CJ Peralta Underscores SC’s Challenge to 13 Gov’t Agencies Tasked to Rehab Manila Bay

January 24, 2020

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta underscores the Court’s challenge to the 13 government agencies tasked with the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay to “take a coordinated stance” amid the “the extreme necessity for all concerned executive departments and agencies to immediately act and discharge their respective official duties and obligations.”    

In his Keynote Speech during the “Battle for Manila Bay: 2nd Manila Bay Task Force Principals’ Meeting and Conference” held on January 23at the Diamond Hotel, Manila, Chief Justice Peralta said the case of the MMDA vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, which led to the formation of the Task Force, “still remains relevant as it has been credited with bringing forth a lot of changes and reforms, not just in the way that we hear and decide environmental cases, but perhaps more importantly, in emphasizing its urgency and importance on global and inter-generational impact.” The case was promulgated in December 2008.

The Chief Justice added that MMDA vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, wherein the Court introduced into jurisprudence the legal concept of “continuing mandamus”, has grown to be “the cornerstone of most environmental cases in the Philippines.”

“Continuing mandamus” is a writ issued by a court in an environmental case directing any agency or instrumentality of the government or officer thereof to perform an act or series of acts decreed by final judgment which shall remain effective until judgment is fully satisfied.

The Chief Justice also told the Task Force that on December 19, 2019, he reconstituted the Manila Bay Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court as most of its members have already retired. The Committee is tasked to maintain the mandate of the continuing mandamus and enable the Court to verify the reports of the government agencies tasked to clean up the Manila Bay.

“The idea is not just to comply with this tall order, but to ensure that we are on track by way of periodic updates on our progress.  Concededly, this could take years, but this duty is ours in the present, and we will not relent,” Chief Justice Peralta said.

In 1993, the Supreme Court, in the environmental case Oposa vs. Factoran, the Court declared that, among others, the right to a balanced and healthful ecology “belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation.”  He added that as such, “it is a legally enforceable and self-executing right with correlative State duties.”

 The Chief Justice said the Court, in the Oposa case, made it clear that “[t]he right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.” He said this has immediately placed government policy makers on notice that environmental rights are protected by the Constitution. 

“It was also in this case where it was clarified that minors may represent their generation, even the generations unborn, and are deemed proper parties to a class action suit based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned,” the Chief Justice added.

The 13 agencies in the Task Force are the Metro Manila Development Authority; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; the Department of Education; the Department of Health; the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Public Works and Highways; the Department of Budget and Management; the Philippine Coast Guard; the Philippine National Police Maritime Group; the Department of the Interior and Local Government; the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System; the Local Water Utilities Administration; and the Philippine Ports Authority. (Caption by Annie Rose A. Laborte; Photo by Francisco S. Gutierrez)