SC junks writ of kalikasan plea for West Philippine Sea

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) en banc has dismissed the petition requesting for a writ of kalikasan to protect the environment in the West Philippine Sea, particularly over the Ayungin Shoal, Panganiban Reef and Panatag Shoal.

    Atty. Brian Hosaka, chief of the SC Public Information Office, said the high court’s decision was prompted by the decision of the fishermen-petitioners to withdraw their signatures from the petition.

    Hosaka said the ruling likewise gave due course to the motion filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) seeking to withdraw as a petitioner, and subsequently to withdraw the petition.

    “The Supreme Court did not touch on the substantive issue of the case,” Hosaka said.

    The petition seeking a writ of kalikasan to compel the government to ensure the protection of the environment surrounding the West Philippines Sea was originally filed by the IBP and some 41 fisherfolks from Zambales and Palawan.

    The petitioners have accused the Duterte administration of neglect and failure to preserve and protect the West Philippine Sea from harmful activities, including poaching and illegal fishing by foreign fishermen.

    During oral arguments on the petition, however, Solicitor General Jose Calida told the SC that 19 of the 41 petitioners they did not know of the petition. This was followed by the withdrawal of 18 more fishermen-signatories.

    Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, who represented the petitioners, denied Calida’s claim as he accused the government of secretly talking to the petitioners to withdraw their signatures and support to the petition, thereby violating legal ethics.

    The IBP last July 10 withdrew from the petition.

    “With due regard to the plight and position of the fishermen-petitioners, the views and recommendations of the handling lawyers and the IBP Chapters involved, and the matters raised and guidance by the Honorable Supreme Court, a motion has been filed for the withdrawal or discharge of the counsels for the fishermen and for the withdrawal of the petition,” the IBP said then in a statement signed by the group’s national president Domingo Egon Cayosa.

    In its ruling, the SC en banc reminded the parties of the procedural and substantive requirements in petitions for writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus which must be complied with upon their filing.