Sep 22, 2020

WESCOM awaits order to implement Writ of Kalikasan issuance by SC

The Western Command (WESCOM), tasked with securing the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS), has yet to act on the Writ of Kalikasan order by the Supreme Court (SC).

Commodore Sean Anthony Villa, commander of the Naval Forces West (NFW), said they still have to receive a copy of the decision of the Supreme Court to compel the government to protect the marine environment in the WPS.

Villa said they cannot make any action relative to protecting the marine environment in the WPS from destruction because of the encroachment of Chinese fishing vessels on the traditional fishing grounds of the country.

“Even the spokesperson of Armed Forces of the Philippines said that wala pang natatanggap na copy ang respondent ng petition. So, dapat bibigyan muna lahat ng copy para maka-respond, ‘yon pa ang problema. Pangalawa, ang writ of kalikasan supposedly hindi group, dapat isang tao lang. But sabi nga it is the right of everybody to file,” Villa said.

The SC last week granted a petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan sought by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on behalf of a group of Filipino fishermen, a measure that compels the Philippine government into action.

The petition alleged that President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet have not acted to enforce Philippine laws that should protect the maritime environment in the West Philippine Sea territories.

The group Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (KPFFA) also asked the SC to compel 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.”

Villa said they will respond once they have received a copy of the decision of the SC amid accusations that they are ‘neglecting’ their duties to protect the area.

“May batas naman tayong sinusunod, accordingly mag-re-respond naman once na natanggap natin. Very ironic ang petition, based on the effort of the Western Command hindi tayo nagpapabaya. Siguro, this Writ of Kalikasan is a welcome development sa mga Filipino para aware ang lahat na we need to protect,” he said.

Named respondents in the case were Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) chief Dir. Eduardo Gongona, Agriculture Sec. Manny Piñol, Philippine National Police (PNP) General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Admiral Elson Hermogino, Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu, PNP Maritime Group Director Chief Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, and Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra.

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