TWG meeting on Marcopper issues

Rep. Velasco and RD de Jesus together with the representatives from TWG member agencies.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) MIMAROPA Region joined local government units and other key stakeholders during the first organizational meeting of the technical working group (TWG) held at the Capitol Building in Boac, Marinduque, February 26, to address the potential mining disasters in the province.

During the meeting, Marinduque Lone District Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco suggested possible interventions to address concerns on Marcopper Mining Corporation (MMC), such as removing pressure from the Maguila-guila siltation dam to mitigate its possible collapse; securing second opinion from technical experts to assess the integrity of MMC structures; and tapping the private sector for the dredging of Boac and Mogpog rivers.

Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. mentioned the commitment of DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu to help the province in rehabilitating Mogpog and Boac rivers.

Gov. Velasco emphasized that the Provincial Government of Marinduque, together with the DENR, is “serious in putting an end to the several decades of environmental damage and environmental issues brought by the MMC.”

Rep. Velasco also called on the MGB to look into the open pit of Consolidated Mines Incorporated, and determine whether there are possible health risks amid reports that children are seen bathing there.

MGB MIMAROPA Regional Director Roland de Jesus acknowledged the efforts of the local and national government agencies in addressing the MMC issue, particularly on the legal aspect.  The province has an Independent Technical Team which focuses on the refiling of case against the MMC.

He said the MGB is more concerned on the critical condition of the Maguila-guila Dam, and although the gabion dam may just be a stop-gap measure, this will serve as a barrier for the millions of tons of tailings and overburdens, thus, preventing further siltation in the downstream of Mogpog River.

As to river dredging, RD de Jesus agreed with Rep. Velasco’s proposal to tap the assistance of the private sector.  He explained that there needs to be an analysis of the dredged materials which may contain minerals of economic value, and will eventually redound to economic benefits for the province through the payment of excise tax.

Among the TWG’s proposed interventions include the conduct of comprehensive and updated assessment on Marcopper on different areas such as health, physical structure, environment, water, and soil; request the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for an engineering study on the structural integrity of the Maguila-guila dam; tap technical experts on dredging of rivers and Calancan Bay in line with the DENR’s river restoration project; secure additional funding for the feasibility study through the RDC; and for the MGB to request to the DPWH to assume the budget and implementation of the gabion dam construction project amounting to PhP26-M.

The TWG was created during the 4th Quarter Regional Development Council Full Council Meeting held in December 6, 2019 to assist the province of Marinduque in its quest for urgent government response to the dangers posed by the critical structure and facilities of the MMC.

Member agencies are set to convene in Manila this March to discuss updates on the monitoring and assessment conducted, and other concerns based on the action plan. However, the said meeting was postponed due to the declaration of enhanced community quarantine over the entire Luzon to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.