Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Salient Points of “The Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases”

A 600 MW coal power plant threatening to rise across the bay, beaches that seem to get dirtier everyday, toppling of huge, old trees by rain and wind, unusual flooding even in elevated areas – these are some environmental concerns that residents and locators in Subic Bay Freeport have begun to contend with, the latter two having been exposed by super-typhoon Pedring. The manner by which natural resources and the environment are being utilized and managed binds these issues together, calling for a closer scrutiny, if not outright, decisive action.

Brushing up a bit on the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases (A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC), that became effective starting 29 April 2010, could come in handy, especially now.

The Rules have the following objectives, to wit:

(a) To protect and advance the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology;
(b) To provide a simplified, speedy and inexpensive procedure for the enforcement of environmental rights and duties recognized under the Constitution, existing laws, rules and regulations, and international agreements;
(c) To introduce and adopt innovations and best practices ensuring the effective enforcement of remedies and redress for violation of environmental laws; and
(d) To enable the courts to monitor and exact compliance with orders and judgments in environmental cases. (Section 3, Rule I)

These Rules govern the procedure in civil, criminal and special civil actions before the Regional Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts involving enforcement or violations of environmental and other related laws, rules and regulations such as but not limited to the following:

(a) Act No. 3572, Prohibition Against Cutting of Tindalo, Akli, and Molave Trees;
(b) P.D. No. 705, Revised Forestry Code;
(c) P.D. No. 856, Sanitation Code;
(d) P.D. No. 979, Marine Pollution Decree;
(e) P.D. No. 1067, Water Code;
(f) P.D. No. 1151, Philippine Environmental Policy of 1977;
(g) P.D. No. 1433, Plant Quarantine Law of 1978;
(h) P.D. No. 1586, Establishing an Environmental Impact Statement System Including Other Environmental Management Related Measures and for Other Purposes;
(i) R.A. No. 3571, Prohibition Against the Cutting, Destroying or Injuring of Planted or Growing Trees, Flowering Plants and Shrubs or Plants of Scenic Value along Public Roads, in Plazas, Parks, School Premises or in any Other Public Ground;
(j) R.A. No. 4850, Laguna Lake Development Authority Act;
(k) R.A. No. 6969, Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste Act;
(l) R.A. No. 7076, People’s Small-Scale Mining Act;
(m) R.A. No. 7586, National Integrated Protected Areas System Act including all laws, decrees, orders, proclamations and issuances establishing protected areas;
(n) R.A. No. 7611, Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act;
(o) R.A. No. 7942, Philippine Mining Act;
(p) R.A. No. 8371, Indigenous Peoples Rights Act;
(q) R.A. No. 8550, Philippine Fisheries Code;
(r) R.A. No. 8749, Clean Air Act;
(s) R.A. No. 9003, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act;
(t) R.A. No. 9072, National Caves and Cave Resource Management Act;
(u) R.A. No. 9147, Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act;
(v) R.A. No. 9175, Chainsaw Act;
(w) R.A. No. 9275, Clean Water Act;
(x) R.A. No. 9483, Oil Spill Compensation Act of 2007; and
(y) Provisions in C.A. No. 141, The Public Land Act; R.A. No. 6657, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988; R.A. No. 7160, Local Government Code of 1991; R.A. No. 7161, Tax Laws Incorporated in the Revised Forestry Code and Other Environmental Laws (Amending the NIRC); R.A. No. 7308, Seed Industry Development Act of 1992; R.A. No. 7900, High-Value Crops Development Act; R.A. No. 8048, Coconut Preservation Act; R.A. No. 8435, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997; R.A. No. 9522, The Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law; R.A. No. 9593, Renewable Energy Act of 2008; R.A. No. 9637, Philippine Biofuels Act; and other existing laws that relate to the conservation, development, preservation, protection and utilization of the environment and natural resources. (Section 2, Rule I)

Any Filipino citizen in representation of others, including minors or generations yet unborn, may file an action to enforce rights or obligations under environmental laws. (Section 5, Rule II)

"Continuing mandamus" is a writ issued by a court in an environmental case directing any agency or instrumentality of the government or officer thereof to perform an act or series of acts decreed by final judgment which shall remain effective until judgment is fully satisfied. (Section 4 [c], Rule I)

"Environmental protection order (EPO)" refers to 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. (Section 4 [d], Rule I)

"Strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP)" refers to an action whether civil, criminal or administrative, brought against any person, institution or any government agency or local government unit or its officials and employees, with the intent to harass, vex, exert undue pressure or stifle any legal recourse that such person, institution or government agency has taken or may take in the enforcement of environmental laws, protection of the environment or assertion of environmental rights. (Section 4 [g], Rule I)

According to the Supreme Court, these Rules are the first of its kind in the world.

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