By Kaka Esteban and Mama Mila Liguasan
Manila, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday said it will avail the writ of “kalikasan” (nature) which will be promulgated by the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the writ of kalikasan which is authored by the Chief Justice will be tested on various environmental cases which his group will file against the Macapagal-Arroyo government and its private clients pertaining to anti-people and anti-environment development projects in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake, offshore mining projects in Palawan, Cebu-Bohol Strait and Lingayen Gulf and offshore reclamation in Panglao, island province of Bohol.
Pamalakaya is confronting the issue of anti-fisherfolk and anti-environment state projects in Manila Bay particularly the reclamation of not less than 12,000 hectares of coastal areas along Bacoor Bay, which the government intends to develop as R-1 Expressway Extension Project and the rehabilitation and expansion of Sangley Point as an international shipping port in Southern Tagalog region.
The militant group is also opposed to various eco-tourism projects in Laguna Lake, including the grand plan of Manila Water and Maynilad to source potable water from the 90,000 hectare lake. Pamalakaya is also against the reclamation of not less than 10,000 hectares of lake shores in Laguna Lake.
Pamalakaya will also bring to court the controversial 465 hectare offshore reclamation in Panglao island in Bohol, and the oil and gas explorations in Palawan, Cebu, Bohol and Lingayen Gulf provinces– Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.
“We will explore this writ of nature to defend our rights to livelihood and sound environment. But the main fight for social justice will be decided in the battlefield as provided by the parliament of the street and the court of public opinion,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
Hicap appealed to Puno to rush the finalization of the writ of nature, saying fishers group like Pamalakaya and other environmental advocacy groups have been waiting for said writ since 2008, when the idea was first brought during the high tribunal’s consultations with grassroots organizations and advocacy groups.
“However, we welcome this development. We hope the writ of nature will not become a toothless tiger and will be of big use to people defending their livelihood and rights to healthy ecology,” added Pamalakaya.
Puno announced on Saturday that he wants the high court to finalize rules that will institute the writ of ‘kalikasan’ (nature) before he retires in May, saying that this new legal remedy would lead to a better implementation of the country’s environmental laws.
The Chief Justice announced the SC committee on the revision of the Rules of Court, which he chairs, is set to promulgate the rule governing the issuance of the writ of ‘kalikasan’—an order that a court can issue to protect a person’s right to a healthy environment—in one or two months.
Puno described the writ of ‘kalikasan’ as a “most effective” means to ensure that the Filipinos’ constitutional right to “balance and healthful ecology” is realized.
The soon to retire Chief Justice said the new writ aims to encourage more citizens to file suits involving violations of the country’s environmental laws, and to solve the problem of delays on the disposition of pending environmental cases, which have now reached 3,000.
In January 2008, the high tribunal approved the creation of 117 environmental courts—also called the “green courts” to expedite the resolution of all pending environmental cases. The writ of ‘kalikasan’ can solve the overclogging of these courts.