from us?’.  In this context the coalition seeks to support members demanding further accountability at a local level without the national level advocacy being a constraint on local level advocacy.  Enabling this means continual and open consultations with members to negotiate boundaries and priorities.  

 

The role of funding in coalition functioning 

Like many PWYP coalitions, BK-PWYP works hard to secure a funding base, and has made a strong case to donor governments and international INGOs that identify the strategic importance of the Philippines extractives sector.  As a result BK-PWYP secured some funding for institutional support to maintain a secretariat staff while enabling the coalition to focus on advocacy.  However, like most coalitions BK-PWYP faces a constant struggle to maintain this funding and find new and consistent sources. The coalition board expanded its membership in 2021 to include two independent board members who were aligned to the mission but not from member organisations, one with expertise in fundraising and one with expertise in international legal frameworks.  In this way, the coalition seeks to expand its skill set through the board to benefit its mission.

While funding often creates restraints, the vision of the coalition is to evolve its strategy from being donor-led (including a tight focus on the EITI agenda), moving towards a more proactive advocacy-driven approach, where advocacy priorities are increasingly informed by issues identified by communities.  

 

Learning points

  • BK-PWYP has created a model for coalition organising that seeks to strike a balance between formalisation (a formal, registered NGO with a Secretariat, international funding,  a strategy, objectives, targets, policies, governance systems etc.) and maintaining and prioritising meaningful inclusion of members including community-based groups, through relations based on trust and commitment to elevating the voices of the voiceless – attributes combine elements of a ‘movement’ approach as well as a formal network approach.  
  • BK-PWYP has identified a multistakeholder model through which it can enable communities to engage in extractive governance beyond data-specific issues.  There may be benefits in evaluating the effectiveness of this model in benefiting communities to understand whether it can be replicated in other contexts.  
  • BK-PWYP is evolving its advocacy strategies to become focussed on a broader agenda beyond the EITI, while maintaining its EITI remit, including ‘educating’ funders as to the need for a wider remit.  By enabling community expression of urgent issues the coalition is helping to bring these issues to the fore, within the coalition and within advocacy.  As this process evolves, it should also inform the wider PWYP international strategy to ensure that this connects with issues facing communities and enables communities to have platforms to advocate.
  • Trust building is an essential ingredient in the creation of a functional coalition – particularly where there is a great diversity of members across challenging geographies.  BK-PWYP’s systems of consultation might form a useful model for other coalitions to consider.  

 

Written by Brendan O’Donnell based on interviews with Bantay Kita – PWYP Philippines national coordinator Vincent Lazatin.

Coalition Bantay Kita / PWYP Philippines 
Age in 2021 12 (formed in 2009, joined PWYP in 2013)
Membership shape Network of local networks with more active core membership 
Membership size  Very large: 80 members 
Unique value proposition  ADVOCACY ON CORPORATE EXTRACTIVE FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE 
Major recent coalition internal challenges  To make coalition approaches more relevant to communities (see story of change) 
Major ongoing contextual challenges  The tyranny of distance and geography

Increased threats to civic space including the 2020 anti-terrorism act  

Member mix The coalition includes a small number of women’s organisations and those representing youth and a significant number of organisations representing the interests of local or regional communities 
Diversity in coalition leadership In 2020 the Board membership was made up of 5 men and 3 women 
Is the membership diverse in terms of different types of agency functions? HIGH: Diverse and expert – transparency and accountability focused organisations/networks, legal networks, academic organisations, citizens groups, groups representing specific regions and ecological concerns, environmental groups/networks, cultural groups, agricultural development groups, faith-based, youth and womens’ groups, groups concerned with indigenous/tribal people’s rights/development.  
Diversity of membership (groups represented) Highly diverse: Including a significant number of organisations that represent community interests 
Diversity in terms of promoting rights of specific groups explicitly in advocacy  MEDIUM: Member organisations include 1 indigenous peoples’ and 2 youth organisations/networks (2020 National Coordinators Survey).  
Governance style  Board of 13 elected members.  Members tend to stand are from more active organisations whose core purpose is highly aligned with the coalition.  
Leadership  Members make decisions and the secretariat sees itself as the facilitators of member decisions.
How do members participate, coordinate and communicate? Because members are scattered throughout the archipelago, with varying degrees of access to communications, BK members communicate through social media platforms like Facebook, email, SMS, chat platforms (like Viber) and other means. In some instances, BK-PWYP has  provided members with the necessary digital device to facilitate communications. Because of unreliable cell phone and internet coverage in the far-flung areas of the country, communications remains a challenge. Pre-pandemic, in-person participation in EITI events was facilitated by government financial support for travel and accommodations of BK-PWYP members.
How formal is the coalition?   Formal secretariat staff and formalized consultation processes.    
Are goals aligned with PWYP strategy or do coalitions have their own criteria?   Highly aligned.
Funding pattern Very broad set of funders including (unusually) funders that support core activities 
Links to PWYP peers Active within the regional network
Member Organisations  Action for Economic Reforms Incorporation, Alliance of Buguey for Community Development Advocates (ALBUCODA), Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao,

Alternate Law Groups, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Ateneo School of Government, Cebu Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Environment, Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz, Zambales (CCOS), Concerned Lalloquenos Against Illegal Mining (CLAIM), CPAIJC Malita, Ecolink Philippines, Environmental Awareness Team/ Social Action Center, Federation of Environmental Advocates in Cagayan (FEAC), Fleur-de-Lis Centre for PEACE, Foundation for Rural Enterprises and Ecology Development in Mindanao (FREEDOM) Inc, Gitib Inc., Greenwatch Philippines Inc, Haribon Foundation For Conservation of Natural Resources Inc., Institute for Strategic Research and Development Studies, Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Commission, Kagay-an Watershed Alliance, Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan ( KADUAMI), Katutubong Lahing Samahan ng Quirino (KALASAQ), Kesalabuukan Tupusumi Org., Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Mag’engat, Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue, Negros Organic Agri Movement Inc., Nueva Vizcaya Coordinating Council, Paglilingkod Batas Pangkapatiran Foundation, Panaghiusa Alang Sa Kangalingnan ng Kalingkawasan Inc. ( PASSAK, Inc.), Philippine Miserior Partnership Inc., Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Youth Association, Radio Emergency Communication Operations Network (RECON) Philippines, Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining, SANLAKAS-Eastern Samar, Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO), Save the Valley Serve the People – Alliance for the Environment (SAVE), Sibulan Organic Farmer Associations, Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc., Social Action Ministry – Ipil, SOLED-Ki, Transparency and Accountability Network, Tribal Association Working Together for their Development Inc., Tri-People Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao Inc., UCCP-Masidlakon Center for Development Foundation Inc., UFS-Women Organization, Ummah Fi Salam (Humanity for Peace), United Sibonga Residents for Environmental Protection and Development (USREP-D), Youth for Rights – Eastern Samar

 

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