Justice finally prevailed after decades of waiting for the victims of the Marcopper mining tragedy.
We celebrate with the people of Marinduque, with the local environmental defenders led by the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC), and their legal representatives, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), for their unrelenting and steadfast positions to push through with the legal case despite many odds.
It is indeed an emotional victory for the thirty (30) remaining plaintiffs, out of the 60 who waited for more than two decades for justice to come at their doorsteps. The Regional Trial Court of Marinduque finally decided to order Marcopper to pay each of the 30 Plaintiffs Php 200,000 in temperate damages; Php 100,000 pesos in moral damages; and Php 1,000,000 as exemplary damages.
The amount received by the plaintiffs is not commensurate to what they have lost during the incident and through the years of waiting, but its symbolic meaning for the plaintiffs and all the environmental defenders is enough to boost their waning morale and the environmental movement. It came at a time when it seemed all efforts to seek justice and truth at the national level failed. This can serve as a beacon of hope for people and communities who have yet to win their fights against large-scale destructive mining.
We recall Marcopper in Marinduque as one of the largest environmental and human disasters in the country. In 1993, toxic mine tailings of about 1.6 million tons poured through the Mogpog River because of the breach of Marcopper’s Maguila-Guila siltation dam, caused by heavy rainfall brought about by a typhoon. Three years after, about 2 to 3 million tons of mining tailings from the Tapian Pit spilled over the Boac river, affecting 20,000 people from 20 villages who were uprooted from their residents. This eventually damaged the Boac river and is now declared biologically Dead.
But as we celebrate this gain of the Marinduquenos, we echo their same sadness because only half of their prayer and desires were granted. The ruling excluded their claims for rehabilitation of Mogpog River, the abandoned waste dump and the San Antonio Open Pit Mine that should have been rehabilitated by Marcopper:
“Accordingly, plaintiffs feel sad, this ruling excluded their claims for rehabilitation of Mogpog River and the upstream including the abandoned waste dump and the San Antonio Open Pit Mine that should be closed and rehabilitated by Marcopper. However, they are praying that the Writ of Kalikasan Case pending at the Court of Appeals will continue and decide to commence rehabilitation not only of the Mogpog River but also Boac River, Calancan Bay and the rest of the damaged ecosystem due to the mining operation of Marcopper/Placer Dome now Barrick Gold.
This again shows the lopsided anthropocentric perspective of the law. The importance of the rehabilitation of mother nature itself, which should manifest as payment for the violations committed directly against nature, is not as important as paying the damages to humanity. We need a new system of law that would also recognize the rights of nature that are being violated by companies. Indeed, as MACEC said, the Writ of Kalikasan can protect nature more for the future generations of humanity, but a Rights of Nature Act, if passed, will add another layer of protection focused on nature itself, as being prayed by the Marinduquenos.
This win is truly a historic gain for humanity. The next victory is for mother nature.