by Alan S. Cajes
The picture is taken from www.spanamwar.com/
On August 12, 2008, I had the opportunity to witness the Supreme Court of the
The oral arguments were about the “Cleaning Up the Manila Bay Case”, which was decided by the Regional Trial Court (Imus,
) last September 13, 2002. In this civil case, the Concerned Residents of Manila Bay sought to “compel defendants to submit a concerted, coordinated, and concrete plan of action to clean up and rehabilitate Cavite and its waterways, to restore its waters to Class SB classification and to revitalize its marine life.” The defendants are the following: Manila Bay
- Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS);
- Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA);
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR);
- Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS);
- Department of Health (DOH);
- Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA/BFAR);
- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH);
- Department of Budget and Management (DBM);
- Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group;
- Philippine Ports Authority (PPA);
ManilaDevelopment Authority (MMDA);
- All Concerned Local Government Units;
- Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG);
- Septic and sludge companies, and
- All polluting corporations.
The LWUA filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is not responsible in providing wastewater disposal facilities. The PPA also moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the State is immune from suit and that the plaintiffs are not the real parties-in-interest.
The Regional Trial Court denied these two motions on August 26, 1999. The Court said that LWUA, under its charter (PD No. 198), is tasked to see to it that the utilities “provide, construct and operate wastewater treatment and disposal facilities” and is authorized to “enforce rules and regulations with respect to wastewater disposal system”.
As regards the claim of PPA, the Court cited the trust doctrine and the concept of intergenerational responsibility and ruled that the “concerned citizens and consumers of shellfish in the bay, have a right to a balanced and healthful ecology as guaranteed by Sec. 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution. The Court also cited the case of Oposa vs. Factoran (224 SCRA 792) and declared that the “expansion of the concept of ‘locus standi’ allows concerned citizens to institute cases involving environmental degradation and pollution in behalf of the generation they represent and of generations yet unborn.”
During the pre-trial conference of the case, the parties delineated the following issues:
- Whether or not the water quality of
is within the standards set by law; Manila Bay
- Whether or not Sections 17 and 20 of PD No. 1152 or the Environment Code relate only to the cleaning up of specific pollution incidents or cover the cleaning, in general, and
- Assuming that Section 20 of the Environment Code applies to all cases of clean up, whether or not it is within the province of the judiciary to order the executive department, through defendants, by way of mandamus to do such ting.