Temporary Environmental Protection Orders and Dolphins

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By Faye Hernandez and Roald Moy

Roald Moy

Friday, October 19, 2012


THERE has been recent media coverage on the export of 25 dolphins in Ocean Adventure Park to Singapore. According to news reports, the export of these dolphins, which had been undergoing training in Ocean Adventure, was subjected to a 72 hour temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) by a Court in Quezon City.

The question probably in the mind of most people is: what is a Tepo?
Under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases (A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC) promulgated by the Supreme Court on 13 April 2012, an Environmental Protection Order, from which a Tepo is derived from, is defined as “an order issued by the court directing or enjoining any person or government agency to perform or desist from performing an act in order to protect, preserve, or rehabilitate the environment.” (Rule 1, Sec. 4 (d), A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC).

The Tepo is then issued by a court “if it appears from the verified complaint… that the matter is of extreme urgency and the applicant will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury” (Rule 2, Sec. 8, A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC).

Notably, the procedure for issuing a Tepo is similar to that of a TRO, and in fact the requirement of “extreme urgency,” “grave injustice” and “irreparable injury” are the same.

The factual question facing the Court in the dolphin case would seem to be whether or not there was sufficient urgency, injustice or injury to justify the issuance of a Tepo to stop the exportation of these dolphins.

According to news reports, a 72 hour Tepo was actually issued meaning the Court found sufficient basis to issue the Tepo and protect the dolphins. However, after the lapse of the Tepo, the Court refused to extend the Tepo because supposedly, the applicants for the Tepo were unable to prove that the respondents (which included Resorts World, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Agriculture Secretary, among others) violated any law. This presumably means that the Court found no environmental damage or injury present in the case of the exportation of the dolphins.

What will happen next in this case, or if the dolphins can indeed go back to Singapore, is anybody’s guess.

However, as someone who has defended a client against the issuance of a Tepo under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, I can say that the burden should indeed be on the part of the applicants/petitioners to prove the violation of any law and the environmental damage or injury which are supposedly being caused.

Nevertheless, I laud the intention of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases. They have made it easier for people to seek remedies in order to protect the environment. However, whether or not these Rules will be effective or subjected to abuse, remains to be seen.

*****

Atty. Kelvin Lee is a Partner of the San Juan Tayag Lee & Verga Law Offices and a consultant of the Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako Law Office. The opinions expressed herein are his own. You can reach Kelvin at kelvinlesterlee@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 19, 2012.

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