Judicial statesmanship

May 06, 2019

When all else fails, the people can always count on the highest court in the land to do right by them.

Once again, the SC proved to be the last bulwark of freedom, democracy, and justice as it majestically asserted judicial authority over the country’s sovereign territories.

The High Court could not be more specific in its order to concern government agencies to exercise their respective mandates to safeguard, manage, and maintain the natural terrestrial and marine resources of islands within the country’s sovereign jurisdiction.

This is the clearest and strongest expression by a major branch of the government to assert and uphold national territorial integrity.

And so, take a bow ladies and gentlemen of a truly Supreme Court. A grateful people salute you.

The SC has issued a writ of kalikasan directing concerned government agencies 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).

In a statement, the SC Public Information Office said the Court granted the petition for a writ filed by the members of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Named as respondents are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police, the PNP Maritime Group, and the Department of Justice.

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.

In their petition, the groups cited as basis the documents submitted by the Philippine government in the inter-state arbitration proceedings under Annex VII to the 1982 United National Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as the 2016 award by the tribunal in the South China Sea Arbitration, which established that foreign poachers, foreign construction and land reclamation entities have caused massive environmental damage in Philippine waters and the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

But Malacañang insists it has not been remiss in its duty to defend, protect, and uphold the country’s territory, both marine and terrestrial.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said the protection of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is already a "top concern" of the government, denying that they were lax in responding to Chinese activities in the contested waters.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, also the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, made this remark after the Supreme Court issued a writ of Kalikasan for the protection and preservation of three shoals within the country's territory in the WPS.

"We stress that the essence of such writ of kalikasan, which is the protection of the marine ecosystem of the West Philippine Sea is already a top concern and agenda of the government," Panelo said in a statement released on Saturday night (May 4).

The writ of Kalikasan was issued to prevent violations of environmental laws in Philippine territorial waters and in the exclusive economic zone, specifically the Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Mischief Reef.