THE Supreme Court (SC) is now preparing for the promulgation of the rule governing the issuance of the writ of Kalikasan (nature) for the prosecution of cases involving the environment protection and preservation.

 

Chief Justice Reynato Puno announced Friday during a speech before the Philippine-Australian Alumni Association Inc. (PA3i) that the SC committee on the revision of the Rules of Court, which he chairs, is now on its second draft of review of the Rule of Procedure for Environmental Cases.

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Puno said the rule on the issuance of the writ of Kalikasan will be promulgated in one or two months’ time, just before his retirement on May 17.

 

“I’m the one in-charge, as chairman of the committee of revision of the rules of court. But all this has to be approved by the Court en banc. We hope we can do this in one or two months’ time. I hope to leave this as part of my legacy as a Chief Justice,” Puno said in an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the Symposium on Transformational Leadership organized by PA3i.

 

Puno said the writ of Kalikasan will be the equivalent of the writ of habeas corpus or of the writ of amparo in terms of addressing ecological cases.

 

“It will be the most effective writ in order to remedy violations of our environmental laws,” he said.

 

In January 2008, the High Court approved the creation of 117 environmental courts to expedite the resolution of all pending environmental cases nationwide.

 

Last April 2009, the SC convened in Baguio City leaders from the executive branch, legislature, judiciary, non-government organizations (NGOs) and various environmental stakeholders to take part in the its move to push for reforms in the judiciary that would help strike a balance ecological concerns vis-a-vis economic development.

 

“Our task is to craft a rule that will strike the proper balance between the need to encourage citizen’s suit and the danger that unregulated citizen’s suit may bring about nuisance cases,” Puno told some 500 delegates during the two-day forum.

 

The SC had earlier identified the pending environmental cases as those involving violations of the laws on mining, forestry, marine, fisheries, wildlife, waste management, toxic substances, and hazardous waste.

 

Among the laws involving the environment are the Revised Forestry Code (Presidential Decree 705), Marine Pollution (PD 979), Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste Act (Republic Act 6969), People’s Small-Scale Mining Act (RA 7076), National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (RA 7586), Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942), Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371), Philippine Fisheries Code (RA 8550); Clean Air Act (RA 8749), Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), National Caves and Cave Resources Management Act (RA 9072), Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act (RA 9147), Chainsaw Act (RA 9175), and Clean Water Act (RA 9275).

 

The right to a healthy environment, Puno said, is mandated by Section 16, Article II of the Constitution, which provides that “the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

 

Among these issues, he said, is whether to relax the rule on “locus standi,” or legal standing, to encourage more citizens to file suit involving violations of the country’s environmental laws; the delay in the disposition of pending environmental cases; and the problem of procuring evidence and crafting effective remedies.

Puno noted that the relaxation of the rule of locus standi has its disadvantages such that it will open the floodgate to environmental litigations including petitions that are baseless, and could drive away investors and contribute to the over clogging of the country’s 117 green courts.

 

He urged participants of the forum to come up with measures on how to address such dilemma.

 

He claimed that the forum also aimed at addressing delays in the resolution of pending environmental cases which has now reached 3,000. Such delays, he added, discourage the filing of cases to enforce environmental laws.

 

In line with this, Puno suggested the use of mediation and conciliation proceedings to settle environmental disputes.

 

Puno likewise called for the re-examination of the “rule on confidentiality of information” from regulatory agencies and the rule on “disputable presumptions within the constraints of due process” for easy prosecution of environmental cases.(ECV/Sunnex)