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ATM Statement: Mining and pandemics: The continuing burden and suffering of Filipinos

March 8, 2021

Mining and pandemics: The continuing burden and suffering of Filipinos

ATM Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Marcopper Mining Tragedy in Marinduque and the 26th Anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act

Quezon City – It is with deep anguish that our alliance commemorates the 26th anniversary of the passage of RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. That is more than a quarter of a century of misery faced by mining-affected communities and destruction of the environment and our precious natural resources.

The sorrow grows deeper as we stand in solidarity with the people of Marinduque, who are commemorating as well the 25th anniversary of the Marcopper Mining Tragedy that devastated the province.

To re-call this tragic and irresponsible event, Marcopper mines dumped an estimated 200 million tons of toxic tailings into Calancan Bay between 1975-1991. On March 24, 1996, a fracture in the drainage tunnel of Marcopper’s Tapian pit spilled more than 1.6 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings, flooding villages and poisoning the Boac River. However, three years before that, the company’s Maguila-guila siltation dam also burst, flooding the town of Mogpog, where two children drowned in the mine waste.

Justice remains elusive for the Marinduquenos, as Mogpog and Boac rivers remain biologically dead. Calancan Bay is still unhealthy for swimming or harvesting its aquatic products. Health problems of directly-individuals by the mine spill remain unaddressed. The ordinary farmers as well as the provincial government of Marinduque have not been compensated. Those who have bravely filed cases against Marcopper are dwindling, facing their deaths but failed to see justice.

We are entering the first year anniversary of the quarantine lockdown in Mar. 15, 2021. One year of misery as the country lost lives and livelihoods under the COVID19 pandemic. One year on, but the bitter lessons of failing to care for our environment and its link to the pandemic seem to be lost to our leaders.

Our alliance is disgusted as we witnessed the expansion and entry of more mining projects during the quarantine period. These include documented reports of offshore mining operations in Cagayan and black sand mining in agricultural lands in MacArthur, Leyte. We are appalled by the order of the Office of the President to resume negotiations for the expired contract of the Didipio Mines in Nueva Vizcaya. We are shocked by the decision of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to issue a certificate of precondition for the Tampakan Mines in South Cotabato. We are offended to be informed that the DENR-MGB has issued a new mining contract in the protected watershed areas of Surigao del Sur.

More importantly, we are confused to no end, why mining has been included as an essential economic activity for the economic stimulus recovery program of the national government. At a time when we need to reduce deforestation and address permanent land-use change in our mountains, coastal areas and island ecosystems, prioritizing the mining industry is a misplaced track to deliver a just recovery for the Filipinos.

Meanwhile, we laud the efforts of local governments who study the mining issues and stand with their constituencies to resist destructive practices in their localities.

At the same time, our alliance believes that we must hold our national leaders accountable.

President Duterte has failed to deliver his promise that he will stop irresponsible mining. The DENR has failed to enforce the suspension and closure orders against the erring mining projects. In fact, four years after former DENR Sec. Gina Lopez issued her landmark policies against destructive mining, the DENR has made a complete turn-around of supporting and promoting the mining industry, absent effective regulations.

Both DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu and the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) has failed miserably to institute “responsible mining” and the industry has enjoyed its “business-as-usual” status for a long time already. Clearly, Cimatu has failed the Filipino people in ensuring that we all have a safe and sound ecology for our future.

We must never forget as well the shriking space of environmental activists, as Global Witness has reported the Philippines as the deadliest country for human rights defenders, with most cases of killings and human rights abuse perpetrated against those resisting extractive projects in the country.

There are remedies that we recommend. Pres. Duterte should issue an Executive Order that bans open pit mines. The DENR must disclose publicly all the results of its review of the suspension and closure orders issued by Gina Lopez. DENR must also explain how mining project were able to expand or enter areas without the consent of directly-affected communities. The same transparency should also be forthcoming about the midnight mining deals in 2016 that remain unresolved.

We also extend our voices to the clamor to defend the human rights defenders, especially the women and indigenous peoples who are at the forefront of defending our environment and natural resources.

Truly, justice has been elusive for the Marinduquenos and it appears a just recovery from COVID19 will be unreachable with the illogical premium placed by the Duterte administration to economic activities over social welfare and environmental protection. #

For more information, please contact:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coodinator - / (+63917) 5498218


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