CA junks environment protection plea vs Zambales mining firms
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition filed by concerned citizens in Zambales for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan and a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against all mining operations in the province.
In the decision penned by Associate Justice Renato Francisco, the appellate court ruled that the closure order issued by former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Gina Lopez makes the petition moot and academic.
"With the closure of the mining operations, there can be no unlawful act or omission that may be committed by respondent mining companies that would result in actual or threatened violation of petitioners' constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology," the CA said.
"More importantly, the principal relief sought in this petition has already been accomplished, thereby rendering the controversy moot and academic," it added.
According to the DENR's response to the petition, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the joint suspension order in July 2016 put on hold the mining operations of the 5 mining companies included in the petition. The order was issued by the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Central Luzon, and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Central Luzon.
The firms include BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Eramen Minerals, LNL Archipelago Minerals, Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, and Shangfil Mining and Trading Corporation.
The 15-page ruling also lifted the provisional writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court (SC) in June last year. The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy that upholds a citizen's right to a healthy environment.
The Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz, Zambales (CCOSZ) invoked this in their petition, accusing the mining companies of violating their right to a healthy environment. They claimed that the firms' activities destroy the ecosystem in their municipality and the nearby towns from Candelaria, Zambales to Infanta, Pangasinan.
Accusing the firms of having unsystematic mining operations, the petitioners said they are causing water, air, and soil pollution and harming rivers, farmlands, fishponds, and even residential areas.
The petitioners also claimed that the mining companies violated the closure order. But the CA said this should be decided by the DENR.
"This Court, inept with specialized knowledge and expertise of the DENR, cannot be expected to render a better resolution of the purported violation by respondent mining companies, in this present recourse for writ of kalikasan," the CA said.
"Any further proceedings in this petition may only duplicate, much worse contradict, the investigative findings of the DENR and the corresponding orders it may issue pursuant thereto. To insist otherwise would only breed more controversy on the matter," it added. – Rappler.com