THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said that it authorized miners to repurpose funds intended for social development, safety and health to procure vaccines for their host communities.

The authorization covers the funds miners are required to set aside by law for social development and management programs (SDMPs), and safety and health programs (SHPs) for the procurement of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

According to the revised rules and regulations implementing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the SDMP must be geared towards the “sustained improvement in the living standards of host and neighboring communities.”

“The mining contractor or permit holder shall realign the 2021 funds and the said procurement shall be chargeable against the development of host and neighboring communities of the SDMP for the impact barangays or municipalities, and health and control services of the SHP for employees or workers,” MGB said in a memorandum issued Friday.

MGB Acting Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said in a Viber message Monday that “the funds coming from a portion of the annual budget of the SDMP are to be used in procuring vaccines for non-employees of the mining companies, but are residents of the host and neighboring community, while the funds coming from the SHP are meant to be used for buying vaccines for mining employees.”

In its memorandum, the bureau said it authorized the realignment of SDMP and SHP funds “in the interest of public service and to help fight against COVID-19.” It said that its pronouncement was in line with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, its revised implementing rules and regulations, and mine safety and health standards.

The MGB added that the miners that buy vaccines with the realigned funds must follow the guidelines and procedures of the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The MGB also required firms to disclose the use of the realigned funds in their quarterly reports.

“The implementation of this memorandum shall be included in the quarterly accomplishment reports to be submitted by mining companies subject to monitoring of the MGB Regional Office concerned,” the MGB said.

Asked about his estimate of the total funds that could be rechanneled into COVID-19 vaccine efforts, Mr. Moncano provided no figures but estimated that miners could end up reallocating up to 75% of the available funds.

“How much percentage from the SDMP and SHP will depend on how large is the SDMP but with a cap of 75% of it, although it is not mentioned in the guidelines,” he told BusinessWorld.

He added that the miners will still need to consult with their respective communities during the realignment of funds as the latter may have already been included in the local government unit’s vaccine procurement plan.

In November, the MGB released a memorandum that allowed miners to reallocate unused funds from their SDMPs to assist typhoon victims in their respective host and neighboring communities. — Angelica Y. Yang