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Marcopper disaster 25 years on: Mamerto Lanete

Fisherman Mamerto Lanete calls vitamins his “maintenance medicines.” At 69 years old, Mang Mamerto has no illness, a small mercy considering his bigger struggles.

Mang Mamerto is a widower who supports three grandchildren who are staying with him in Lupac, Marinduque. The kids' mother had died, and their father is in prison. Mang Mamerto is able to support them with his 2,000-peso pension and from what he earns from fishing.

But fishing isn’t what it used to be in Marinduque. Twenty-five years ago, a drainage tunnel of the Marcopper mining plant cracked, spilling millions of tons of mine tailings into the Boac River that would eventually reach the sea. Marinduque would forever be changed.

Since then fishing has become much more difficult for fisherfolk like Mang Mamerto.

Because the water has been polluted, fishes have moved further away from the coast. Where Mang Mamerto used to fish five to ten kilometers from the coast, he now has to travel five kilometers more.

Mang Mamerto was out fishing when the disaster struck. He immediately ran to Boac River to see what had happened.

“The water used to be clear. After the spill, the water turned dirty. It now had the color of chocolate,” he says.

Mang Mamerto feared that the spill would reach the sea and affect his livelihood. It did.

“The tulyasan (Skipjack tuna) and tambakol (Yellowfin tuna) species disappeared,” he says.

Because of the devastation caused by the spill, Mang Mamerto, along with two others, have filed a case against the company implicated in the spill.

They are demanding for the rehabilitation of Boac River.

It’s been ten years since the case was filed. Mang Mamerto is hoping the case will be finally resolved, especially since it’s their lives that are on the line, he says.

The Marcopper disaster is a grim reminder that mining can exact a high price. A price that people and nature, not companies, usually pay.

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