Statement of Concerned Filipino Lawyers
We, concerned Filipino lawyers as citizens, strongly condemn the lackluster response of the government in addressing the oil spill contamination ravaging our seas, biodiversity, health and income of affected coastal residents in Oriental Mindoro. This is a grave evolving environmental catastrophe that has caused significant harm to the sacred ecosystems in the area and has affected the lives and livelihood of local communities who depend upon fishing and tourism for their income. It is posing serious health risks, and is compromising the well-being of the people including the elderly, the women and the children.
The Verde Island Passage is an ecologically significant and one of the most highly productive ecosystems in the Philippines, thus, the protection and conservation of this area should be a top priority for the government. The oil spill contamination is a devastating threat to the marine biodiversity of the Verde Island Passage. The government must take immediate and effective measures to address this ecological nightmare and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future by ensuring that our laws and regulations are strictly enforced.
This is a disaster of national and international proportions; thus, we urgently call on President Marcos to take immediate action and declare a state of national calamity in the affected areas to provide necessary relief and assistance to the affected communities. Immediate action is to thoroughly assess the impact area and contain the oil spill. Likewise, whole-of-nation actions are needed to address the urgent needs of affected communities, including providing adequate compensation, short-term and long-term health care, and rehabilitation measures.
We demand a thorough investigation into this disaster and hold accountable those responsible, including those in agencies who were in dereliction of their duties. There should be transparency and strict accountability in the conduct of the impartial investigation and full disclosure of parties involved in this mess. It was only owing to a senate inquiry that critical details finally came to light two weeks after the tragedy struck, such as the relevant permits, or the lack thereof, of the shipowner RDC Reield Marines Services, Inc., the necessary measures taken to ensure the seaworthiness of the tanker MT Princess Empress, and the lack of clear coordination among the government agencies supposed to be responding to this disaster.
To date, relevant government agencies have still not confirmed the report that it is a San Miguel Corporation subsidiary, SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, that was the charterer of the sunken vessel. There is likewise still incomplete information as to who owns the oil, what kind of oil(s) is/are present in the vessel, and what are the harmful impacts of contamination, among others. There are also inconsistent statements from the government agencies and the shipowner, concerning the legality of the tanker’s operations in relation to the amendment of the latter’s Certificate of Public Convenience, and the state of the tanker, being new or a rebuilt scrap.
The public has the right to know what happened, who is responsible, what measures are being taken to address the extensive damage caused by the oil spill, including the posting of a bond on the part of the polluters to cover containment and clean-up costs and damages estimated thus far, and what punitive actions will be pursued to deter tragic and avoidable instances like this in the future.
Furthermore, the critical role of quick, timely, science-based and effective oil spill response according to existing laws and guidelines cannot be overemphasized. There must be a coordinated approach to address this national crisis, which are already provided for in the Philippine Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Act of 2010 (Republic Act 10121) and related laws. More importantly, the local government units and coastal communities deserve to be heard, involved in decision-making and fully supported as the state of uncertainty looms in the hearts of their constituents.
The people’s constitutionally guaranteed right to a clean, healthy, and balanced ecology is at stake in the oil pollution crisis. The Philippine Constitution declares that the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. The case of Oposa v. Factoran, interpreted this to mean that it is the duty of the government and stakeholders to protect and preserve and not to destroy the environment for the benefit of the present and future generations. Even the United Nations General Assembly declared the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right.
The continuing pollution of our waters and destruction of critical marine habitats are clear violations of the people’s constitutional right to a clean, healthy, and balanced ecology, and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions, omissions and negligence.
We urge the government to take swift and decisive action to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy, and balanced ecology is upheld and protected for the benefit of present and future generations of Filipinos.
Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos Vice-President, Oceana
Dean Antonio G.M. La Viña, JSD Associate Director, Manila Observatory
Atty. Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio Legal and Policy Director, Oceana
Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Tadeo Diokno
Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda Executive Director, Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc.
Atty. Efenita M. Taqueban Executive Director, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Friends of the Earth Philippines
Atty. Joy Reyes Legal and Research Policy Associate, Manila Observatory
Atty. Aaron Pedrosa Head, Legal Team, Philippine Movement for Climate JusticeSecretary-General, Sanlakas
Atty. Rhea Yray-Frossard Campaign & Research Director, Oceana
Atty. Avril P. De Torres Deputy Executive DirectorCenter for Energy, Ecology, and Development
Atty. Ma. Nikka Andrea F. Oquias Legal and Policy Specialist, Oceana
Atty. Renecio “Luke” Espiritu, Jr. President, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino
Atty. Isabel Patricia C. Soresca Center for Energy, Ecology, andDevelopment
Atty. Michael de Castro Managing Counsel, Leflegis
Atty. Victoria S. BataclanRetired Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines
Atty. Virgilio OcayaI BP- Misamis Occidental Chapter
Atty. Crispulo Rosacia, Jr. IBP – Cagayan
Atty. Asia Wy Legal Fellow, Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc.
Atty. Ma. Loreto U. Navarro
Atty. Thaddeus Venturanza IBP- Oriental Mindoro Chapter
Atty. Heidi Galos
Atty. Pilita Quizon-Venturanza IBP – Oriental Mindoro Chapter
Atty. Zoilo L Andin, Jr. IBP – Pampanga Chapter
Atty. Maria Q. Venturanza IBP – Oriental Mindoro Chapter
Atty. Theofredo Jose R. Sandico IBP – Quezon City Chapter
Atty. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate La Viña Zarate & Associates
Atty. Jim Francisco L. Asuncion IBP – Marinduque
Atty. Reeza Singzon Legal Officer, Phil. Movement for Climate Justice
Atty. Aljun Sarmiento Legal Officer, Phil. Movement for Climate Justice
Atty. Cecilio GelladaIBP – Quezon City
Atty. Crystal A. Mercado IBP-Nueva Ecija Chapter
Atty. Ronnan Christian M. Reposar Environmental Legal Assistance Center, (ELAC) Inc. – Eastern Visayas
Atty. Victoria A. Villaluz IBP – Makati
Atty. Rafael Greggorre T. Pajares Environmental Legal Assistance Center, (ELAC) Inc. – Eastern Visayas
Atty. Simeon V. Marcelo IBP – Nueva Ecija
Atty. Jessica Joy U. Bendoy Environmental Legal Assistance Center, (ELAC) Inc. – Eastern Visayas
Atty. Max Patag IBP – Rizal
Atty. Barbette Joanne B. Reposar Environmental Legal Assistance Center, (ELAC) Inc. – Eastern Visayas
Atty. Domingo Añonuevo IBP – Laguna
Atty. Edre Olalia IBP – Rizal San Juan Mandaluyong
Atty. Ferdinand M. Corpuz IBP- Rizal
Atty. Gilbert Mario A. Dela Cruz IBP Chapter – Makati City
Atty. Agripino G. Morga IBP – Laguna
Atty. Melanie Ann Limson Zerrudo IBP – Makati City
Atty. Dan Christian E. Ramos IBP – Makati City
Atty. Sixto Jose C. Antonio IBP – RSM Chapter
Atty. Kylie Kaur M. Dado IBP – Makati City
Atty. Allen Christopher R. Tolosa IBP – Makati
Atty. Ivan S. Valcos IBP – Bulacan
Atty. Editha Y. Ortega IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Michelle A. Laureta IBP – Camarines Sur
Atty. Manuel P. Delica IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Lalaine Jertrude L. Hablado-Reyes IBP – Pasay, Paranaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa
Atty. Joel J. Jabal IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Evelyn Tumacder Alameda IBP – Quezon City
Atty. Charlotte Aguba Goco IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Judith Sylvia Belderol Lewis
Atty. Diana Mae C. Calangi IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Tristan Gabriel DP Ignacio IBP – Rizal-San Juan-Mandaluyong
Atty. Raymond Joel L. Balbuena IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Frederick G. Young IBP – Manila III
Atty. Larry M. Quinton IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Ed C. Bunquin IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Amiel C. Guno IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Antonio S. Perez, Jr. IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Arlene C. Aceveda IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Warren-Derick T. Legaspi IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Tyron Kim D. Baculo IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Xela Leona D. Laqui IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Merlyn U. Gutierrez IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Jesus Franco Bautista Lasquite IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Ivann James Z. Vergara IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Ma. Ellen C. Abas IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Maria Rosario Tam-Armamento IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Shyrell Clemino-Abelo IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Suminigay P. Mirindato IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Veronica G. Chan IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Juno Korinna G. Concepcion-Mirindato IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Ian Paulo de Castro IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty Joan M. Escala IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Majicel O. Gonda IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Cristalyn M. Atienza IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Krezza Gem L. Macalintal IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Princess Janine R. Sy IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Francheska Laurent L. Feraren IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Ronald Kevin L. Montellano IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Hospicio Icalla Laygo,Jr. IBP – Oriental Mindoro
Atty. Joel R. Butuyan Chairperson, Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Atty. Nicolene S. Arcaina Bertha Justice Alumnx, Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Atty. Shawn Dustin B. Coscolluela Bertha Justice Alumnx, Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Atty. Sabrina Victoria M. Dayao Bertha Justice Alumnx, Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Atty. Selynn Alexis S. Co Bertha Justice Fellow, Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Atty. Justin Zosimo Mendoza IBP-Zambales
Atty. John Menguito Managing TrusteePhil. Earth Justice Center, Inc.
Atty. Kristin Joy Argallon Phil. Earth Justice Center, Inc.
Atty. Keir Cedric L. Enriquez IBP – Batangas