Stories posted 2008


Of tribal leaders and dealers

IT MAY be just an unhappy coincidence that TVI’s activities in Canatuan began in 1997, the same year a mine-tailings accident occurred at the Marcopper Mining Corporation site in Boac, Marinduque. The mishap, which involved Vancouver-based Placer Dome, Inc, is still considered the worst in Philippine mining history. TVI’s projects do not seem to be challengers for that dishonor, but the company has nevertheless encountered one controversy after another in Canatuan, some 800 kms south of Manila.

After Marcopper

The Canadian quandary

MANILA, PHILIPPINES AND LETHBRIDGE, CANADA — Canadian companies are major players in the global mining industry, and so it’s no surprise that they have more than made their presence felt in the Philippines. Unfortunately, that presence has not always been welcome — at least not by the immediate host communities. Worse, Canadian mining firms have acquired a notorious reputation in the Philippines, and there are indications that this is not about to change anytime soon.

In the news

House opposition seeks caps on Arroyo’s spending habits

UNDAUNTED by the resounding defeat recently of the fourth impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the opposition at the House of Representatives is embarking on another crusade that does not seem to stand a chance of winning, at least under the present administration.

The opposition now seeks to control the president’s wide discretion in disbursing public money, including the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), derisively called ‘pork barrel,’ and other unspent amounts in the annual budget program.

Thailand’s continuing crisis

BANGKOK — “Political conditions.” That was what the Thai Airways lady at the Chiang Mai airport scribbled as the reason for the cancellation of our Nov. 27 flight from Bangkok, crossing out the word “weather” stamped on our e-ticket. Minutes earlier, an AirAsia staffer had done a similar thing for our other cancelled flight, writing “political disturbance at Bangkok airport” on our tickets.

Dispute over Hacienda Bacan

Mike Arroyo claim stalls land reform in Negros

GETTING the land — not landing in jail — was the hope Alexander Celis nurtured when he and other Negros farmers trekked recently to the Land Registration Authority (LRA) office in Quezon City. The main reason for their trip was merely to convince President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to speed up agrarian reform in a Negros sugar plantation being linked to her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo.

The 35-year-old Celis says the 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental’s Guintubhan village in Isabela town was among the pieces of agricultural land owned by the Arroyo family. In 2001, the President promised to distribute this and other Arroyo landholdings to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Is POEA policy to blame?

Every 6 hours, pirates seize a Filipino seaman

In this issue Dig this A mess of mines The Canadian quandary Of tribal leaders and dealers Thailand’s continuing crisis Mike Arroyo claim stalls land reform in Negros Every 6 hours, pirates seize a Filipino seaman House opposition seeks cap on Gloria’s spending habits THIS month alone, one Filipino shipping crewmember has been taken hostage […]

Elusive justice

WHEN THE Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) received notice in 2007 that the case filed by the province of Marinduque against Placer Dome Inc. and Barrick Gold in the U.S. state of Nevada had been dismissed, MACEC executive secretary Miguel Magalang almost did not want to release the news.

“Baka bumagsak ang morale ng buong anti-mining movement (The whole anti-mining movement might lose its morale),” he explains.

New mining rules — but old mining wastes remain

In Mogpog, residents who have to cross the river already complain of chronic skin lesions and the darkening of the skin on their toes. Aside from containing silt from the 1993 dam spill, Mogpog River was also used by Marcopper “as a disposal site for the acidic liquid of the mine tailings,” says environmental scientist Emelina Regis in a 2006 paper on the impact of acid mine drainage on the river and the surrounding community.

Calancan Bay, meanwhile, was the recipient of about 200 million tons of mine tailings dumped there by Marcopper between 1975 and 1991. And here in Boac, data from the Placer Dome Technical Services Ltd. (PDTS) — set up to manage the remediation arrangements after Placer Dome Inc. left — say that there are still some 703,228 cubic meters of mine tailings in the Makulapnit and Boac river system, with about 75 percent of this figure in the dredge channel. The rest are scattered throughout the two rivers.

12 years after mining disaster

Chronic illnesses on the rise in Marcopper towns

BOAC, MOGPOG, AND STA. CRUZ, MARINDUQUE — A neat tapestry of Spanish-style houses, old churches, beaches, and rows of coconut trees that never seem to end characterizes this island province southeast of Manila.

The key word here is “neat.” Along the main road that connects all six towns in the island, huts big and small are all tidied up, each yard spic and span. “It’s not an order or anything, it’s just how things are here,” says one resident. “Bakuran mo, linis mo. Ganoon kasimple (Your yard, you clean it up. It’s that simple).”

Dig this

THE annual revenues it promises to corporations easily come to millions of dollars each. For governments, the figures can reach billions. The materials it extracts also end up in a wide range of products for all sorts of uses — from fuel to infrastructure components, to luxury goods, including the gaudiest gems — and it is capable of providing employment for thousands of people per site for decades. Indeed, if only it weren’t intrinsically destructive, mining would be a thorough winner of an industry.

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