MAC: Mines and Communities

Filipinos still seeking justice for 1993 Marcopper tragedy

Published by MAC on 2010-05-23
Source: LRC, ATM

Justice delayed is justice denied. Unfortunately within the Philippine legal system it is all too common. It is now 16 years after the first horrific accident at Placer Dome's Marcopper mine on the island of Marinduque, and nine years after a legal case was brought over the incident. Still the local villagers are waiting.

After 16 years Marinduque folk still seeking justice for Marcopper tragedy

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center - Luzon (LRC-KsK) Press Release

6 May 2010

"We have been waiting for almost two decades now. We are old. Most of us are already senior citizens. We cannot afford to wait another 16 years to get justice," said Manang Rita Natal, one of the original plaintiffs in the case against Marcopper Mining, a copper mining company reportedly co-owned by then-president Ferdinand Marcos and Canada's Placer Dome.

The plaintiffs, many of them already in their 60s and 70s, filed a mandamus petition before the Supreme Court today to compel the judge handling the case to rule on their motion to be allowed access to the Marcopper mine site and secure copies of important company documents. This would allow them to gather more evidence to bolster their case.

"We seek Supreme Court intervention to speed up this case. There is simply no reason to allow it to drag on. We are hoping that the SC will continue its stellar pro-environment record under Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno by ruling in our favor," said Atty. Minerva Quintela, lead counsel of the plaintiffs, and from the cause-oriented group Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK).

The Rita Natal et. al., vs. Marcopper Mining Corp. case was filed in 2001 by 60 plaintiffs from Barangays Magapua and Bocboc, in Mogpog, Marinduque who were the first victims when the Marcopper siltation dam burst in 1993.

"We are hoping that the Supreme Court will take up this case as a test to its commitment in the recently approved Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases." Atty. Quintela added.

For almost two decades, Marinduque has served as the most prominent symbol of the disastrous impact of mining in the Philippines, after two mining disasters - the Mogpog disaster of 1993 and the Boac disaster of 1996 - killed off the provinces' two most important rivers. The case has remained unresolved for 16 years, prompting advocates to call it a "legacy case".

Green Groups Pray for SC Urgent Action on Marinduque Mining Tragedy:

Says Legacy of Destructive Mining Must Go Away with GMA

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) Press Release

6 May 2010

Manila - A national group of environmental organizations pleaded today with the Supreme Court to act speedily and in favor of local residents from Marinduque seeking justice and compensation from the mining tragedy that befell the province 17 years ago. Expressing their support to plaintiffs from elderly and ailing residents of the province, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), expressed faith that the Supreme Court will uphold the rule of law and confer environmental justice to Marinduquenos, who became victims of a mine spill in Mogpog River in 1993, by a mine operated by Marcopper Mining Corporation.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM, said that with the rules on environmental cases promulgated by the Supreme Court recently, "we are hopeful that Chief Justice Puno and the rest of the Supreme Court will act swiftly, decisively and impartially bestow justice. This is a fitting legacy that CJ Puno will be giving as he anticipates his retirement a few days from now." He added that this "ugly legacy of the Marinduque tragedy is a concrete reminder of the serious threats that large-scale mining poses to our environment, our livelihoods and even lives". He compared the horrible calamity to the continuing tragedy that is the GMA administration which has aggressively promoted large-scale mining. "This should be an important lesson to all candidates in this elections, that they should heed the call of the rural poor who are against large-scale mining and looking for genuine rural development through agriculture and agro-industrialization productivity", he concluded.

"HARIBON supports the efforts made by the residents of Marinduque to seek and claim justice that long eluded them. Although this will not bring back the original biodiversity of the area, their action resonates of hope for themselves and another chance to renew life", said Blas Tabaranza, Executive Director of HARIBON. HARIBON is a co-convenor of ATM.

Meanwhile, human rights groups expressed solidarity with this move. "This is the final resort to seek redress for the human rights abuses resulting from this mining tragedy in Marinduque, and we are supporting the plaintiffs", said Nymia Pimental-Simbulan, Executive Director of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights).

In the early hours of December 6, 1993, at the height of typhoon Monang, the siltation dam of Marcopper in Marinduque broke, sending a flashflood down the Mogpog River. Two people were reported killed, along with the destruction of residents' crops, homes and loss of numerous livestock due to mine tailings and toxic effluent. The incident led to the eventual death of the Mogpog river, which, prior to the disaster, was a valuable community resources to barangays along the river. Only 3 years after the storm, a leak in the mine's drainage tunnel caused more toxic materials to empty out into the Boac River in the provincial capital. In addition, corrosive tailings and other mine waste were dumped in Marinduque's Calancan Bay continuously for 16 years, endangering fisherfolk communities by the sea, as well as the smaller creeks and rice fields traversed by the drainage pipes.

ATM is a national campaign of more than 80 organizations all over the country against the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. They are actively supporting more than 20 mining-affected communities who are opposing the entry or expansion of mining operations in their areas, including the continuing struggle of the people of Marinduque. ATM is convened by HARIBON, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) and the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA).

For further information: Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator (0915) 315.37.19

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