Thursday, September 3, 2015

Church urges Marinduque government to pursue class suit in Canada

Marinduque gov’t urged to sue mine firm


CATHOLIC prelates have joined calls by civil society groups to urge the provincial government of Marinduque to pursue a multimillion dollar class suit against a global mining firm over the 1996 Marcopper spill.

Local pressure for the Marinduque government to refile the case mounted after the Nevada state Supreme Court on June 11 threw out the case against the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.

In a copy of its 13-page ruling, the US state high court upheld the February 2011 decision of the Nevada district court to dismiss the case for “forum non conveniens,” meaning the United States was a wrong jurisdiction to hear the case.

It said the case “lacks any bona fide connection to this state, adequate alternative fora exist, and the burdens of litigating here outweigh any convenience to the province (Marinduque).”

The US courts believed a judgment “could be more readily enforced against Barrick in Canada than in Nevada” since the company was incorporated and based there.

The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec) slammed the provincial government’s slow action to pursue the case in Canada.

“It’s been two months (since the Nevada ruling) yet there seems to be no movement at all, not even talks (in the Marinduque government),” said Macec executive director Elizabeth Manggol in a phone interview on Friday.

Chancery of the Diocese of Boac

The Marinduque provincial government filed in October 2005 in the Nevada district court a $100-million class suit against Placer Dome Inc. The Vancouver-based Placer Dome, later absorbed by Barrick Gold, was the parent company of Marcopper Mining Corp. that was responsible for the mine tailing spill on the province tagged the Philippines’ worst mining tragedy.

Barrick Gold offered a $20-million settlement but the Marinduque provincial council in 2014 turned down the amount, which it felt was not enough to compensate the damages to the province.

The Catholic Church has stepped in, as environmentalist groups lobby for the Marinduque council to pursue the case in Canada.

In an August 10 circular, Boac Bishop Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit Jr. enjoined the faithful in praying for “environmental justice” through the inclusion of two petitions in all Eucharistic celebrations. These intercessory prayers were for Marinduque to be declared a mining-free province and for the provincial government to have enough strength and inspiration in pursuing the case against Marcopper, Placer Dome and Barrick Gold.

In a separate phone interview, Marinduque Vice Gov. Romulo Bacorro Jr. said the province’s executive and legislative bodies had yet to meet with Marinduque’s legal team to finalize its next move regarding the case.

But pursuing the case in a new forum “is not that easy” as it involves “millions of dollars” for the litigation fees, he said. - Maricar Cinco, Inquirer

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