After court victory, Marinduque residents seek rehab of mining-damaged river

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2022 03:55 PM

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A group of Marinduque residents on Thursday called for a complete rehabilitation of a river allegedly damaged by the operations of Marcopper Mining Corporation, which a court recently ordered to pay damages for a mining disaster nearly 3 decades ago. 

In 1993, the company’s Maguila-guila siltation dam burst, flooding the town of Mogpog, where 2 children drowned in the mine waste. 
 
In a decision made available to media on Tuesday, Judge Emmanuel Recalde of the Marinduque Regional Trial Court Branch 38 ordered Marcopper to pay each of the plaintiffs P200,000 in temperate damages and P100,000 in moral damages. Marcopper was also ordered to pay the plaintiffs collectively P1 million in exemplary damages, media reports said. 

"It is a victorious decision for us for almost 3-decade mining tragedy that makes Mogpog River dead until now and the hardship that Mogpog residents feel until now," Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns executive director Elizabeth Manggol told ANC.

Mogpog River is considered biologically dead after it was heavily silted with mine tailings. 

"That is why we are hoping that one of our other case -- the Writ of Kalikasan case -- now pending at the Court of Appeal will be pursued and supported by our provincial government," Manggol said.

"And hope that it will decide in favor of Marinduque and for the genuine rehabilitation of all the ecosystems that destruct during the 30 years mining operation of Marcopper."

Marcopper had denied responsibility when the Maguila-guila dam burst in 1993. Mining officials blamed an unusual rainfall brought by a typhoon. 

But a briefing paper from the office of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco earlier noted that when the dam was rebuilt, “an overflow was added for the first time, in an implicit acknowledgment of faulty engineering.”

"We strongly believe that the government must continue to exact accountability from Marcopper for the consequences of its irresponsible mining practices that have caused irreparable damage to the environment and to the people of Marinduque," Velasco said on Wednesday. 

For his part, Mogpog Mayor August Leo Livelo said he supports MACEC’s quest for justice. 

But in the meantime, he said he wishes for a dredging of the Mogpog River to prevent it from overflowing in case of strong rains.

“Ang sa amin po sana, sa pagkakaalam ko, may proposal po ata diyan, na kahit paano i-dredge man lang muna yung Mogpog River natin, see to it na hindi maapektuan masyado ng baha yung nasa low-lying areas,” he told TeleRadyo.

(From what I know, there is a proposal to dredge the Mogpog River in the meantime, see to it that those in low-lying areas would not be too badly affected by floods.) 
 
— With a report from Nikko Dizon, VERA Files