MANILA - The environmental activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) on Tuesday slammed the Supreme Court (SC) for its alleged "inaction" on the writ of kalikasan petition filed following the grounding incident on the Tubbataha Reef last year.
The group said the SC has allowed the case to "languish" in court, thus hampering efforts to rehabilitate the 2,345 square-meter damage caused by the grounding of the US minesweeper USS Guardian on the world heritage site.
"We condemn this inaction as it has also set a precedent for impunity by US forces towards our people and the environment by demonstrating that such environmental crimes will only be met by a lax, if not negligent, court," said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The group scored the high court for allegedly delaying its judgment for a year, when the court's rules of procedure for environmental cases requires a judgment to be rendered within 60 days from the time the petition was submitted for decision.
The group was was one of the petitioners in a series of legal actions filed calling for the immediate indemnification for the damaged pristine coral reefs in Tubbataha, a series of temporary environmental protection orders on the operations of US military personnel in the country, and the formulation and implementation of environmental guidelines that will govern US military activities and exercises.
The SC's treatment of the case is "highly irregular," it said. "It defeats the purpose of having a timely intervention in a concern that threatens our right to a balanced and healthful ecology when these legal remedies are impeded for no concrete and acceptable reason at all," Dulce said.
"What's even more irregular is the fact that Supreme Court allows the US government continuing snub on their order to reply on Writ of Kalikasan petition on Tubbataha. A year after, the Obama administration failed to respond to the SC order to explain the US side on the Tubbataha incident. This clearly show the US government disrespect to our justice system and its indifference on how we assert our sovereignty," Dulce added.
According to the Kalikasan PNE, the resolution of the Tubbataha case is urgent in the context of the Aquino administration's new Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC).
"The Tubbataha petition will not only compel the Obama administration to compensate the damages of the world heritage site, but will also impose environmental protection orders on US military operations until environmental guidelines and regulations governing the activities of foreign troops are put in place. This is important in the context of the new US base access agreement being railroaded by Aquino, which will surely bring in an influx of US troops and personnel and the environmental crimes and disasters that have historically come along with it."
"We challenge [the SC] to immediately render a favorable decision on the Tubbataha case, and to compel the US government and troops to clean up, pay up and get out of the Philippines," Dulce said.