Church and pro-environment groups in the Philippines praised the ruling of a local court in favor of victims of a mining disaster in Marinduque province.
A regional trial court in Marinduque on May 16 ordered the Marcopper Mining Corporation to pay 30 plaintiffs each P200,000 as temperate and P100,000 as moral damages.
The court also directed the mining company to pay P1 million in exemplary damages for all the claimants.
Father Angel Cortez, vice director of the General Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation of the Order of Friars Minor, said the court decision “is one step towards ecological justice.”
“We know that money is not enough to compensate the sufferings of the victims but the court ruling is a victory for the vulnerable community,” he said.
The priest said the fight to hold the mining company accountable is “not yet over.” He said, “It must pay for the irreversible damage that it had done to the environment.”
On December 6, 1993, the Maguila-guila siltation dam of the mining company in Mogpog town collapsed and flooded nearby communities with large volumes of mine wastes affecting the Mogpog river.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said the court may have taken decades before it made a ruling “but we are nevertheless hopeful considering that justice is finally served.”
He said the court decision “sends an encouraging signal to communities” gravely affected by mining, adding that it “underscores the importance of a new mining law that would put the environment and mining-affected communities above the interests of the mining industry.”
“At present, the mining laws in the country fall short in preventing destructive mining. A new law must be put in place to ensure mining disasters won’t happen again,” Garganera added.
The group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said the country’s Mining Act of 1995 and other environmental laws “have been lacking teeth and biased toward big businesses.”
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the group, said the court decision “is as much an indictment of our current mining policy regime as it is a celebration of the people’s determination and will to hold big mining accountable.”
Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, said the court ruling is a concrete response to the ‘Cry of the Poor,’ “who suffer the most the impact of environmental plunder.”
He said the court decision, which came a few days before the global observance of Laudato Si’ Week, “gives us hope that courts and governments will heed the call of Pope Francis to bring the interest of the Poor and of the welfare of the Earth at the center of decisions and policies.”
Laudato si’ Week celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter “Laudato si’: On Care For Our Common Home.”
Three years after the collapse of Maguila-guila siltation dam, a drainage tunnel of a large pit containing leftover mine tailings had been damaged.
The fracture led to the discharge of toxic waste into the Makulapnit-Boac river and caused flashfloods that buried one village and caused the displacement of at least 400 families in twenty villages.
It contaminated the drinking water killing fish, other freshwater species, and animals. It destroyed the crops, killed livestock, and contaminated the agricultural soil.
Since then, the Boac river has been unusable.