SC Unveils Landmark Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases

Philippine conservationists have found yet another legal weapon for the conservation of the country’s environmental resources. Legal experts believe that the SC’s rules of procedures for environmental cases will be an important “catalyst for sweeping environmental reforms.”

Below are some of the highlights as posted in the Supreme Court of the Philippines website:

1. The provision on citizen suits liberalizes standing for all cases filed enforcing environmental laws.  Citizen suits have proven critical in forcing government and its agencies to act on its duty to protect and preserve the environment.  To further encourage the protection of the environment, the Rules enable litigants enforcing environmental rights to file their cases as citizen suits. As a procedural device, citizen suits permit deferred of payment of filing fees until after the judgment.

2. The use of a consent decree is an innovative way to resolve environmental cases.  It allows for a compromise agreement between two parties in environmental litigation over issues that would normally be litigated in court, and other matters that may not necessarily be of issue in court.

3. An environmental protection order 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. It integrates both prohibitive and mandatory reliefs in order to appropriately address the factual circumstances surrounding the case.  This remedial measure can also be prayed for in the writs of kalikasan and continuing mandamus.

4. Similar to the writs of habeas corpus, amparo and habeas data, the issuance of the writ of kalikasan is immediate in nature. It contains a very specific set of remedies which may be availed of individually or cumulatively, to wit – it is available to a natural or juridical person, entity authorized by law, people’s organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group accredited by or registered with any government agency, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.

5. Another innovation is the rule on the writ of continuing mandamus which integrates the ruling in Concerned Residents of Manila Bay v. MMDA G.R. Nos. 171947-48, December 8, 2008 and the existing rule on the issuance of the writ of mandamus. Procedurally, its filing before the courts is similar to the filing of an ordinary writ of mandamus. However, the issuance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order is made available as an auxiliary remedy prior to the issuance of the writ itself.

The pdf file for the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, can be accessed here.

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