Environmental groups have reason to celebrate Earth day as the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday issued the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the rules and regulation which will govern the procedure in legal actions involving enforcement or violations of environmental and related laws.
“We commend the SC for issuing an ‘environment-friendly’ Rules of Procedure. This early Earth Day reward is a result of grassroots communities’ arduous and tireless struggle to protect the environment and natural resources and uphold their basic rights,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of progressive environmental organization Kalikasan-PNE.
“The Rules of Procedure provisions on the Writ of Kalikasan, Writ of Continuing Mandamus, Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP), and Precautionary Principle is very meaningful and useful. Through these provisions environmental advocates and ordinary citizens can further assert and defend their constitutional rights to life, a balanced and healthful ecology and their patrimony,” Mr. Bautista explained.
Under the rules, persons or organizations can immediately file a counter case to serve as a defence against SLAPP which can be filed by individual, organizations or corporations. Also the courts can now issue Environmental Protection Order (EPO) which directs or enjoins any person or government agency to perform or desist from performing an act in order to protect, preserve or rehabilitate the environment.
“These new rules of procedure will surely boost our legal battles for the environment. There are several environmental leaders and activists who have been harassed by legal cases filed by big businesses and private corporations. These harassments stem from their unrelenting opposition to environmentally destructive projects of both government and foreign transnational corporations such as large-scale mining and commercial logging,” said Frances Quimpo executive director of Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines.
Ms. Quimpo is one of the environmental activists facing a criminal case filed by Korean-owned mining company LG International and Korean Resources Co. because of their staunch opposition to government flagship mining project in Rapurapu Island, Albay.
“We also hope this rule will aid the communities and activists in protecting the environment and people’s rights,” Ms. Quimpo added.
Based on Kalikasan PNE data as of March 2010, some 27 environmental activists have been killed, two became victims of enforced disappearance, and one of attempted murder. The group has also recorded more than 110 individuals facing SLAPP cases in court. Most of the killings and SLAPP cases involved activists opposing big mining and logging projects.
“We challenge the Supreme Court and the legislative bodies of the government to further strengthen the laws and rules that protect our environment and conserve our natural resources. It must take another step forward in reviewing, reversing or junking laws that have been proven to be detrimental not only to our environment but to our people as well. These include the Mining Act of 1995, Fisheries Code of 1998 and Forestry Code of 1975. As long as these laws remain, environmental destruction and resource depletion will have a legal basis and will continue unabated in the country.” Mr. Bautista said.
KALIKASAN People’s Network for the Environment is a network of people’s organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.