MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Marinduque Declared as Mining Free

Published by MAC on 2006-03-15

Marinduque Declared as Mining Free

by Dennis Espada, Bulatlat - Vol. VI, No.

8th March 2006 - 1st April 2006

As Marinduque folks commemorate a decade of mining debacles

After three decades of hosting large-scale mining projects, Marinduque remains impoverished, ranked as the country's 14th poorest province with a staggering poverty incidence of 71.9 percent.

The people of Marinduque (some 170 kms south of Manila) marked March 24 as a "day of mourning, unity and action" to remember an ill-fated decade following the infamous Boac River disaster and other mining-related tragedies, considered the worst ever that occurred in Philippine history.

Mine tailings coming from a defective drainage tunnel at the Tapian Pit operated by Marcopper Mining Corp. gushed down from the mountain on March 24, 1996, filling the 30-kilometer Boac River with three million tons of toxic wastes.

On Dec. 6, 1993, a deluge of dam water drowned two children to death in Mogpog town after the collapse of the Maguila-guila siltation dam. Meanwhile, some 36 residents of Calancan Bay died due to diseases believed to have been caused by heavy metal contamination after Marcopper dumped 200 million tons of mine wastes into the river system from 1976 to 1991.

All these serve as a painful reminder that natural resources are not for sale.

During a recent protest gathering in Boac town, church leaders, local government units, academic institutions and multi-sectoral organizations urged the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to put an end to ecological ruin by making their island-province mining-free.

Continuing Calvary

Last Jan. 31, key leaders in the province, among them Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of the Diocese of Boac, Marinduque Council of Environmental Concerns (Macec) chairman Msgr. Senen Malapad, Gov. Carmencita Reyes and Cong. Edmundo Reyes Jr., endorsed the "Marinduque Declaration". It demands the removal of the San Antonio Copper Project from Malacañang's mining priority list and rejection of all pending mining applications in the province.

In a pastoral letter, Evangelista said more than 80 lay leaders and representatives of pastoral councils, diocesan commissions, religious groups and church organizations assembled last month for the First Church People's Diocesan Colloquium on Social Concerns to draw out activities for the enhancement of advocacy and information work on mining issues. They collectively expressed support for the "Marinduque Declaration" and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement calling for the scrapping of Republic Act No. 7942 or Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

After three decades of hosting large-scale mining projects such as the Consolidated Mine Project and Tapian Copper Project, Marinduque remains impoverished, ranked as the country's 14th poorest province with a staggering poverty incidence of 71.9 percent and has the third most denuded forest.

"It (San Antonio Copper Project's inclusion 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," the declaration read.

"It is quite clear that the government still doesn'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."

Forsaken

Macec's executive secretary Myke Magalang blamed the executive, legislative and judicial branches for their utter failure to give justice to the victims.

He said that while lawsuits against Marcopper are still pending before the courts, Placer Dome Inc., the Canadian firm that controls Marcopper, fled the country without satisfactorily cleaning-up their mess.

"We had to run after Placer Dome and when we found them in Nevada in the United States, we filed a civil case in that foreign country, a very expensive quest for justice," Magalang told the media.

Bayan Muna (People First) Party-list Rep. Joel Virador pointed out that the Marinduque catastrophes are glaring cases of neglect that "concretize the pitfalls of the government's mining liberalization policy".

"The Philippine Mining Law is a clear case of how this government tailor-fits its own law to serve the interests of foreign multinationals and to be consistent with GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the rules of World Trade Organization," Virador said. "Indeed, it is high-time for us to combine our strength and together say no to the plunder of our finite natural resources." Bulatlat.

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