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Resident Marine Mammals of the Protected Seascape Tanon Strait v. Sec.

Reyes, DOE secretary


Leonardo-De Castro, J.
April 21, 2015
G.R. No. 180771
Doctrine
In Sec. 2, Rule 3, a real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in
the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. In this case, the requirement of locus standi in
environmental cases has been given a more liberalized approach by the Court. To that effect, the Court passed
the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases (A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC, effective April 29, 2010) which allow
for a "citizen suit," and permit any Filipino citizen to file an action before our courts for violations of our
environmental laws.
Summary
Two sets of petitioners filed separate cases challenging the legality of Service Contract No. 46 (SC-46)
awarded to Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (JAPEX) before the Supreme Court. The service contract
allowed JAPEX to conduct oil exploration in the Taon Strait. The first petition was brought on behalf of
resident marine mammals while the second petition was filed by a non-governmental organization
representing the interests of fisherfolk. As to standing, the Court declined to extend the principle of standing
beyond natural and juridical persons, even though it recognized that the current trend in Philippine
jurisprudence moves towards simplification of procedures and facilitating court access in environmental
cases. It was explained that the need to give the Resident Marine Mammals legal standing has been
eliminated by our Rules, which allow any Filipino citizen, as a steward of nature, to bring a suit to enforce our
environmental laws. Ruling on the substantive issues, the Court held that the SC-46 was null and void.
Facts
- In 2007, two sets of petitioners filed separate cases challenging the legality of Service Contract No. 46 (SC46) awarded to JAPEX. Prior to the service contract, the government in 2002 entered into a Geophysical
Survey and Exploration Contract with the latter.
First set of petitioners: "Resident Marine Mammals" (toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other
cetacean species) which were joined by their Stewards, Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Rose-Liza
Eisma-Osorio, their legal guardians
Second set: Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC), a non-governmental
organization with the individual fisherfolk affected by the oil exploration activities.
One of those named as respondents was the Supply Oilfield Services (SOS), the alleged agent of
JAPEX.
The consolidated Petitions were filed under Rule 65.
G.R. No. 180771 is an original Petition for Certiorari, Mandamus, and Injunction, which seeks to
enjoin respondents from implementing SC-46
G.R. No. 181527 is an original Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, which seeks to
nullify the DENR-EMB-issued Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); to prohibit SC-46s
implementation; and to be granted access to pertinent documents.
- In the course of the oil exploration in the Taon Strait during which seismic surveys were performed,
JAPEX committed to drill one exploration well. Since it was to be drilled in the marine waters of Aloguinsan
and Pinamungajan, where the Taon Strait was declared a protected seascape in 1988, JAPEX agreed to
comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements imposed by the Environmental
Management Bureau of DENR. They were later issued with an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
- In 2008, the service contract and oil exploration activities were mutually terminated by JAPEX and the
government.
- A Motion to Strike was filed by the SOS on the ground that it was not JAPEXs Philippine agent, submitting
a branch office application of the latter wherein its resident agent was identified. It claimed that it only acted
as a logistics contractor for JAPEX. This was opposed by the petitioners because it was made prematurely.
- On Feb. 7, 2012, the Court issued a Resolution directing the Court's process servicing unit to again serve the
parties with a copy of the Resolution of the Court, which gave due course to the petitions and which required
the parties to submit their respective memoranda.
- A Motion to Admit its Motion for Clarification was filed by JAPEX Philippines, Ltd. (JAPEX PH), by way
of special appearance, wherein JAPEX PH asked to be clarified as to whether or not it should deem the
February 7, 2012 Resolution as this Court's Order of its inclusion in the case, as it has not been impleaded. It
also said that the issue was rendered moot by the fact that the exploration activities have already ceased.
- A Motion for Extension of Time to file its Memorandum was also filed by JAPEX PH by special appearance
since it received the Feb. 7 Resolution only on Feb.23. It also asked for an additional 30 days to give the Court

time to consider its Motion for Clarification.


The Court ruled that JAPEX PH is the real party-in-interest in this case under Section 2, Rule 3 of the
Rules of Court1 and disposed of its contention that it was only a branch office. Citing Sec. 128 of the
Corporation Code, it ruled that as a resident agent for JAPEX, its branch office has been receiving the
Court resolutions. It granted the Motion for Extension.
-Respondents merely adopted their earlier Manifestation as their Memorandum and so the case was submitted
for decision.
Petitioners argument: Fish catch was reduced drastically because of the oil exploration activities; the ECC
was invalid because there was no prior consultation with the affected stakeholders which was a prerequisite;
despite several requests for copies of all the documents pertaining to the project in Taflon Strait, only copies
of the PAMB-Taon Strait Resolution and the ECC were given.
Respondents argument: They have no legal standing; the service contract does not violate the Constitution;
and the issue was already moot.
Ratio/Issues
1. Whether or not petitioners have locus standi/ whether or not animals or even inanimate objects
should be given legal standing (YES)
Petitioners: They stand to be injured or benefitted by the decision and, citing Oposa v. Factoran, they have
the ight to sue for the faithful performance of international and municipal environmental laws created in their
favor and for their benefit.
Respondents: Citing Section 1, Rule 32, petitioners have no standing because it requires parties to an action to
be either natural or juridical persons. As to the Stewards, they are not the real parties in interest and that they
represent animals which can have no standing.
COURT: a) In the case, Sierra Club v. Rogers C.B. Morton, cited by petitioners, it was held that animals and
even inanimate objects, such as a ship, corporation, valley, and river, are parties in litigation.
b) The primary reason animal rights advocates and environmentalists seek to give animals and inanimate
objects standing is due to the need to comply with the strict requirements in bringing a suit to court.
c) (See summary on ratio) In the Philippine jurisdiction, locus standi in environmental cases has been given a
more liberalized approach. To that effect, the Court passed the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases
(A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC, effective April 29, 2010) which allow for a "citizen suit," and permit any Filipino
citizen to file an action before our courts for violations of our environmental laws.3
d) The rationale was to liberalize standing for all cases filed enforcing environmental laws and collapses the
traditional rule on personal and direct interest, on the principle that humans are stewards of nature.
e) Although the petition was filed before the Rules were enacted, it has been held that rules of procedure "may
be retroactively applied to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage and will not violate
any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected.
f) Even prior to the Rules, the Court liberalized the requirement on standing in the case of Oposa based on the
concept of intergenerational responsibility. Also, the Constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology
carries with it the duty to refrain from impairing the environment.
g) The Stewards have legal standing they are joined as real parties in the Petition and not just in
representation of the named cetacean species for having shown in their petition that there may be possible
violations of laws concerning the habitat of the Resident Marine Mammals.
2. Whether or not President GMA can be impleaded as an unwilling co-petitioner (NO)
COURT: a) Considering that she was only impleaded by petitioners because she signed the ASEAN Charter to
1

A real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the
avails of the suit.
2
Section 1. Who may be parties; plaintiff and defendant. - Only natural or juridical persons, or entities authorized by law may be
parties in a civil action. The term "plaintiff may refer to the claiming party, the counter-claimant, the cross-claimant, or the third
(fourth, etc.)-party plaintiff. The term "defendant" may refer to the original defending party, the defendant in a counterclaim, the
cross-defendant, or the third (fourth, etc.)-party defendant.
3
SEC. 5. Citizen suit. - Any Filipino citizen in representation of others, including minors or generations yet unborn, may file an
action to enforce rights or obligations under environmental laws. Upon the filing of a citizen suit, the court shall issue an order
which shall contain a brief description of the cause of action and the reliefs prayed for, requiring all interested parties to manifest
their interest to intervene in the case within fifteen (15) days from notice thereof. The plaintiff may publish the order once in a
newspaper of a general circulation in the Philippines or furnish all affected barangays copies of said order.

protect the habitat, it was not sufficient to implead her as an unwilling co-petitioner. Impleading the former
President as an unwilling co-petitioner, for an act she made in the performance of the functions of her office,
is contrary to the public policy against embroiling the President in suits.
b) In Section 10, Rule 3 of the ROC, when the consent of a party who should be joined as a plaintiff cannot be
obtained, he or she may be made a party defendant to the case. This will put the unwilling party under the
jurisdiction of the Court.
c) The unwilling party's name cannot be simply included in a petition, without his or her knowledge and
consent, as such would be a denial of due process.
3. Whether or not SC-46 was legal
3.A. SC-46 vis--vis 1987 Constitution
a) It is null and void for failing to comply with the requirements for a service agreement (Sec. 2, Art.
XII, Consti.) Said requirements, as stated in the case of La Bugal, provide that such service contracts
may be entered into only with respect to minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils and are limited by
the following:
(1) The service contract shall be crafted in accordance with a general law that will set standard or uniform terms,
conditions and requirements, presumably to attain a certain uniformity in provisions and avoid the possible
insertion of terms disadvantageous to the country.
(2) The President shall be the signatory for the government because, supposedly before an agreement is
presented to the President for signature, it will have been vetted several times over at different levels to ensure
that it conforms to law and can withstand public scrutiny.
(3) Within thirty days of the executed agreement, the President shall report it to Congress to give that branch of
government an opportunity to look over the agreement and interpose timely objections, if any.
b) Petitioners alleged that said SC-46 was null and void because PD 87 or the Oil Exploration and Development Act was
already repealed. However, the Court struck down this contention. Notwithstanding the same, the nullity of the SC-46
was upheld because of two omissions that the President is the signatory to the service contract and that the Congress be
notified of such contracts.
c) SC-46 was only signed by the DOE Secretary and the alter ego principle or the doctrine of qualified political agency
was inapplicable in this case because a limitation of this rule is in cases where the Chief Executive is required by the law
or the Constitution to act in person.
3.B. SC-46 vis--vis other laws
COURT: a. Consistent with the constitutional policy that the "State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a
balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature," Congress enacted the NIPAS Act to
establish a comprehensive system of integrated protected areas.
b. The Taon Strait, pursuant to Proclamation No. 1234, was set aside and declared a protected area under the category of
Protected Seascape. Thus, any activity outside the scope of its management plan may only be implemented pursuant to an
ECC secured after undergoing an EIA to determine the effects of such activity on its ecological system.
c. In this case, contrary to their assertion, the exploration done pursuant to SC-46 was not exempted to the requirement of
the EIA. Also, the public respondents themselves admitted that JAPEX only started to secure an ECC prior to the second
sub-phase of SC-46, which required the drilling of an oil exploration well. This means that when the seismic surveys
were done in the Taon Strait, no such environmental impact evaluation was done.
d. While PD 87 may serve as the general law upon which a service contract for petroleum exploration and extraction may
be authorized, the exploitation and utilization of this energy resource in the present case may be allowed only through a
law passed by Congress, since the Taon Strait is a NIPAS area.
e. Sans the law, no energy resource exploitation may be done in the area.

HELD

Petitions are granted

Prepared by: Eunice V Guadalope [CivPro|Prof. Cruz]