by Rey G. Panaligan
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque did not act on the proposal of Governor Carmencita Reyes to secure a loan of $8 million (P400 million) abroad to finance the new environment class suit the province will file against two mining firms based in Canada.
Instead, the council passed a resolution last March 10 that would invite foreign law firms, including Canada’s Trudel, Johnston and Lesperance (Trudel), to submit their proposals for the handling of the environment case.
The province is filing a new case against Placer Dome, Inc. and Barrick Gold Corporation for the alleged environmental damage caused by the operation of Marcopper Mining Corporation, particularly in the towns of Boac and Mogpog.
Marcopper Mining was partly owned by Placer Dome. In 2006, Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining firm in the world, acquired the majority shares of Placer Dome. Both mining firms are based in Canada.
Records showed that in 1996 Marcopper Mining was involved in what was described as the largest mining disasters in the Philippines when the drainage tunnel of large pit fractured and discharged toxic mine waste into the river. Residents of several villages were evacuated and agricultural crops were destroyed and farm animals died.
The provincial council was forced to defer action on Governor Reyes’ recommendation after the residents, led by the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MaCEC) and the Marinduque Reform Movement (MRM) assailed the proposal as “disadvantageous to the province.”
The residents were joined in their protest by the church, led by Bishop Junie Maralit; Rep. Lord Allan Velasco; and several municipal and barangay officials.
The protests led to the organization of a new group called “Bantay Kaso,” a movement for transparent and accountable disposition in the filing of the environment case.
Reyes’ proposal was to engage anew the services of American law firm, Diamond McCarthy, and American lawyer Walter Skipp Scott for the hiring of Canadian lawyers to represent Marinduque in the case.
The residents protested the hiring of the American law firm and the plan to secure a loan of $8 million allegedly to finance the legal costs of the litigation.
Records showed that Diamond McCarthy and Scott filed a suit against Placer Dome and Barrick Gold in Nevada in 2005 in behalf of Marinduque for damages caused by the mining disaster in 1996.
But after years of litigation, the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed the case and ruled that the proper venue is either Canada or the Philippines.