Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan on Friday in response to a petition seeking protection of the marine environment in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
In a ruling, the high court settled the plea filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and fishermen from Palawan and Zambales, both on the coast of the resource-rich sea, seeking the writ to compel government to protect and preserve the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the contested South China Sea.
Virtues of the petition is still up for deliberations. Yet, a petition filed in April, the IBP and fishermen from the two provinces cited “massive destruction” in the waters supposedly due to Chinese fishing vessels.
China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea, infringing into the country’s EEZ in the waters. Filipino fishermen have been reported being shooed away from traditional fishing grounds at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and said the Chinese have been harvesting giant clams in the area.
Said petition accused high-ranking government officials of neglecting their duties under the law to protect the Panatag and Ayungin (Second Thomas) shoals as well as the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.
Named respondents in the petition were the environment, agriculture and justice departments, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its Maritime Group.
President Duterte discussed the sea dispute with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing last week, where both agreed to pursue bilateral negotiations. Where China had overlooked the Philippines’ landmark July 2016 victory before a United Nations-backed arbitration court, which invalidated Beijing’s 9-dash line claim over nearly all of the disputed waters.
IBP president Abdiel Fajardo said in a statement that the high court ruling affirms the country’s position asserting its EEZ before the arbitral tribunal.
“This affirms, at this juncture, the Philippine position made before the international arbitral body that the disputed islands fall within the EEZ of the Philippines, and must therefore be protected by Philippine authorities as required by the Constitution and domestic environmental laws. Also, that the Philippines, at least thru the judiciary, is not waiving its rights over them by acquiescing to the unilateral actions of another State,” he concluded.