THE Supreme Court granted a petition last month by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and fisherfolk groups, issuing a Writ of Kalikasan for the protection and preservation of three shoals within the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“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 SC said in a press release.

In their April 16 petition, the IBP and the fisherfolks groups asked the high court to direct the government to enforce laws which protect the environment within the country’s territories.

The respondents in the petition include, among others, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, Philippine Coast Guard Admiral Elson E. Hermogino, Philippine Navy Flage Officer-in-Command Vadm Robert A. Empredrad, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Eduardo B. Gongona, among others.

“Respondents have failed to perform their duties as mandated in the above-mentioned environmental laws and regulations. Petitioners have no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy as Petitioners are complaining of acts by the government agencies themselves who are supposed to be upholding Philippine environmental laws and protecting the environment and resources in Philippine territory,” petitioners said.

The petitioners noted in the petition the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. They also emphasized the July 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal ruling won by the Philippines in the territorial dispute with China, wherein it was found that Chinese fishing vessels are involved in harvesting endangered species in Panatag and Ayungin Shoals.

They also said that in May 2013, there were two Chinese fishing vessels along with two Chinese Marine Surveillancce ships near Ayungin Shoals allegedly gathering corals and clams and dredging the shoal. — VMMV