This year, NRGI and EITI Philippines (PH-EITI) partnered to develop contracts.ph-eiti.org, a country site that uses the ResourceContracts.org platform for publishing contracts in an open data format. The collaboration was initiated in May, when PH-EITI participated in the Extractives Open Data Leaders program at the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa.
In total, 87 contracts—44 main contracts and 43 supporting documents—are disclosed at contracts.ph-eiti.org. All contracts contain associated metadata covering mineral and hydrocarbon resources, and annotations and detailed technical summaries of the key contract terms are underway.
ResourceContracts.org—an open-source platform relaunched at the Open Government Partnership Conference in Mexico by NRGI, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and the World Bank—is the key piece of technical infrastructure enabling the publication of the contracts. As an early adopter of the platform, PH-EITI provided important input on its development.
With the use of ResourceContracts.org as a publication platform, the Philippines also becomes the first EITI country to utilize the Open Contracting Data Standard for contract publication.
From PDFs to machine-readable, searchable contracts
Prior to development of the new platform, EITI Philippines released Philippines extractive contracts in the static PDF format. This meant they were not machine-readable and largely unsearchable. Consequently, finding key terms in extractive contracts was challenging for users, who often had to sift through numerous clauses to find a definition or the conditions of a specific obligation. Publication of contracts in machine-readable/open data format (as in ResourceContracts.org), allows interested parties to search, copy and download them easily. The new site also enables easier navigation of multiple types of documents relating to the same main contract.
The platform organizes information on a company and project basis according to company name, commodity type and the year the contract was signed. This is valuable for stakeholders who don't know what commodities are being produced in their locality, or the number of companies and extractive projects in their area.
Disclosure of supporting documents
Beyond contract disclosure, PH-EITI recognizes the importance of providing easy access to auxiliary permits, licenses and other supporting documents that provide additional information on contractual stipulations. The ResourceContracts.org platform enabled PH-EITI to disclose all attachments to the contracts in an effort to go further than simple disclosure.
The collaboration has fostered several takeaways and ideas for next steps:
- NRGI has gained valuable input on improvements to the design, data collection process and administrator interface.
- For PH-EITI, the search options of the platform will be complemented by annotations that will provide further explanation of concepts and contractual stipulations; information on related laws and jurisprudence; and cross references to other relevant documents. Contractual stipulations related to EITI requirements will be annotated. Additional features are forthcoming: one is an indication of the project's location, i.e. whether a project is within mineral reservations or within ancestral domain.
In order to ensure strong, continued collaboration and learning, NRGI and PH-EITI scheduled weekly calls during the project's implementation period. These calls provided technical assistance and immediately identified and addressed potential concerns regarding the platform and around technical issues that arose.
A ResourceContracts.org administrator's guide provided PH-EITI with step-by-step guidance for uploading contracts, adding metadata and annotating contracts. It also defined technical standards. The guide is continually updated as new functionality is added to ResourceContracts.org.
Benefit to stakeholders
While developing the platform, PH-EITI gathered stakeholders from government agencies and civil society to collect input on how they might best benefit from the project; as a result, agencies in charge of regulation and revenue collection will be able to use the platform to scrutinize company obligations. Aside from what is mandated by law, these agencies will be able to examine whether and if there are additional contractual obligations that companies should be liable for under certain conditions. Officials at agencies in charge of policy formulation, on the other hand, expressed their interest in using the platform to compare contractual obligations of various companies and see if this can inform the ongoing reforms being undertaken in the country's mining fiscal regime. Members of civil society and the media have welcomed the platform's search functions and usability, noting that this will enable them to better hold companies to account in instances where there are alleged violations of the law or contract.
Seeking government partners
With the successful completion of the PH-EITI contract site, the partners behind ResourceContracts.org now invite other interested government agencies or EITI offices to collaborate on similar country sites. We invite interested parties to get in touch directly here.
The ResourceContracts platform is an online, searchable and user-friendly database of publicly available oil, gas and mining contracts from around the world. Users can search contracts by country, by natural resource or by type of contract; view summaries of key social, environmental, fiscal and operational provisions; and download full contracts. ResourceContracts.org seeks to maximize public access to, and comprehension of, mining, oil, and gas contracts, helping to reduce information asymmetries in natural resource contracting. ResourceContracts.org is jointly managed by the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and the World Bank.
Marie Gay Alessandra Ordenes is the national coordinator for EITI Philippines and took part in the Extractives Open Data Leaders program hosted by NRGI in 2015. Anders Pedersen is an open data officer with NRGI. Charles Young is a technical consultant working with NRGI.