Manila—Communities in Marinduque are still suffering from the impacts of the Marcopper Mining Corporation—contaminated drinking water, toxic freshwater and marine life. Different groups altogether filed legal cases of mining affected communities in the Philippines but justice is yet to be served.
“The Boac disaster is a grim reminder of the irreversible damages large scale mining has on the environment, on communities’ livelihoods, and the lives of the people. Unfortunately, today, we are experiencing yet two other disasters – the lack of justice the people of Marinduque is suffering from the impunity that Marcopper and Placerdome is enjoying; and the refusal of our government to learn lessons from this devastating experience,” says Judy A. Pasimio, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK). “The extractive and destructive framework of development should be abandoned by the P-Noy administration. The push for large scale mining as pillar of development has long been exposed as a mtyh, a very deadly one.”
Exactly 15 years ago today, Marcopper earth dam containing mine tailings collapsed resulting in the release of 1.6 million cubic meters along Boac River adversely affecting the river and its biodiversity. River waters also inundated low-lying areas, destroying crops and vegetable gardens.
Religious leader in Boac, Marinduque reiterate his call for justice. Bishop Rey Evangelista of the Diocese of Boac said that “We reaffirm our commitment as a local church to oppose ALL mining operations in Marinduque, and to seek environmental justice after 15 years of disaster.”
“We will continue forming our people to care for the environment and to treasure all the God-given gifts so that the future generations may enjoy the fullness of life.” adds Bishop Evangelista.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina added, “15 years after the disaster and the sad part is people tend to forget—our government has forgotten the face of Marinduqueños who suffered from the mine tailings of Marcopper who had its hands clean when the disaster happened. We stand with the communities, proper compensation must be given, and ecosystems should be rehabilitated.”
LRC-KsK and Alyansa Tigil Mina, together with many other organizations are pushing for the passage of Minerals Management Bill (MMB), a new mining law that addresses the vulnerability of small island communities, which are at high risks due to mining applications and permits by both local and foreign companies. MMB ensures that small island ecosystems are part of ‘no go zones’—areas that are absolute closed to mining activities — as the effects of mining manifest ten-folds in these communities.
Representative Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III of the 4th Distric of Quezon Province, and one of the champions pushing for a new alternative mining law, asserts that, “The Marinduque mining disaster remains the most potent evidence of the urgency of correcting the mining situation in the Philippines. The Alternative Mining Bill, HB 206, was conceived with precisely a situation like Marinduque in mind, where mining created widespread destruction and the people were left without redress. The bill will remedy that, and more, by an overhaul of the existing law. The bill does not address the question of whether or not we should still be mining, but rather, ‘given a situation where we need to mine, how do we do so responsibly and without damage to the environment and our people?”
HB206 and HB3763, both pushing for a new mining law, were filed in July 1, 2010 and December 1, 2010 respectively. The authors of the bills are Rep. Erin Tanada III for HB 206 or the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB) and Rep. Kaka Bag-ao and Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan Partylist, Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Rep. Carlos Padilla and Rep. Roilo Golez for HB 3763 or the Minerals Management Bill (MMB). Additional Congress representatives have since joined the cause.
“It (Marinduque) is a shining example of a top-down policy with disastrous consequences. To answer that problem, the AMB injects the existing law with the concepts of transparency and accountability, which are key ingredients in an activity that directly impacts the surrounding communities. With such a participative spirit, we ensure that the people who suffer the effects of mining are never again left out in the cold.” adds Rep. Tañada.
Advocates continue to call on President President Benigno Aquino III to fulfill his campaign promise of rehabilitation and compensation for communities affected by large-scale mining disasters such as the Marcopper mining incident in Boac, Marinduque.
The Minerals Management Bill Now Network (MMB Now Network) is a national, multi-sectoral movement composed of mining-affected communities, national peoples alliances, environmental organizations and networks, church-based organizations, human rights organizations, national NGOs, sectoral organizations from the indigenous peoples, youth, women, farmers, Congressional representatives, known leaders and personalities advocating for the repealing of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of the Minerals Management Bill.
Aside from the 1996 Boac River Disaster, Marinduque also suffered other major mining-related disasters committed by Marcopper and Placerdome. From 1975 to 1991, Marcopper dumped 200 million tons of toxic wastes in Calancan Bay causing the degradation of the bay which eventually led to numerous cases of lead and mercury poisoning of aquatic resources and the inhabitants of the bay. In the wee hour of December 6, 1993, the Marcopper siltation dam broke, sending a sudden flood of toxic mine tailings down the Mogpog River. Two people were reported killed, along with the destruction of crops and numerous livestock in the stretch of the river system.
Numerous cases are currently pending in various courts seeking accountability of Marcopper and Placerdome, and justice to all the horrors that Marinduquenos had to bear and continue to bear. On April 11, 2011, court hearings of the Mogpog case lodged by the victims of the 1993 disaster will resume, wherein a pending court decision that granted the victims of the reproduction of documents and opening of the mine site for investigation will be tackled. This development would eventually bolster their assertion on the culpability of Marcopper.