The Philippines Mourn their Dead RiversPublished by MAC on 2001-06-12
The Philippines Mourn their Dead Rivers
Press Release: June 12, 2001
A follow up to the International Conference on STD, Indonesia
On May 31, 2001, over 100 concerned citizens from rural communities in the Philippines marched the streets demanding that their rivers not be destroyed by mining activities. The march was dubbed the Funeral March for the Rivers.
The citizens marched to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources where there were calls for action from the communities of Marinduque, Mindoro and Bicol to rehabilitate and protect their waters. They don black t-shirts, black umbrellas and black veils and carried the dead fish from their rivers to show DENR Secretary, Heherson T. Alvarez. According to the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), these people have come a long way to make Sec. Alvarez see and hear for himself their strong sentiment against the all-out mining policy of the DENR. They want Alvarez to smell the dead fish from
their dead rivers which they have been made to live with by the mining companies.
Some of those involved in organizing this protest, including LRC, also participated in the International Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) Conference held recently, 23rd-30th April, in Manado, North Sulawesi. The conference recognized that coastal communities in the South Pacific were especially being threatened with the use of STD. STD is a technology used and promoted by mining companies as a means of disposing their mining wastes into the oceans. The STD Conference hosted by JATAM, the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network, brought together representatives from the community, NGOs, government, academics and media from various parts of the world including Indonesia.
Indonesia currently has two STD operations, in North Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara, both owned and operated by Newmont from the United States. Five other mining companies currently have applied for a license to use STD in their operations. This conference resulted in the drafting of a strong declaration that called for the banning of STD in Indonesia, the South Pacific and the world.
The Philippines has been an unfortunate witness to the impacts of tailings on waters. The Marinduque community have seen their Boac River be destroyed due to a tailings spill from tailings dam of the Marcopper Mine in 1996. The mining company in charge of operations there at the time was Placer Dome from Canada, a major shareholder of the Marcopper mine. This had irreversible impacts on the environment and health of the people of the community.
The USGS Report: An Overview of Mining-Related Environmental and Human Health Issues, Marinduque Island, Philippines (May 12-19, 2000) reported that the: high rate of sediment transport from Marcopper will continue to have adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem. The report goes on to state that little or no fish and invertebrate aquatic life was visible in the Boac River in its middle stretches local residents also told us that there are periodic fish kills in the lower (presumably estuarine) portions of the Boac River. It is important to note that this was reported four years after the spill occurred.
The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) has expressed the long struggle it has had with Marcopper-Placer Dome to get their act together and comply with rehabilitating their dead river: To this day, Marcopper has not even acknowledged their responsibility for the death of our river.
Even more horrendous, Placer Dome has delayed rehabilitating the disaster zone by lobbying the Government to accept their plans to clean up Boac River by using STD. Placer Dome Technical Services wants to deposit the remaining mine waste into a nearby strait, claiming that is the most fastest and feasible option. However, the Environment Secretary, Alvarez has rejected their application thus far. I have gone through, in the most exhaustive possible (way), the statement of facts and Ive come to the conclusion that the process will be violative of an adequate defense of the environment, said Alvarez in a press conference on May 31, 2001.
Meanwhile the residents have been filing civil suits against Marcopper-Placer Dome for damages they have suffered. The Marinduque citizens have gained the support of the nations regulatory authorities, who in 1999, rejected Placer Domes plans for STD use based on social unacceptability.
Community resistance has been instrumental in bringing environmental and social justice to the Philippines. However, the community resistance in Indonesia has been just as prevalent, but Indonesian communities continue to be pushed aside for the sake of foreign investment.
The Philippines experience is especially significant for Indonesia since the same mining company involved in polluting the Marinduque site, has recently just resumed operations in the regions of Meratus and Kusan regions in South Kalimantan. Based on the heartache and trouble Placer Dome has bestowed upon the people and environment of the Philippines, Indonesia must cease all mining rights of Placer Dome at once and send this foreign investor packing. ***