Malacañang steps into Marinduque deal with mining company
Whether the invitation is for a simple luncheon or a meeting to seek “legal advice” from the Palace, the national government has apparently stepped into the continuing negotiation between Marinduque and the mining company sued over the 1996 tailing spillage, now considered the country’s worst mining tragedy.
The entire provincial board of Marinduque, a fourth-class island-province (annual income: P180 million-P270 million), will be flying to Malacañang in Manila on Wednesday to discuss the $20-million indemnity being offered by Barrick Gold, the company that absorbed Marcopper Mining Corp. and its parent company, Placer Dome Inc.
Marcopper used to operate in Marinduque until it was shut down due to the toxic spill. In 2006, the province filed a $100-million damage suit against the mining firm in a district court in Nevada.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Provincial Administrator Eleuterio Raza said the board members were invited to Malacañang for a “luncheon” by President Benigno Aquino III’s adviser for environmental protection Nereus Acosta. They have yet to decide whether to accept or reject the offer, he added.
The meeting, Raza said, would discuss how the national government plans to address the reparation and assist Marinduque given that it was the one that issued all the mining permits and has the regulatory powers over mining operations.
He did not say whether the President would be attending the meeting.
Acosta, according to Sonny Paglinawan, a municipal board member of Boac town, had earlier met with the provincial board on Feb. 20 in Marinduque.
Members of Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec), a Church-based organization opposed to accepting the compensation, were invited to the meeting, but they failed to make it, he said.
“The meeting (with Acosta) was at 11:30 a.m. but the invitation to Macec only came around 10 a.m. It was really short notice,” said Paglinawan, who also sits at Macec’s board of directors.
On Feb. 24, the provincial board called for a “stakeholders’ meeting” of the mayors and municipal board members of all six municipalities in Marinduque. The meeting was presided over by law professor Harry Roque, who was invited as a technical expert.
Boac Mayor Roberto Madla, in a phone interview on Tuesday noon, said that during the Feb. 24 meeting, Vice Gov. Romulo Bacorro Jr. told them that there was going to be a meeting to seek legal advice from Malacañang.
Madla said he was wondering why a meeting in the Presidential Palace was being scheduled, and not a meeting with people from the Department of Justice.
Boac, one of the towns heavily damaged by the mining waste spill, has openly rejected Barrick’s offer, saying the amount is too small to repair the damaged ecosystem. Besides, the deal, once signed, would “exonerate” the company of its liabilities to the province.
Paglinawan said it was not about the amount alone but the terms and conditions of the settlement.
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