MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines Supreme Court rules against Marcopper

Published by MAC on 2006-02-15

Philippines Supreme Court rules against Marcopper

15th February 2006


The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) is wondering why it took so long before the 'motion to quash' filed by Marcopper Mining Corporation executives was decided by the Courts of the land while it took only some couple of years for them to decide on more critical concerns like the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995.

The criminal cases against the Marcopper executives (John Eric Loney and Steven Paul Reid were also officials of Placer Dome, Inc.) were filed in August 1996 or five months after the infamous March 24 Boac River Disaster but their prosecution were stagnated because of the first motion (to quash) filed by Marcopper.

No less than the then DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Victor O. Ramos requested the lifting of the hold-departure orders on the Marcopper officials upon the written and binding pledge of Placer Dome, the corporate home of the mining company's management, that they will undertake all the financial and technical measures needed to revive the Boac River and the affected communities.

In 1997 Placer Dome left the country after divesting all its interests in the mining company and without satisfactorily cleaning-up their mess to the environment and the people of Marinduque.

Worse, instead of addressing the various environmental, health, livelihood and safety needs of the poor Marinduqueños, the Arroyo government still included the San Antonio Copper Project among the list of priority mining investment areas in the country.

In failing to obtain justice from our own government and justice system, the people of Marinduque opted to look for a venue in another country to hold Placer Dome, a transnational corporation, liable for all its responsibilities in the series of disasters its mining company has wrought our environment and people.

The recent decision of the Supreme Court in denying Marcopper executive's motion to quash is not a guarantee that the Marinduqueños and the Filipinos, in general, will finally obtain justice.

The decision came in the advent of Marinduqueños' preparation for the 10th commemorative year of the infamous Boac River Disaster of 1996. Despite this decision, we shall continue our planned activities of calling for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the 'delisting of the San Antonio Copper Project from the mining priority areas through series of protest actions in Marinduque and in Manila.

After 30 years of hosting three large-scale mining projects (Consolidated Mines Project, Tapian Copper Mine project and San Antonio Copper Mine project) in our island-province, Marinduque remains one of the only seven fourth class provinces in the country, ranks as the 14th poorest province in the entire Philippines, has the 3rd most denuded forest of all provinces and has a high poverty incidence of 71.9%.

Let me reiterate the sentiments of Marinduqueños contained in the Marinduque Declaration of January 31, 2006: "the inclusion of the San Antonio Copper Project in the mining priority list is insulting for us, Marinduqueños, and really shows callous disregard of the national government for the suffering of our children, women and men as a result of large-scale mining. It is quite clear that the government still don't realize the gravity of environmental problems in our province, just don't care about the poor people's welfare, or has lost all capacity to function as a sovereign government for the best interest of its people and the nation's future. Whichever it is or a combination of all three, there resides in the Marinduqueños a deeply rooted sense of justice and rights and a long history of willingness to fight for those rights in the face of oppression."

Myke R. Magalang
Executive Secretary
Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns
Boac, Marinduque
Tel: (042) 332-1513)



SC upholds ruling vs Marcopper executives

by Rey E. Requejo, Manila Standard

14th February 2006

THE Supreme Court has given the green light for the prosecution of the executives of the Marcopper mining firm for allegedly violating the country's environmental laws that resulted in Boac and Makulapnit Rivers' disasters in Marinduque 10 years ago.

In a 17-page decision, the SC's Third Division through Associate Justice Antonio Carpio rejected the appeal of Marcopper officers John Eric Loney, Steven Paul Reid and Pedro Hernandez seeking to quash the complaints filed against them by the Department of Justice (DoJ) for "being duplicitous."

The tribunal agreed with the decision of Marinduque Regional Trial Court Branch 94, which was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals, thus, paving the way for the DoJ to proceed with the criminal prosecution of Marcopper officials.

The DoJ indicted the three officers of the Marcopper mining firm on special offenses for violation of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, Presidential Decree 984 (otherwise known as National Pollution Control Decree of 1976), Republic Act 7942 or Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property.

The Marcopper officers refuted the charges against them for being "duplicitous" because, they said, the DoJ had accused them for more than one offense on a single incident of polluting the Boac and Makalupnit Rivers.

They claimed that they were not officers of Marcopper at the time the alleged offenses were committed. But the mining officers told the lower court that they were willing to be arraigned only on the charge for violation of Article 365 of the RPC.

In junking the petition of Marcopper officers, however, the SC noted that "the prosecution charged each petitioner with four offenses, with each information charging only one offense. Thus, petitioners erroneously invoke duplicity of charges as a ground to quash the information. On this score alone, the petition deserves outright denial."

"Further discussion of these issues would not serve any useful purpose, as it would merely repeat the same justifications and reasons already taken up in the foregoing opinions, which tackled precisely those matters and even more; any further elucidations, disquisitions and disputations would merely reiterate the same points already passed upon," the SC said.

The disaster began in March 24, 1996 after a rock formation around the plug near a drainage tunnel was fractured resulting in the spillage of 1.6 million cubic meters of tailings to the 26 km Makulapnit and Boac Rivers.

Government monitoring reports which was come up with the help of US experts suggested that the Boac River's capacity appears to be able to accommodate the pollution coming from the mine site and the tailings deposited at the Boac River. An estimated 1.6 million cubic meters of tailings leaked from the Tapian Drain Tunnel and approximately 703,228 cubic meters of tailings still remain in the Boac and Makulapnit Rivers.

Of this, 526,000 cubic meters deposited in the dredge channel developed in August 1996 while the remaining 177,228 cubic meters are scattered throughout the whole stretch of the Boac and Makulapnit Rivers.

Observations made by the Placer Dome Technical Services Data showed that the community has returned to many of the traditional uses of the Boac River such as quarrying, fishing, clothes washing and general road access.

In late December 2001, Marcopper submitted a proposal to haul back the remaining tailings in the Boac and Makulapnit Rivers to Tapian Pit. A total of P39.4 million was used to pay compensation for damages in 1996, which consisted 48 barangays and having a total of 5,042 claimants.


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