The Firm has pioneered the Social License Practice, the first and only one of its kind in the country, as part of its paradigm shift in the law practice and a total solutions approach to its clients’ various problems. It primarily responds to the investors’ critical need to gain social acceptability and broad approval from host communities to facilitate the long-term sustainability of their operations in resource extractive industries. A team of lawyers trained to apply a holistic, well-integrated and multi-disciplinary approach immerses for long periods of time with stakeholders to create a relationship of mutual trust. It builds a network of local champions with a sense of co-ownership to protect an investment and minimize, if not avoid socio-economic, political, cultural and security risks to the projects.
To this end, the Firm has facilitated the compliance with the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from various indigenous peoples (IPs) throughout the country, including helping IPs obtain their Certificate of Ancestral Domains Title (CADT) and Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) in order to strengthen the long-term partnership between the investors and the affected communities in mining, energy and infrastructure projects.
The Firm has also utilized the Social License in effectively handling crisis management for its clients. In 2005, a flagship green-field mining project was fined, suspended and issued a cease-desist order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”). The Firm represented the client in investigations conducted by Congress and the Presidential Fact-Finding Commission and by acting as spokesman before local and foreign media. The Firm successfully reversed the public opposition to the project and restored its social license by obtaining favorable endorsements from the concerned congressional representatives, the executive and legislative councils of various local government units affected, the business and religious sectors, non-governmental organizations and other sectors of society to allow the project’s full and permanent resumption of operations.
The Firm is currently exploring arrangements with social impact investors to help bridge-finance its representation of affected indigenous cultural communities so they have access to legal expertise in their negotiation and execution of mutually beneficial commercial agreements with investors in resource extractive projects.
Mr. Julito R. Sarmiento, who has extensive academic training and involvement in international human rights law advocacy particularly in the areas of economic, social and cultural rights, longstanding relationships with various non-governmental organizations and has in-depth experience in community-organizing, leads the Firm’s Social License Practice.