SC Issues Writ of Kalikasan re Scarborough Shoal, et al.

May 3, 2019

The Supreme Court, in a special En Banc session held on Friday, issued a writ of kalikasan to protect, preserve, rehabilitate, and to restore the marine environment in Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag Shoal), Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef (also known as Mischief Reef).

The Court granted the prayer for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan by petitioners Monico A. Abogado, et al. to prevent violations of Philippine environmental laws in the Philippine Waters and in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the above areas. The petitioners are members of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association who are members of the fisherfolk community in the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan, while the others are residents of Sitio Kinabukasa, Cawag, Zambales.

Named as respondents are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, represented by Sec. Roy A. Cimatu; Department of Agriculture, represented by Sec. Emmanuel Piñol; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, represented by National Director Eduardo B. Gongona; Philippine Navy, represented by Flag Officer in Command Vadm Robert Empdrad; Philippine Coast Guard, represented by Commandant Admiral Elson E. Hermogino; Philippine National Police, represented by PNP Chief PDG Oscar Albayalde; PNP Maritime Group, represented by PCSupt. Rodelio B. Jocson, and Department of Justice, represented by Sec. Menardo I. Guevarra.

Petitioners alleged that the government’s inaction of as to the activities of the Chinese in the contested areas of the West Philippine Sea were in violation  of theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, the Philippine Fisheries Code, and Presidential Decree No. 1586, or Establishing the Environmental Impact Statement System in the Philippines.

Panatag Shoal is located in the Municipality of Masinloc, Province of Zambales, while Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef are located in the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan.

The petitioners cited the July 12, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Arbitral Tribunal), which issued in the China Sea Arbitration proceedings initiated by the Republic of the Philippines the Arbitral Award finding that the Ayungin Shoal and the Panganiban Reef were within the country’s EEZ. It found that while Panatag Shoal within 200 nautical miles from the Philippines’ baseline, it was the subject of a conflicting claim by China and the country, hence, it cannot categorically be declared as part of EEZ. The Arbitral Tribunal also found, among others, that fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels have engaged in the harvesting of endangered species on a significant scale and in the harvesting of giant clams in a manner that is severely destructive of the coral reef ecosystem. Likewise, the Tribunal found that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations, and structures at Mischief Reef has caused severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem. Likewise, the Tribunal noted that China has engaged in gathering corals and clams around Ayungin Shoal, as well as found that Chinese fisherfolk use cyanide and explosives in Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal. It likewise noted several instances when the same were arrested by Philippine authorities for engaging in dynamite fishing around Scarborough Shoal. It likewise found that the construction of artificial islands in Panganiban Reef by Chinese have caused “devastatingly and long-lasting damages to the marine environment.”

(G.R. No. 246209, Abogado, et al. v. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, et al., May 3, 2019)