The Supreme Court has had a mixed record in its orders related to protecting the environment. In April 2012, it issued a writ of kalikasan, stopping a multibillion-peso project to reclaim Manila Bay. The area covered by the special order has since been declared as a protected wetland – the last of its kind in Metro Manila. It is now a thriving marine ecopark and bird sanctuary along the Las Piñas-Parañaque coastline.
On the other hand, it took a decade before the government enforced a Supreme Court order for several agencies to clean up Manila Bay. This could be because the SC order was seen as an encroachment upon the powers and functions of the executive agencies led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Following the cleanup of Boracay, however, President Duterte turned his attention to Manila Bay and ordered the agencies to finally implement the SC order, in line with his policy of eliminating marine pollution. The cleanup is a work in progress.
Now the SC has issued another writ, directing the government to protect the marine environment in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales in the West Philippine Sea. Will the national government comply with the SC order this time?
The three areas happen to be covered by the petition filed by the Philippine government before the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which sought a definition of the country’s maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.