Last November 9, Open Ownership organized a workshop with civil society organizations in the Philippines. It's been a while since I last worked on beneficial ownership (BO) data. Three years to be exact. But my commitment to the cause never wavered. My session covered how to utilize BO data for improving natural resource governance. In this blog, I will share some of the insights from my presentation.
why use beneficial ownership data?
For me, using BO data is crucial for two reasons. Firstly, using BO data helps inform public debate. More often than not, if you go to mining communities and ask them who the owner is of the mining company, they have a rough idea of who the real owners are. Sometimes it’s because it’s common knowledge already. But our role as civil society is to inform public debate with evidence. If we want a strong case for our advocacies, we need to use data because data represents facts and the truth. And that makes it hard to refute. If we want to be authoritative and credible in informing public debate and pushing for reforms, we need to use data.
Second reason and this, for me, is more of looking at the bigger picture. For the last seven years, I have worked on soooooo many good governance initiatives (e.g., EITI, OGP, open contracting, beneficial ownership, etc and list goes on). What I think is our critical role as civil society is to make sure we use these data and information to sustain the demand for more disclosures and in the long run help the initiative remain relevant. Because if we don’t use it, no one else will. Civil society needs to make sure these good governance initiatives real their full potential and one way to do that is to use the data.
how to use beneficial ownership data?
Four years ago, when I was still with the Philippine EITI Secretariat, we developed this tool or method called ACES. It’s basically a simple, four-step process in using data. It stands for:
Step 1: Ask a question/s
In the context of BO data, these are just some of the most common questions that one may have in mind.
Step 2: Collect data
The second step is Collect data. In the Philippines, the main source of BO data in the extractives is of course the Philippine EITI Beneficial Ownership Registry. The tool comes with useful functions.
Step 3: Examine data
the next step is to analyze the data or examine the data to help answer our question. This is where we explore the data that we have. These are just some of the possible and basic ways to explore the data:
Due to the limitations of the available BO data, we have to acknowledge that our data is not as comprehensive at the moment but we have to start somewhere.
Step 4: Share findings
America's top three (3) oil and gas companies - Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil, are behemoths. In fact, their combined 2019 assets total $670 billion (Global 500). If they were an economy, they'd be the 21st largest in the world.
Natural resources offer host countries the opportunity to translate their assets into sustainable development. Having significant revenues enables governments to fund social services like health and education. But being too dependent on resource revenues also puts them at risk. The volatility of commodity prices can cause extreme shocks to their government spending especially if no systematic measures are in place for such occurrences. Hence it is important for citizens, policymakers, and journalists to ask how much government is making and how dependent are they from the sector.
As oil prices plummet, so will revenues and government transfers of national oil companies (NOCs). Should this go on, some NOCs may face insolvency, debt restructuring, and costly government bailouts.
On my first week at Bantay Kita - PWYP Philippines back in June 2015, I was tasked to create primers using subnational data from the Philippine EITI report. Open data was on its early days then. To be able to analyze the data, I had to… manually encode the data from the paper report. That task took so much of my time and I even got some data wrong. Fast forward to 2020 and we are now drowning in datasets with plenty of online portals publishing even more data. How far has our movement gone?
Co-authored with Mukasiri Sibanda
Recent news, which the government has not refused, suggested that Zimbabwe is not keen on joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). By joining EITI, the mining sector - the main engine for economic growth, would have been opened for citizens to question government and industry on how past and current mining deals are best tailored to contribute Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The new Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standard is like the latest smartphone in the market - it is fancy on the outside but packed with useful features on the inside. Implementing it comes with a real cost to its 52 implementing countries but by unlocking the potential of these new features can we say that it is actually worth it.
Payments data from two years ago is so 2003. The EITI Standard is so much more than that now. Communities have a lot to potentially gain from the new and improved requirements - if and only if that potential is harnessed. Here are just some of the ways communities can use the EITI Standard to ensure that their natural resources are governed in a sound manner.
In his July 2017 State of the Nation Address, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he would tax miners to “death.” In December 2017, he signed Republic Act 10963--Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN)—the first of six packages of a comprehensive program. TRAIN took effect on 1 January.
Under the new tax system, mining companies that extract metallic or non-metallic minerals are now subject to a 4 percent excise tax on the value of their production—double the previous rate. This excise tax is equivalent to what most countries would label a “royalty” on mineral production. What does this 100 percent increase mean for the sector?
Gold, silver, iron, and copper in Westeros has been exploited for centuries yet extraction only benefited a few great houses and their lords and ladies. Inequality and poverty remains a constant development issue in the realm. Here comes Daenerys <insert ALL titles here> with her three dragons aiming to conquer all Seven Kingdoms. If she wins the Game of Thrones, how can she turn Westeros’ resource wealth to sustainable development?
Today I met with members of two mining affected communities in Palawan. This was part of a session we did for the Publish What You Pay Data Extractors Workshop last week. When I asked them if they've used EITI reports and other extractives data before, they said no.
I continued to ask.
Prices of oil and minerals can go really high. A country may benefit given the right fiscal regime. During the boom cycle in the latter half of the previous decade, many resource-rich countries saw their budgets swelling (and their dictators happy). Along with it came their spending as well.
Then the unexpected happened. Prices reached all-time lows since 2011. Resource-dependent countries are now struggling with a fiscal crisis caused by their lack of diversification and prudence in spending in the past.
What can governments do about this? Plan for the long-term.
This post was first published in Extract-a-Fact on October 13, 2016.
There are two types of disclosures. One is disclosure for the sake of transparency, while the other is disclosure that actually works for the people it is intended to help. Ensuring the latter is the philosophy Bantay Kita has applied to its engagement with natural resources data.
This post was first published in the Publish What You Pay Website on October 28, 2016
Asking why we need to use data is like asking why we fall in love or breathe. We need to use data for the simple reason that it’s available left, right and centre. As advocates, data scientists, government officials, campaigners, and ordinary citizens, we have the key to making meaningful change happen in our own communities.
Data can be simply numbers for some while for others it can mean either having livelihood projects or none at all. Asserting one's right does not come from thin air. It starts with knowing what is due to you. This may sound simple if not trivial to the privileged but not for the marginalized. Transparency changes.
Hey there! I'm Marco from the Philippines. I write mostly about natural resource governance, open data, and good governance.