By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is exploring possibilities of filing a Writ of Kalikasan against firms contracted by China to build artificial islands at the West Philippine Sea.
Lawyer Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, IBP national president, who attended the IBP north luzon legal aid meeting and international humanitarian law seminar, said the Chinese build-up would have required its contractors to dredge corals to put up the platforms that support the islands.
Fajardo said that the IBP house of delegates, composed of the presidents of IBP’s 86 chapters in the provinces, directed the national office to explore the possibility of suing China for environmental damages during a convention in January.
The building of the articial islands damaged nine coral reefs which would require thousands of years to recover, he said, citing information from non-government organizations which advocate marine resource protection.
“Our conclusion is that [the Chinese structures have led to] a maritime environmental disaster,” Fajardo said. He said IBP will seek damages and an injunction to stop the further destruction of the corals.
Fajardo said that should the Supreme Court grant the petition, it also becomes the official government position regarding the artificial islands. He added that the Duterte administration, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, appears reluctant to object to the build-up so “we try to compel a position from the judiciary”.
Fajardo said that even foreign corporations will be impleaded in the writ. “Our theory is that our local courts have jurisdiction even over foreign private corporations as long as the the crime is committed in Philippine territory,” he said.
Fajardo said the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the country when it resolved the case it brought against China’s “nine-dash-line” territorial map.
Fajardo said IBP has set up meetings with organizations working for environmental maritime protection as lawyers craft a working draft for the writ petition. He said the lawyers are also gathering information about the corporations involved in building China’s artificial islands. # nordis.net