DENR vows to restore 2 rivers in Marinduque
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has vowed to restore two rivers in Marinduque province which were damaged by one of the “worst mining disasters in Philippine history” more than a decade ago.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said it is time for the government to lead a massive cleanup and rehabilitation of the Boac and Mogpog rivers for the benefit of the people of Marinduque who continue to suffer from the effects of the catastrophic tailings spills from the Marcopper Mining Corporation site in 1993 and 1996.
“We made a plan to restore all the rivers in the Philippines, including the Boac and Mogpog rivers. We will clean it and we have a way of doing that using non-government resources,” Cimatu said at Marinduque’s centennial celebration last month.
In March 1996, a fracture in the drainage tunnel of Marcopper’s Taipan pit spilled more than 1.6 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings which flooded nearby villages and poisoned the Boac River.
Three years prior to this incident, the firm’s Maguila-guila siltation dam also burst, flooding the town of Mogpog where two children drowned in the mine waste. It practically killed the Mogpog River with its toxic mine tailings.
“The environmental damages and unresolved issues brought about by the Marcopper mining operation in Marinduque for several decades now must be put to an end,” the environment secretary said.
According to Cimatu, he will immediately issue a department administrative order once the Marinduque provincial government submits a formal request to place the Boac and Mogpog rivers under rehabilitation.
The planned river rehabilitation, he said, would include the dredging of the two rivers by a private contractor at “no cost to the government.”
Cimatu explained that the private contractor will shoulder all the expenses of the dredging operation in exchange for “whatever minerals that he may recover, provided he pays the corresponding four percent excise tax.”
So far, the DENR has already issued four administrative orders in relation to the restoration of silted rivers through dredging following separate requests of the provincial governments of Zambales, Oriental Mindoro, and Negros Occidental.
These orders, Cimatu explained, were pursuant to a joint memorandum circular of the DENR, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Transportation, which aims to “protect and restore to their natural state and water flow the heavily silted river channels in the country.”
Meanwhile, Cimatu said he already approved an initial P5 million funding for the construction of the 90-meter-wide gabion dam across the Mogpog River, particularly the downstream portion of Maguila-guila Creek, to prevent further siltation in its basin.