The Supreme Court has directed the government to answer a landmark petition filed by Ramon Magsaysay awardee Antonio Oposa Jr. and other environmentalists in a test-case for the new writ of kalikasan (environment).
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said that government agencies, including the Palace, have been given 10 days to comment on the petition, which seeks among others the creation of rainwater collectors in all barangays in the country.
Apart from the Palace, the other respondents in the case were the Public Works and Highways, Interior and Local Government, and 80 provinces, 150 cities, 1,400 municipalities and 42,000 barangays.
Oposa group’s petition will put to the test the rules on environmental protection, which Chief Justice Reynato Puno will launch today at the high tribunal’s session hall.
In their petition, Oposa and the members of Global Legal Action on Climate Change asked the high tribunal to order the government to install a more effective nationwide flood control system through the implementation of a 1989 law requiring construction of water wells, rainwater collectors and springs in every barangay in the Philippines.
They said the 21-year-old Republic Act 6716, or the “Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Law”, also imposes this requirement to cities and municipalities through RA 7160, or the Local Government Code.
The petitioners said they have been “affected by the frequent flooding and water scarcity,” due to failure of agencies to comply with the law.
The petitioners complained about the respondents’ “gross negligence in the performance of public duty” because out of 100,000 rainwater catchments required by the law to be completed in 1991, the Public Works has only started complying last year and completed only four so far.
They noted that other countries like India and Singapore have successfully implemented the rainwater collectors and that it is also significant in the Philippines which is experiencing extreme wet and dry seasons. They explained that water wells serve as catchment areas to prevent flooding during rainy season and as sources of freshwater in dry season.
The other rainwater collectors’ purpose include are recharging aquifers, improving micro-climatic conditions, being a source of recreation and spiritual soothing, being home to food sources such as fish and vegetables, they added.
The petitioners also prodded the high court to compel the concerned agencies and local governments to submit a detailed action plan and program of action on how they will implement the law on rainwater collection, and for a Court-appointed commissioner to monitor the implementation of the law.
This will prevent destructive floods during rainy seasons just like what happened last year when typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng struck last year, Oposa’s group said.
Advocating love for nature, the petitioners also offered to be served summons and updates of pleadings via e-mail “to save on paper and postage, and thereby reduce carbon footprint.”
The order of mandamus being sought from the Supreme Court is “to protect the people’s supply of water and their right to a balanced and healthful ecology across the entire country.”
The petitioners said the writ of “kalikasan” must be implemented in each of the 80 provinces, 150 cities, 1,400 municipalities and each of 42,000 barangays all over the Philippines.
The issuance of the writ of kalikasan is immediate in nature and similar to the writs of habeas corpus, amparo and habeas data. –Rey E. Requejo, Manila Standard Today