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‘Green courts must punish environment plunderers’

February 3, 2008

Davao City (16 January) — Senator Pia S. Cayetano yesterday lauded the move of the Supreme Court designating 117 “environmental courts” across the country even as she expressed hope for the speedy resolution of various complaints filed by citizens’ groups against major polluters and plunderers of the country’s natural resources.

“To me, the initiative of Chief Justice Reynato Puno to designate special courts to adjudicate environmental cases comes like a whiff of fresh, unpolluted air. It brings encouraging prospects to concerned citizens and environmentalists.

“This will encourage our fellow green warriors to persist in their legal and political struggles against known plunderers of our environment,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, in a press statement.

The lady senator said she was looking forward to the prompt resolution of major environmental disputes in the last two decades, particularly the pending class suit in relation to the Marcopper mine tailings spill in the province of Marinduque in 1996.

“More than a decade has passed since the biggest mining disaster in our history, but justice continues to elude Marinduquenos even while the mining company involved has long packed its bags and returned to its mother country,” she stressed.

Fairly recently, she said there was also the people’s suit filed against Lafayette Mining Corp. for the cyanide spill that caused massive fishkills in Rapu-Rapu, Albay in 2005 and the provincial government’s complaint against Petron and the owners of the Solar I tanker that caused a massive oil spill off the island province of Guimaras in August 2006.

She expressed hope that the environmental courts will also focus on expediting the cases on violations of the Fisheries Code, particularly the several cases pending against foreign poachers caught off the rich marine waters of Palawan and Sulu Sea.

Cayetano, who also chairs the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001 (RA 9003) said she also looks forward to the early resolution of people’s complaints against local government units for violating the law’s total ban on the operation of dumpsites.

She pointed out that the judicial activism of the Supreme Court would be useless unless the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) becomes more pro-active in going after violators.

“We see dumpsites everywhere, including near critical bodies of water like the Laguna de Bay, and along the banks of rivers and watersheds. But where are the complaints? Unless no one comes out to charge the violators, there would be no court cases to talk about. The DENR should look into this matter.”

“Erring LGUs should not wait for complaints to be filed against them before the green courts. On their own, they should comply with the provisions of the solid waste management law now,” she added.

Citing official figures from the National Solid Waste Management Council, she said there were still around 1,020 dumpsites being operated across the country as of last year. (Office of Sen Pia-MikeAc-Ac/PIA XI)

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