MAC: Mines and Communities

Mogpog vs Marcopper Hearing

Published by MAC on 2002-09-10



September 10, 2002
Mogpog, Marinduque, Philippines

A year and five months after the civil case filed by 61 affected residents of the town of Mogpog against Marcopper-Placer Dome, the Regional Trial Court of Marinduque is finally hearing the case today. The hearing is to determine the indigency status of the plaintiffs who were devastated by the collapse of Marcopper Mining's Maguila-guila siltation dam on December 6, 1993. The earthen Maguila-guila siltation dam, which Marcopper built to filter the toxic silt from their mining activities in Sta. Cruz town, collapsed a year after it was built in 1993. Productive agricultural lands, produce, animals, and houses were destroyed and lost during the 1993 flooding of the Mogpog River with the bursting of Marcopper's Maguila-guila dam. Kagawad Leonor Nunez of Bgy.

Magapua, one of the plaintiffs, recall that their river has been rendered useless since the 1993 disaster. According to her, the 1993 flooding has brought sticky and clayish soil in their river and its vicinities while the water near the dam itself has turned blue-green. The once rich agricultural soil especially near the Mogpog River can no longer bear lush fruits and vegetables that they used to bear. In Bgy. Nangka Dos, the lowest elevetion where Marcopper's silt has collected since the 1993 flooding, rice planting can no longer thrive. Residents also observe that the Mogpog River was once filled with native shrimp and fish. Since 1993, no sign of riverine life has been observed in Mogpog River. Mirasol Nabiong, 38, of Bgy. Bocboc, was one of the residents whose homes was swept away by the 1993 flooding. Nabiong and her 5-year-old child, Cherelynn, have developed skin rashes with wounds from crossing the toxic river.

Many others in sitio Kabilang Ilog also have developed the same unknown skin disease in the feet from regularly crossing the poisoned river. "Masaya kami na may hearing na dahil nawawalan na kami ng pag-asa," Nabiong says. "Ngunit alam namin na matagal na salaysayin ito. Malalaking tao ang aming kalaban." Up to this day, already 9 years after the tragedy, Marcopper-Placer Dome has not yet acknowledged its responsibility in this event, saying that it was caused by a typhoon and thus an "act of God."

Marinduquenos and support groups were surprised by Placer Dome's sudden pull out of its operations from the Philippines in December 2001. Communities from the largely affected towns of Boac, Mogpog, and Sta. Cruz rallied in December as an uproar against Placer Dome's pullout which they deem to be an abdication of its responsibility for the series of mining tragedies in Marinduque. Provincial Board member Adeline Angeles has recently submitted a resolution to the provincial board calling for a 25-year mining moratorium in the island of Marinduque. The civil case for damages is calling for the Marcopper-Placer Dome to pay for moral, actual, and exemplary damages to the affected residents.

THE LEGAL RIGHTS AND NATURAL RESOURCES CENTER-KASAMA SA KALIKASAN (LRC-KSK), an advocacy group and the Mogpog community's legal counsel, says "This is just the beginning of a long, uphill climb. But the people are in a celebratory mood, because after a year of waiting they will finally have a day in court. But this is just the beginning. And they have to be more assiduous in asserting their rights."

For details, In Manila, Rina Corpus/LRC-KSK Luzon TF 4344079 In Marinduque, Mitz Maling/Beth Manggol/Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) 043 3111373
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