The Writ of Kalikasan, along with Writ of Amparo, materialized during the term of Chief Justice Renato Puno at the Philippine Supreme Court. It is based on the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and right to health as indicated in the Philippine 1987 Constitution. Several communities and organizations have already sought the Writ of Kalikasan and with positive results.
Large-scale inland mining in the Philippines started as early as 1936 when Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation started to extract minerals from the gold-rich Mankayan of Benguet, Northern Philippines. Since then, the country has been host to large and foreign mining companies that extract gold, copper and other minerals not only from Luzon to Mindanao ridges but even in critical coastal communities in Northern Philippines.
Just as mining companies continue to extract minerals all over the Philippines, communities continue to experience receding coastline, erosion, water pollution and are left with unusable farm lands because of toxicity and salt-water absorption.
According to Defend Ilocos against Mining Plunder or Defend Ilocos, the residents of coastal communities in Ilocos, Northern Philippines, lost kilometers of their coastline because of magnetite mining during the 1960s by FILMAG. Defend Ilocos is a broad network of organizations, academic institutions, church officials, local government officials and individuals that campaign against large-scale and destructive mining. Admittedly, large scale mining has already caused widespread damages which explain why numerous organizations, communities and networks such as Defend Ilocos have been established everywhere in the Philippines.
Despite the risks, Philippine President Noynoy Aquino issued another Mining Executive Order or the EO No. 79 last June, which, according to the analysis of anti-mining networks, is a policy insensitive to the danger posed by mining and will only make it easier for large and foreign mining companies to extend mining operations at a level that could wipe out communities and render more agricultural lands useless.
The situation couldn’t be more frustrating for affected communities as they find no hope of mining operations closing down soon. There is, however, a judicial remedy unique in the Philippines available to organization and communities. They may seek this remedy in order to bring their campaign at a legal face-off with mining companies that have not only broken environmental laws but have caused or will cause huge damages to land, life and properties.
The Writ of Kalikasan, along with Writ of Amparo, materialized during the term of Chief Justice Renato Puno at the Philippine Supreme Court. It is based on the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and right to health as indicated in the Philippine 1987 Constitution. Several communities and organizations have already sought the Writ of Kalikasan and with positive results. Take for example the Writ of Kalikasan filed against Bt Eggplant in the Philippines.
Unlike other costly cases filed at Philippine courts, Writ of Kalikasan can be filed without docket fees. Also, it can be filed by organizations in representation of communities or individuals who suffered great magnitude of damages to life, properties, health and livelihood in 2 or more cities and provinces.
The justice system in the Philippines is problematic – systemic to a lot of extent. Pleadings are usually used in cases in order to extend or cause delay to favor influential respondents. In Writ of Kalikasan, certain pleadings are prohibited which is one way to ensure that any Writ of Kalikasan case will be attended and decided by the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals within 90 days. Some of the prohibited pleadings include motion to dismiss, motion for extension of file to return, motion for postponement, motion for a bill of particulars, third party complaint among others.
Right now, Writ of Kalikasan cases have been filed for Ilocos-Pangasinan coast against foreign-owned Altamina Resources and Exploration, Incorporated and Subic against Renondo Peninsula Energy, Incorporated.
Writ of Kalikasan, as a judicial remedy, is still within the bounds of the problematic Philippine justice system but it is set apart to a certain extent. Its obvious advantages can be used in favor of communities whose right to healthful and balanced ecology and right to health are violated – not just mining affected communities. Writ of Kalikasan is a possible option for mining affected communities whose protests and complaints were just dismissed by President Aquino’s newest Executive Order No. 79. Take the example of the Ilocos-Pangasinan coast.
The Writ of Kalikasan, however, can only be useful to a certain extent. It can only be filed with the presence of imminent danger or when there is already immense destruction. Just as any other cases brought to court, it works that way – to be decided based on the assessment of the court complete with credible proof and clear evidence otherwise, it is a losing case. If a community or organization can’t prove there is imminent danger and that effects can be felt by at least 2 cities or a province, it’s not going to work out strong enough for prayers under Writ of Kalikasan to be granted such as Temporary Environmental Protection Order and Cease and Desist Order. It goes to show why the Pasay and Makati residents were unsuccessful in the Writ of Kalikasan they filed against Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) for transmission poles and lines directly placed above their roofs. The Court of Appeals found the evidence against MERALCO insufficient.
The other concerns of mining can’t also be addressed by the Writ of Kalikasan. There is still the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which is the reason why mining companies can freely scour the mountain ridges and coasts of the country for minerals. Also, foreign and large scale mining companies remain comfortable in the Philippines with their ongoing operations even if they face protests, complaints and court cases because they have the blessing of no less than President Aquino. Mining policies which has gotten friendlier and more accommodating to mining companies are deadly licenses responsible for more environmental and livelihood destruction of mining communities, thanks to President Aquino.
This is to say that Writ of Kalikasan is not the endpoint. It is just part of the many remedies for mining affected communities, anti-mining individuals and anti-mining networks.
The campaign against the destruction and continuing operations of large scale mining companies, to be exact, should be a comprehensive campaign against laws and policies in the Philippines that allow destructive operations in exchange for money that only satisfy perceived economic growth statistics and selected powerful individuals. And since these policies and laws are of national scale, then it is only right that affected communities and all advocates against mining – individuals or organizations – should form the highest unity in stopping, once and for all, the huge destruction caused by large scale mining.
Image is from Defend Ilocos