MANILA—The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) to allow lawyers more time to consult with fisherfolk from Palawan and Zambales, who filed an environmental protection order in some areas of the West Philippine Sea.
The IBP sought until July 22 to confer with their clients to respond to claims made by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that 19 of the fishermen withdrew from the petition.
"It is imperative that counsel for petitioners confer with all individual petitioners from Palawan and Zambales before proceeding with any action that may result in the termination of these proceedings," the motion read.
The IBP said the petitioners reportedly lived in remote areas accessible only by boats.
During Tuesday's oral arguments on the case, Solicitor-General Jose Calida said petitioners and respondents have agreed on the dismissal of a writ of kalikasan plea.
He also said 19 petitioners said they have nothing to do with the petition.
This was dismissed by Chel Diokno, one of the petitioners' counsels, as unethical and a violation of the lawyer-client privilege rule as the OSG appears to have contacted the fishermen without their lawyers' knowledge.
In the petition, the IBP and several fishermen who go out to sea in the disputed waters cited “massive destruction” in the waters allegedly due to Chinese fishing vessels.
China has expansive claims to the South China Sea, encroaching into the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the contested waters.
Filipino fishermen have reported being shooed away from traditional fishing grounds at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales and said the Chinese have been harvesting giant clams in the area.