Friday, March 15, 2013

Another thick and tyrannical plot unfolding? Public Forum on the Marinduque lawsuit against Barrick Gold


Marcopper Mining Waste. Damage to Calancan Bay,
Mogpog River, Boac River and certain coastal areas.
Graphics: Kapatiran, 1998.
In filing a lawsuit in Nevada USA against Placer Dome/Barrick Gold, Marinduquenos in 2005 sought legal justice for the extensive environmental and social damages wrought by nearly three decades of irresponsible mining on this island.  Calancan Bay, Mogpog and Boac Rivers and surrounding coastal areas were polluted and human health problems were created.

In 2005, SP Resolution 264 yet to be ratified was passed by the provincial board authorizing Gov. Carmencita O. Reyes to enter into a Special Outside Appointment and Engagement Contract with legal counsel Walter J. Scott, pertinent  to the lawsuit against Placer Dome, Inc. “for the damage it caused to the people of Marinduque and the province’s ecosystems, specifically, the Boac and Mogpog Rivers, Calancan Bay and the surrounding coastal areas.”

Considered as the largest industrial disaster in the Philippines, the Marcopper Mining Disaster of 1996 resulted in the closure of Marcopper operations. In 2001 Placer Dome left the Philippines, leaving Marinduque’s polluted ecosystems behind.

Five years after the lawsuit was filed by the Provincial Government of Marinduque in a Nevada court in a long procedural battle that has reached the US Supreme Court, the US lawyers hired by the provincial government announced that a court hearing was finally scheduled in Nevada, one that could move the case toward a resolution. Nothing much has been heard by the people of Marinduque since then, even as a new provincial administration, sought critical information, such as details on the agreement earlier entered into with the lawyers involved by the provincial government, that remained unanswered. Read.

The U.S. lawyer Scott and Filipino lawyer Advincula at the forum.
Now comes the news that the US lawyer and his Filipino counterpart were in Marinduque recently for talks and a 'public forum' with some provincial government officials and stakeholders for ‘discussions on potential resolutions’ on the lawsuit that includes a “universal settlement”. A  universal settlement that involves the national government having to “eschew or forego any claims that were promised...”.

On a radio program hosted by the Marinduque LP Congressional candidate all at once came this daring 'epal-ine' announcement: “Dito sa Marcopper mining, ang Ate Gina po ang talaga namang nakikipagbalitaktakan sa mga dayuhang abogado…napakalaki ang ginampanan at gagampanan ng ating Ate Gina Reyes…isyu po ito e, hindi po ito pamumulitika…” 

How's that again? What new plots are unfolding then?

As regards this Nevada case, there were concerns about Marinduquenos having been “kept blind for so many years” due to the dearth of information that should have been supplied by the liaison officers, according to board member Melecio Go.  But, “It’s your liason officers! They have not been in the dark!”, answers the US lawyer.

Allan Nepomuceno of the so-called 'SP Liaison Committee'
“… Kabilin-bilinan ni Skip, ating abogado, ay huwag munang magbibigay… So, ako ay sumusunod lang sa pinag-uutos sa akin ng mga abogado.”, one liaison officer (Nepomuceno) replies to defend himself.

Then the US lawyer delivers a final statement: “…the President himself, none of those people will say I have kept them in the dark!” Shock waves, silence.

What’s the real score, what’s the truth? Inevitable questions come up like 'is the Marinduque governor still in command, what critical facts that the people should know are not being disclosed, why the seemingly brazen act of name-dropping that includes even the name of the President, is this a repetition of an old game where people involved in some conspiracy are hoodwinked by images of a 'magnitude of money', (to use the words of the US lawyer), while the rest of Marinduque falls in deep slumber amid hushed cries from others of a probable 'sellout'; what 'gag order'? Curiously timed during this election period (again), you wonder. And please reckon... 

BM Mel Go, Vice-Gov. Antonio Uy, Jr., BM Bong Raza and BM Allan Nepomuceno
 Excerpts from the ‘Public Forum’ held on January 21, 2012, at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Marinduque with Vice-Governor Antonio Uy, Jr., some members of the provincial board, Atty. Walter J. Scott, (US lawyer engaged by the provincial government) , Atty. Jack Advincula, (Filipino legal counterpart), some officers and members of Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC), plus a few local media practitioners. None of Marinduque's municipal officials to represent their constituents were invited:

MACEC executive director Myke Magalang and MACEC members
"MAGALANG: Hindi po kami nandito para makinig ng updates. Kasi alam na po namin yung updates. Ina-update po kami lagi ni Atty. Skip at Atty. Jack. Pumunta po kami para suportahan yung kaso at para sabihin sa inyo (board members), paulit-ulit, na puwede bang magka-isa na kayo..

MEL GO:  …Kami pa pala ang nakakagulo. Take note, for 10 years, nandito ka, walang lumabas. Ngayon lang na-open ito ah, you’re saying na ‘sige, study tayo, study’… tapos kami ang magulo?  My God!

BM JT Alino
JT ALINO: … at kami, kaya gusto naming mapag-usapan dito, transparent kami, gusto naming malaman ng taong-bayan na walang tinatago.. Hindi lang naman kayo ang apektado dito ah.. Pinagtutulungan natin itong lahat, sasabihin ninyong nagpapagulo kami, hinihingi lang namin ang katotohanan.

RAZA: … let us explore all avenue that will strengthen… any comment coming from the group, let us put that on hold… (introduces Atty. Scott ).

Atty. Skip Scott
SCOTT: … The purpose of this meeting is to update you on the events that took place on November 26 to November 29 in San Francisco… Before doing that though, given the nature of the dialogue at the outset here, I want to make it clear that… there may be disagreement as to the methodology, there may be disagreement as to disclosure…. The part of the difficulty, while I’m here, especially now, in any effort or endeavor like this is that we all operate with certain restrictions on us that we do not necessarily want, but have to live with…

But what we were successful in doing in the end of November is coming to a conclusion to agree, as the professionals believe, was a workable mutually agreeable framework for all the different constituents to sign off on….

…We operate under a certain ‘gag order’, a ‘gag order’ that tells us that we can’t disclose things. I know that there are some members of the press here with national means, and that ‘gag order’ becomes all that much tighter. And these are not necessarily self-imposed, they come from courts*.  A judge says thou shall not speak and, backed up by agreements that you have to enter into and agree, and promise that you shall not speak

ATTY. ADVINCULA: …ang napag-agreehan kailangang sabihin ito, hindi sa pagbubuhat ng bangko, mahirap po yung ginawa namin na framework. Yung framework na ginawa ay isang universal settlement, isang dokumento na ang gusto ng kabila ay ina-address lahat ng mga constituency, lahat ng stakeholders.

RAZA:  ...We would like to inform the public na noong 2007 to 2010, halos hindi po tumakbo yung usapin sapagkat hindi po kami, hindi po sila, nakakuha ng suporta sa nakaraang administrasyon…. But our lawyers in the States are painstakingly working out… for the province of Marinduque despite the absence of support from the previous administration.
Old Marcopper Minesite 
 LYN ANGELES: ...When you said that the mediation process is almost nearing , in the next five months,  do you expect the mediation process to be reaching an end?

SCOTT:… I think that this mediation process is pretty mature…my comment is that the political environment here may force a high risk for extended discussions potentially…I don’t know… But between now and then,  I think that we will make more progress on the numbers affair…

MEL GO: … The Dams... I wonder if the Governor or if MACEC has related to Mr. Skip hanggang ngayon ay.. kasi dapat noon pa yan ay inaasikaso na natin considering yung mga ulan ngayon malalakas, yung bagyong tumatama… I think that’s the foremost na dapat nating ugatan at ipauna natin sa kanila… while they are discussing the settlement or mediation ay ilabas na natin. This is dangerous, Skip… those dams are 10 years old...this is very valuable information that was not voted during your negotiations…

SCOTT:  … You survived a year and a half and 10 years..

MEL GOThe (USGS) study was for medium-term and longer mediation… there’s nothing (about it)!

SCOTT: … At the same it also has to be mentioned in terms unfortunately in the sense that, If you claim something is imminent and it does not happen for 10 years, some of you would openly say, how imminent is that… so I don’t want to rely on the USGS report over this…

Liaison Officers Raza and Nepomuceno
NEPOMUCENO: …Baka matanim sa isip ng mga tao na kami ay nagkukulang bilang liaison officers. Kami po ni Bokal Raza ay assigned talaga na magbibigay ng information sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Sa totoo lang po, may tali ang ating mga kamay dahil ang kabilin-bilinan ni Skip, ating abogado, ay huwag munang magbibigay kung maaari… kasi ang magbibigay talaga ng information sa SP ay ang liaison, hindi ang Governor. Ang information nagdadaan sa liaison …. So, ako ay sumusunod lang sa pinag-uutos sa akin ng mga abogado…

PETER MAGTURO: Can you give us an idea of the time frame? Election season now, how will the political climate affect (this issue)….

SCOTT: … As for the political timetable, I personally believe there is no person, no political party, whether you are in or out, it doesn’t matter as far as these issues are concerned…. Like it or not, the national government is a stakeholder…

MEL GO: Are you saying Skip that even the national government will set in?

SCOTT: I think that the national government has to be the signatory to endorse… thus far they are willing to eschew or forego any claims that then were promised with this resolution… But just a point to answer your question. If you will put the deal on the table, there is never enough, never enough…

…No, we’ve been in discussion with the national government all along. The national government is well aware and has participated in these (showing documents).

MEL GO: Exactly, that’s why we are in a situation that we have been kept blind for so many years… with the national government (involvement)…

SCOTT: It’s like this. You have the process and procedure in October. We have them here. It’s your liaison officers. They have not been in the dark. They are not blind. So for you to say that you’re blind is for you to ignore the very processes and protocols that you yourself have put to waste.

...Stop making claims. It is frustrating for somebody to sit and tell me that I am not keeping you informed … I may not be talking to you individually … My obligation is to speak to the Governor as the primary point with the concurrence of the liaison… Don’t make a statement that you are not being informed. I take that very seriously.

MEL GOYes, it’s true. I have nothing! (documents)

SCOTT: … Secretary Acosta, or Secretary Paje or the President himself, none of those people will say I have kept them in the dark. This is a full-time, all-consuming engagement…"

*Issuances from the Court in connection with this case are available online. Based on said issuances no gag order is among them.

"In April and May 2008, indigenous leaders from four countries opposing large-scale gold mining on their lands described the adverse impacts of Barrick Gold Corporation. These leaders spoke of Barrick Gold's tactics in "suppressing dissident voices, dividing communities, and manipulating local and national politics".


 "They also related stories about "lack of free, prior and informed consent for local people". Barrick is party to a lawsuit originally filed against Placer Dome Inc. by the local government claiming compensation for the 1996 Marcopper Mining Disaster. Barrick Gold inherited the litigation after taking over Placer Dome, Inc".

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