After a toxic mine spill on an island in the Philippines devastated a community in 1996, Christian Aid partner Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) has been helping those affected to fight for legal, environmental, economic, political, social and climate justice.
Since 1996, MACEC has enabled communities on the tropical island of Marinduque to fight for compensation and justice after a catastrophic toxic mine spill killed fish stock, infected soil, crops and water, and left hundreds of members of the community severely affected by chronic arsenic poisoning.
The multinational mining company which was responsible for this tragic disaster has long since packed up its operations but in its wake it has left a severe health crisis and deepening poverty.
Fighting for justice
Since the disaster, MACEC has had a real impact on the communities it works with. It has mobilised 4000 people from local politicians to local fishermen to campaign against harmful mining practices on Marinduque and across the Philippines.
A major victory for MACEC was winning a legal case which forced the mining company to compensate many community members for the loss of their livelihoods and to address health problems. MACEC is continuing to support many more affected by the toxic poisoning to fight ongoing legal cases.
MACEC also lobbied the local government to declare a 50 year ban on all large-scale mining on the island and continues to provide medical support for people in areas contaminated by the toxic metals.
MACEC also report that the mining company has failed to pay £12 million in taxes it owes to the provincial government. This has further undermined the local government’s ability to provide much-needed healthcare, livelihood support, services and benefits to local people, especially those affected by the deadly mine spill.
The multinational company is locked in a protracted legal case with the local government, so MACEC’s fight for tax justice goes on.
‘Butterfly farming - good for environment’
Marinduque residents are also affected by regular typhoons which, according to MACEC’s Executive Director Miguel Magalang, appear to be becoming more severe. Strong typhoons wreak havoc on their rice and vegetable crops, they uproot valuable fruit trees and damage fishing livelihoods.
MACEC works to reduce the damage caused by typhoons and build the resilience of communities. They provide alternatives to more climate-vulnerable livestock and crop farming. MACEC identified butterfly farming as a more long-term sustainable alternative for farmers on the island.
During typhoons they can bring their butterflies inside, out of the storm. The butterflies are farmed for tourism and export. The benefits are enormous and the income means people can send their children to school and afford medical help when members of their families are sick. Butterfly farmers have even been able to repay start-up loans to MACEC earlier than expected.
Christian Aid is giving MACEC £25,700 a year until 2011 for its programme, ‘Securing the Gains for the Struggle’ and a further £11,000 is funding its Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation project.