The Supreme Court today bared the list of 117 trial courts designated as environmental courts.
These Special Courts will try and decide violations of environmental laws which include, but not limited to, the Revised Forestry Code (PD 705), Marine Pollution (PD 979), Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste Act (RA 6969), People’s Small-Scale Mining Act (RA 7076), National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (RA 7586), Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942), Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371), Philippine Fisheries Code (RA 8550); Clean Air Act (RA 8749), Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), National Caves & Cave Resources Management Act (RA 9072), Wildlife Conservation & Protection Act (RA 9147), Chainsaw Act (RA 9175), and Clean Water Act (RA 9275).
Fifteen of the 117 environmental courts are Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) from the National Capital Judicial Region. These are Br. 1, Manila; Br. 41, Manila; Br. 101, Quezon City; Br. 108, Pasay City; Br. 127, Kaloocan City; Br. 58, Makati City; Br. 152, Pasig City (cases originating from Pasig City); Br. 266, Pasig City (cases originating from Taguig City); Br. 170, Malabon City; Br. 272, Marikina City; Br. 208, Mandaluyong City; Br. 196, Parañaque City; Br. 201, Las Piñas City; Br. 205, Muntinlupa City; and Br. 171, Valenzuela City.
Other environmental courts are RTCs from the 12 Judicial Regions. These are Br. 5, Baguio City; Br. 10, La Trinidad, Benguet; Br. 12, Laoag City; Br. 28, San Fernando City; Br. 39, Lingayen, Pangasinan; Br. 44, Dagupan City, Pangasinan; Br. 47, Urdaneta City; Br. 5, Tuguegarao City; Br. 9, Aparri, Cagayan; Br. 17, Ilagan, Isabela; Br. 27, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya; Br. 1, Balanga City; Br. 19, Malolos City; Br. 29, Cabanatuan City; Br. 32, Guimba, Nueva Ecija; Br. 36, Gapan City; Br. 41, City of San Fernando, Pampanga; Br. 51, Guagua, Pampanga; Br. 59, Angeles City; Br. 65, Tarlac City; Br. 69, Iba, Zambales; Br. 75, Olongapo City;
Br. 4, Batangas City; Br. 11, Balayan, Batangas; Br. 88, Cavite City; Br. 20, Imus, Cavite; Br. 27, Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Br. 32, San Pablo City; Br. 36, Calamba City; Br. 51, Puerto Princesa City; Br. 60, Lucena City; Br. 70, Binangonan, Rizal; Br. 71, Antipolo City; Br. 75, San Mateo, Rizal; Br. 78, Morong Rizal; Br. 1, Legaspi City; Br. 13, Ligao City; Br. 15, Tabaco City; Br. 25, Naga City; Br. 32, Pili, Camarines Sur; Br. 35, Iriga City; Br. 38, Daet, Camarines Norte; Br. 53, Sorsogon City; Br. 47, Masbate City;
Br. 2, Kalibo, Aklan; Br. 11, San Jose, Antique; Br. 15, Roxas City; Br. 28, Iloilo City; Br. 44, Bacolod City; Br. 23, Cebu City; Br. 28, Mandaue City; Br. 54, Lapu-Lapu City; Br. 34, Dumaguete City; Br. 47, Tagbilaran City; Br. 9, Tacloban City; Br. 29, Catbalogan, Samar; Br. 8, Dipolog City; Br. 16, Zamboanga City; Br. 20, Pagadian City; Br. 4, Butuan City; Br. 10, Malaybalay City; Br. 12, Oroquieta City; Br. 39, Cagayan de Oro City; Br. 1, Tagum City; Br. 16, Davao City; Br. 18, Digos City; Br. 35, General Santos City; Br. 4, Iligan City; and Br. 10, Marawi City.
The Court also designated seven Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTC) as environmental courts. These are Br. 3, Manila; Br. 8, Manila; Br. 36, Quezon City; Br. 48, Pasay City; Br. 49, Kaloocan City; Br. 67, Makati City; and Br. 70, Pasig City.
Also designated are Municipal Trial Courts in Cities (MTCC) Br. 4, Baguio City; Br. 3, Dagupan City; Br. 4, Tuguegarao City; Br. 1, Angeles City; Br. 1, Cabanatuan City; Br. 2, City of San Fernando, Pampanga; Br. 3, Olongapo City; Br. 1, San Jose del Monte City; Br. 1, Antipolo City; Br. 2, Lipa City; Br. 1, San Pablo City; Br. 2, Legaspi City; Br. 2, Naga City; Br. 3, Bacolod City; Br. 9, Iloilo City; Br. 2, Roxas City; Br. 7, Cebu City; Br. 3, Mandaue City; Br. 1, Tagbilaran City; Br. 2, Zamboanga City; Br. 2, Butuan City; Br. 5, Cagayan de Oro City; Br. 3, Ozamis City; Br. 7, Davao City; Br. 1, Gen Santos City; and Br. 1, Iligan City.
Also yesterday, the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) in cooperation with various environmental organizations and donors held a Roundtable Discussion on Strategy for Support to Environmental Courts at the SC Justices’ Lounge, SC New Building in Faura, Manila. PHILJA Chancellor and retired Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera and Court of Appeals Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos led the discussion.
Also present in the discussion were representatives from the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, United States Agency for International Development, United Nations Development Programme-Government Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme, The Asia Foundation, Environmental Management Bureau, Alternative Law Groups, Haribon Foundation, Batas Kalikasan, Environmental Legal Assistance Center-Palawan, Paglilingkod Batas Pangkapatiran Foundation, Philippine Tropical Conservation Network, Tanggol Kalikasan, Ateneo School of Government, University of the Philippines College of Law, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network.
Records from the Office of the Court Administrator show that there were 2,353 environmental cases pending before our courts as of December 2006. Haribon Foundation later reported that by October 2007 the said figure ballooned to 3,102, with 109 of these cases filed more than a decade ago.
In designating the Special Courts, the Court also issued guidelines to be observed.
In multi sala stations where no branches of the first and second level courts were designated as environmental courts, the cases shall be raffled among the branches thereat which shall try and decide such cases according to existing issuances.
All single sala first and second level courts are considered special courts for said purpose.
The designated Special Courts to try environmental cases shall continue to be included in the raffle of cases, criminal, civil, and other cases. They shall continue to perform their functions even after the retirement, promotion, dismissal, suspension, transfer, or detail of the judges appointed/designated to preside over the said branches. Their successors, whether permanent or temporary, shall act as Presiding Judges of these Special Courts unless the SC directs otherwise.
All environmental cases covered by the SC order wherein pre-trial in case of civil cases has already commenced and when the accused is already arraigned in case of criminal cases shall remain in the branches where they are originally assigned, otherwise these cases shall be assigned by raffle in case there are two or more designated Special Courts or when there is only one in the station, the cases shall be unloaded to the said Special Court. The transferred environmental cases shall be considered as raffled cases to the Special Courts hence the branch which unloaded the environmental cases shall be assigned newly filed cases to replace the cases removed from said branch.
In November last year, the SC designated 117 courts to hear cases involving violation of laws protecting the country’s natural resources and to speed up their resolution.
The creation of environmental courts was upon the recommendation of the Philippine Judicial Academy “for improved environmental adjudication” in the country. (AO No. 23-2008, Re: Designation of Special Courts to Hear, Try, and Decide Environmental Cases, January 28, 2008)