Environment groups lauded the temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) that prohibits owners and operators of coal-fired power plants to bring coal ash outside their premises.

The Manila-based Eco-Waste coalition commended the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), one of the petitioners for the Tepo on coal ash disposal, through its coordinator lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

"We commend and congratulate the PEJC and other concerned groups and residents who acted as petitioners for invoking the precautionary principle to uphold the constitutional rights of affected communities from improperly disposed coal ash, which constitutes a public health hazard," Rei Panaligan, EcoWaste Coalition Coordinator said in a statement.

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"Precaution, a universally-accepted principle, tells us to err on the side of caution if only to ensure the health and safety of our people and the environment from toxic risks," he added.

The TEPO has lapsed but may be extended, depending on an inspection in October.

In a citizen's suit filed last Aug. 12, 2010, PEJC and other petitioners said, "even in the absence of full scientific certainty as to the how much harm coal ash affects the health of petitioners and the ecosystem, this court is still required under the rules to exercise and adopt a precautionary attitude."

Mandaue Regional Trial Court Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap issued an ex-parte Tepo last Aug. 16. The order became effective for 72 hours from date of receipt of the private respondents.

She noted that the power plants should stop disposing of coal ash indiscriminately as they do not have surface impoundment or a sanitary landfill. She also cited the precautionary principle as stated in the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases.

According to the rules, there are factors to be considered in applying the principle: threats to human life or health, inequity to present or future generations, or prejudice to the environment without legal consideration of the environmental rights of those affected.

PEJC coordinator Estenzo-Ramos said the Tepo, which is only the second issued in the country, is a milestone in environmental defense.

"The remedies afforded to citizens under the Rules are empowering and should send a strong signal to law enforcement agencies, including local government units, to shape up and comply with their mandates. We cannot allow polluting industries to continue treating residents of host communities as second-class citizens in their own country and destroying our life support systems," she said.