Duterte admin asked to heed SC order protecting PH reefs


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials must enforce the Supreme Court’s writ of kalikasan order directing them to protect and rehabilitate the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Saturday.

Failure to heed the special order, which covers three-Philippine-claimed reefs in the disputed waters, could prompt the high court to hold the Duterte administration in contempt, according to a maritime law expert.

“The recent writ of kalikasan [ordered] by the Supreme Court practically imposes an obligation on our government to enforce the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling,” Del Rosario said, referring to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

In issuing the protection order on Friday, the Supreme Court granted the petition of a group of Palawan fisherfolk and Zambales residents seeking to prevent environmental law violations in the disputed waters.

The writ covers Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer EEZ in the South China Sea.

Palace respects court orders

The petitioners from Palawan and Zambales were represented by lawyers from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The Supreme Court also ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and other officials to respond to its decision.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Saturday said Malacañang always respected orders of the judiciary, but he disagreed with the insinuation that the administration was not doing anything to protect the environment.

“We take exception, however, to the contention that there has been inaction on the part of the administration with regard to the environmental concerns brought about by Chinese activities in the contested areas,” Panelo said.

“Our coast guard as well as other government agencies are performing their task in securing the subject of the writ,” he added.

Duterte admin asked to heed SC order protecting PH reefs