TWO lawmakers have opposed a $20-million compensation offer being dangled by a mining company in connection with the 1996 Marcopper mine tailing spill, considered the worst mining disaster in the Philippines.
Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque and Party-list Rep. Lorna Velasco of AMA, in a news statement, said the settlement, offered by Placerdome Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp., for the damage caused to the Boac and Mogpog rivers is not enough.
In a letter to Marinduque Vice Gov. Romulo Bacorro Jr., the two lawmakers described the compensation package as “inadequate.”
In 1996 the plug of the Tapian pit of the Marcopper mine gave way and unleashed approximately 1.5 million cubic meters of tailings.
Close to two decades after the disaster, the damaged areas have not yet been fully rehabilitated.
The compensation offer of $20 million is way below the $100-million claim for damages that the Marinduque government is demanding from Barrick Gold in a 2006 lawsuit.
“The agreement is iniquitous and highly prejudicial to the interests of the people of Marinduque. Per information, it guarantees that the damage to the affected areas in Boac, Mogpog and other towns in the province will not be repaired or remediated and restored to its former condition prior to the 1996 mining disaster,” Velasco said.
“This will not also address the repair of the Maguila-guila and Makulapnit siltation dams and Taipan pit. The said dams are in danger of collapse due to its considerably weakened walls and the big volume of water and silt contained therein. Its collapse will unleash a huge quantity of water and silt to the towns of Boac, Mogpog and possibly other towns in Marinduque which will result to loss of a great number of lives and millions of pesos in damage to homes and properties,” he added.
The AMA Party-list lawmaker, on the other hand, said the conditions set forth by Barrick Gold that the settlement proceeds can never be used for the repair and rehabilitation of the damaged ecosystem of the island-province were “onerous and unacceptable.”
She also warned the local government of the province that they could face charges for gross negligence before the Ombudsman if they approve the compensation which is “clearly prejudicial to the interests of the people of Marinduque.”
“The people of Marinduque have already opposed and disapproved the said proposed settlement in a stakeholders meeting in September 2013 and the provincial board should heed the strong and vehement opposition thereto by the sovereign people of Marinduque,” Velasco said.
The two lawmakers also urged the government of Marinduque to void a contract with lawyer Walter Scott Jr., which, if implemented, will leave only $9.5 million to the province out of the compensation package.
According to the Marinduque congressional representative, the questionable agreement will allow Scott to be paid of his out-of-pocket expenses which the lawyer said was around $7 million, as well as a portion of the recovery - bringing the total amount due to Scott at $10.5 million.
“Under Philippines laws and jurisprudence, this agreement with Atty. Scott as contingent fees can be considered unconscionable and said agreement should be voided and canceled by the provincial government of Marinduque,” Velasco said.