The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Palawan is expecting the Supreme Court (SC) to rule in favor of the farmers and fishermen on Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan town in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).
IBP Palawan Chapter president Atty. Richalex Jagmis said they support the move of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (KPFFA) in petitioning the highest court to issue a writ of Kalikasan and the writ of continuing mandamus to push the Duterte administration to uphold Philippine laws in the contested region.
Jagmis said although their chapter was not in the forefront of filing the appeal in the SC on April 16, they are fully behind it and the KPFFA.
He said the stand of the national government should be for ”non-intrusion because of the issue of sovereignty.”
“Siguro if the Supreme Court would look at it based on existing laws at saka ’yong mga basis natin sa pag-claim natin sa mga lugar na ’yan which is sakop ng Palawan, maybe the petition should be given merit,” he added.
In the petition, the KPFFA wants President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet responsible for ”neglect” in enforcing Philippine laws that should protect the maritime environment in the West Philippine Sea territories.
The KPFFA members, represented by the IBP, was joined in filing the petition by three other fishermen from Barangay Cawag in Subic, Zambales.
The KPFFA is asking the SC for President Duterte to stop Beijing from damaging the marine environment in the WPS in the areas of Ayungin Shoal, Mischief Reef, and Panatag, which are considered ”traditional fishing grounds.”
The farmers and fishermen association filed the petition against Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Roy Cimatu, Department of Agriculture (DA) Sec. Manny Piñol, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Dir. Eduardo Gongona, Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Admiral Elson Hermogino, Philippine National Police (PNP) General Oscar Albayalde, PNP Maritime Group Director Chief Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The KPFFA said all the respondents are tasked to enforce environmental laws in the area but they failed to do it.
If the writs are granted by the SC, the petitioners want to compel the Duterte government to constantly update them and the Court of actions it is taking to enforce domestic laws in the West Philippine Sea.
“I cannot categorically say na nahuli or timely [ang filing ng petiton] kasi kumbaga it has always been a national issue ibig sabihin matagal na siguro this time mas nakakita lang tayo ng mas compelling reason especially dito sa territorial jurisdiction ng Palawan nangyari na marami rin incident na ganoon,” he said.
He added that the filing a petition “is not going to be easy without evidence to support even if there are sightings of Chinese vessels.”
Jagmis said he does not have a personal knowledge if the petition is supported by the Kalayaan municipal government.
“I assume that the town will support it as it “directly affects its area and residents,” Jagmis said.