Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Barrick Gold and Marinduque Provl Govt Deal: Marinduquenos crying for help; Firm demands immunity from suits; other 'onerous' conditions revealed; proposed payments payable in 2013, 2016, 2020

Will the Barrick Gold and Marinduque Provincial Government 'universal settlement' deal for damages caused by nearly 30 years of irresponsible mining be sealed today?

The church group, Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) stood its ground against the indemnity being offered by a mining company for the damage to Marinduque's eco-system. The provincial board, likewise reportedly rejected the proposed settlement agreement earlier, the contents of which many of the members found to be 'onerous'. What those conditions were, however, were kept as a tightly guarded secret. Marcopper has a long history of keeping confidential information of critical importance to the people.

“Among those conditions is that the settlement proceeds can never be used for the repair and rehabilitation [of the damaged rivers and mining structures] when it was the purpose [of the lawsuit] in the first place,” Macec executive director Elizabeth Manggol said in an interview by Inquirer.

Will Marinduquenos 'assert their rights today'?
Five days ago (Dec. 13), provincial board member Adeline Angeles posted an update in her Facebook account stating that on November 20, 2013, the American lawyers, together with an Atty. Ongsiako and provincial administrator Eleuterio Raza, attended the board session. On that day the provincial board decided to refer the matter to the SP Committee on Environment composed of 5 board members for their "report/recommendation". 

Angeles also stated in her post that because of the many human rights and social justice issues involved, she requested that the matter also be referred to the Committee on Human Rights which she chairs, a move that the majority rejected.

Yesterday, (Dec. 17), Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-Marinduque posted the following announcement in its Facebook page: 

It also posted a "Commentary" excerpts of which are reproduced below. The post, apparently, is disclosing for the very first time to the general public the conditions that the majority of the provincial board members found unacceptable. That was in October. Will they still sing the same tune today based on the 5-member SP Committee on Environment's "report/recommendation"? Or will it be one more among a series of "decisions" made on behalf of an exploited people that could result in a new era of tyranny on this island, the country's second smallest province?

Excerpts from PIA-Marinduque's "Commentary":

Philippine Information Agency-Marinduque:

"Final Settlement of Barrick Gold and the Provincial Government of Marinduque on Dec. 18 at 8:00 a.m. (tomorrow) at the SP Session Hall, Provincial Capitol Bldg./compound. Be part of this historical event where Marinduquenos will lobby to assert their rights for a better settlement from the unfair conditions previously given by Barrick. Let's keep praying that they will be responsible in cleaning the toxic wastes in our rivers for all Marinduquenos."

Marinduquenos Cry for Help for the unfair settlement of Barrick Gold


BOAC, Marinduque (PIA-4B) - Marinduque apart from being known as the Moriones island and the heart of the Philippines is also a venue of big mining corporations. 

"The province of Marinduque is a very small island composed of only six municipalities. However, small as it is, it took one of the largest gold mining corporations in the world – Placer Dome Inc., to set up its mining operations here and for two decades was able to inflict destruction towards environment; Mogpog and Boac rivers were severely contaminated with toxic mine waste. The province became a place of ravages of irresponsible mining xxx

"For decades, efforts have been made to seek assistance on cleaning up this mess of about 200 million tons of mine tailings dumped over these two municipalities in 1993, when the substandard dam burst and flooded Mogpog River with toxic mine silt. Another catastrophic dam burst in 1996 leaving the impact of this irresponsible mining until now where village fishermen have lost their fishing livelihood around Calancan Bay and in the rivers of Boac and Mogpog. There is no fishing livelihood or any livelihood activities after these two destructions contaminated the rivers and the bay. xxxx

"Call it a good thing or not, Canadian Gold mining giant- Barrick Gold was the company that bought out Placer Dome but has spent almost half a decade fighting over the province in court and not owning the responsibility over the mining destruction they have caused Marinduque.

"A settlement was raised last Sept. 17 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall of the provincial capitol after a lengthy legal struggle of competent American lawyer, Atty. Skip Scott in Nevada. Provincial Administrator Eleuterio Raza said Barrick Gold offered the province $20 million, take it or leave it. Of this amount, $7 million will be paid to litigation expenses/attorney’s fees. A total of $13 million only will be for the province. “These are crumbs, said Raza, but we are being pushed to the wall.

"$13 million is not even enough to recover from the loss of livelihood, it is so inadequate to provide protection for health and safety of the people in the province. Whatever happened to at least $100 million that the province should have recovered from Barrick to be able to rehabilitate the rivers and coastal areas? Is this enough to fix the inadequate mine structures and unmaintained dams holding back waste (San Antonio Pit, Maguilaguila Dam and Makulapnit Dam) since mining operations stop in 1996? There is a clear threat and danger to life and property but what is unclear is why the Barrick Gold doesn’t want to take responsibility over this for years now. xxx

"xxx But to such surprise this little amount offered to the tune of $20 million to Marinduque has Barrick’s demands for highly valuable settlement provisions in return to secure the firm permanent legal immunity in this case. Raza said one of these conditions is a clause stating that Placer Dome never operated on the island. “That’s something difficult for us to accept. It’s a common knowledge that Placer Dome was a managing partner of Marcopper.”

"According to Atty. Skip the $13 million will be put to a Trust Fund (Marinduque Trust) and would be given in instalment basis: $8.8 million this year, 2013 and three years after (2016) another $2million and after four years, the remaining $3.5 will fully complete the payment of $13 million (2020), if ever settlement will be accepted by the province.

"The fund in the Marinduque Trust will be used only for the following purposes: to fix roads and ports for public transpo, rehabilitate power plants and telecommunication lines, restoration of water source, and health protection, development of ecotourism, putting-up of schools for public education, putting up of museums and libraries, purchase of emergency service vehicles like fire trucks, police cars and patrol boats and for financial administration.

"The settlement fund is prohibited to use for rehabilitation and restoration of damaged environment/surrounding due to mining, even in the reclamation and the final closure of the mine site.

"Other conditions that the board members did not approve of are the following: 

"That Placer Dome Inc, (PDI) did not in any way, in any time make business in the Philippines;
That the Marcopper Mining Corporation and Placer Dome are different companies; That the Philippine Court has no jurisdiction over case filed against PDI and Barrick Gold; 
That the dumping of mine waste of Marcopper in Calancan Bay has permit from the government; 
That Marcopper submitted/followed the cease and desist order mandated by Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) in April 11, 1988; 

That Marcopper complied to all the requirements issued by the Office of the President of the Philippines in May 13, 1988; 
That in this order of the President it is stated that in the findings of the national government, the continuous dumping of mine waste in Calancan Bay and continuous mining is what the public wants;
That scientific evidences stated that dumping of mine waste in the waters of the province will not inflict harm to health and environment; 
That the building of Maguila-guila Dam complied with all requirements and permits; That the cause of flooding in Mogpog was Bagyong Monang last Dec. 1993; That the destruction of Maguila-guila dam was due to environmental reason and not Marcopper or PDI; 

That after mine waste flooded Boac river, PDI voluntarily promised former President Fidel Ramos and assured that Marcopper has the technical and financial capabilities to address the damaging leaks of the mine waste and to give due compensation to the victims. This was made by PDI voluntarily and without any legal basis or responsibility;
That the prescription period ended already for posting possible legal case in relation to the dumping of mine waste in Calancan Bay, Maguila-guila Dam burst and the leak/flooding of mine waste in Boac river;

That the voluntary promise had no legal basis and is not compulsory and the promise was met well; 
That the consideration that PDI/Barrick Gold will provide the province based on the conditions are just and rightful.

"Marinduque is not just a part of a great nation, it is in fact the geodetic center of the Philippines. Its historical and natural resources must be protected with concerted efforts from the provincial and national government since this battle is against the giant mining corporation in the world. Intervention of the national government and agencies concerned such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau could give enormous help in ending with a better settlement and assuring Marinduquenos that such devastation will not be repeated anymore. (MNL/PIA-4B/MARINDUQUE)"