Palace says protecting marine ecosystem always gov't priority: Panelo
Protecting the marine ecosystem in the West Philippine Sea has been a top concern of the government, a Palace official said after the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan last Friday.
“We stress that the essence of such writ of kalikasan, which is the protection of the marine ecosystem of the West Philippine Sea is already a top concern and agenda of the government,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Saturday.
A writ of kalikasan was issued after the SC granted the petition filed by the members of Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (KPFAFA) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
The petitioners sought the issuance of the writ to compel the government to protect and restore the marine environment in the Panatag Shoal or the Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef or Mischief Reef.
“In any case, we note that the writ was issued to prevent violations of our environmental laws in our territorial waters and in our exclusive economic zone located in the subject areas. The Executive Branch is duty-bound to implement all laws regardless of the existence of orders from a co-equal branch,” said Panelo.
“We find no issue of enforcing our laws as well as performing such enforcement pursuant to our Constitution and principles of international law,” he added.
Panelo said the government has “ always respected the orders and decisions of the Judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, subject to the availment of possible legal remedies.”
“We take exception, however, to the contention that there has been inaction on the part of the Administration with regard to the environmental concerns brought about by Chinese activities in the contested areas,” he said.
“Our Coast Guards as well as other government agencies are performing their task in securing the subject of the writ. There have been concerns made with respect to security of the marine environment with allegations of certain unwanted incursions that have brought damage thereto, but we must remember that they have been made in contested areas,” he noted.
“While we promptly made a series of diplomatic protests using the mechanism of diplomacy to assert our rights, we also undertook protective measures even as we are consciously cautious not to perform provocative acts that may trigger armed hostilities between the contesting countries which may risk the lives of our countrymen and cost irreparable damage to our land,” he added.
Panelo said the administration is committed to secure the sovereign rights of the country.
“Given that there are governmental agencies impleaded in this case, coupled with the fact that the action is already being heard by the Judiciary, we will let the Office of the Solicitor General defend and explain the actions of this branch of the government before the High Court,” he said.
“Whatever the outcome of the petition, we assure the nation that this Administration is committed to protect the sovereignty of our country and the protection of our marine environment against any and all who will attempt to assault or violate them,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS