By Raymund Antonio
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Wednesday said the Filipino fishermen want to hold the Duterte administration accountable because China has inflicted damage on coral reefs and harvested endangered species in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
“Nababahala kami, lalong-lalo na ang mga mangingisda, sa panghihimasok ng Tsina at mga barko ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea na niyuyurak at talagang nasisira ang ating kalikasan doon,” he said in a media interview in Pampanga.
“Iyong mga coral reef po natin ay talagang hindi po maibabalik yan eh, talagang sinisira nila yan. Tapos ‘yung mga endangered species natin ay kinukuha nila. At wala naman parang ginagawa ang ating pamahalaan,” Diokno said.
On Tuesday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines filed a petition on behalf of fisherfolks from Palawan and Zambales with the Supreme Court for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan and a writ of continuing mandamus.
Diokno is one of the lawyers who represent the fishermen.
The petition asked the High Court to order the Duterte administration to enforce Philippine laws to protect the maritime environment in the West Philippine Sea.
The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy that citizens may seek to uphold their right to a healthy environment while the writ of continuing mandamus may be availed of to compel government to perform an act already mandated by law.
The petition said the respondents were the agencies that failed to enforce the Fisheries Code and several environmental issuances.
Diokno identified them as the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, and its maritime group.
“Kaya nagsampa po kami ng petisyon, hinihiling namin sana sa Korte Suprema na iutos nila ang lahat ng ahensiyang may kinalaman sa ating kalikasan na gawin naman nila yung nasa batas natin at alagaan nila yung ating kalikasan sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Diokno, who is running for senator under the Otso Diretso slate, explained that even domestic laws made it clear that the West Philippine Sea is part of the country’s territory.
“Klarong-klaro naman sa ating batas na ang West Philippine Sea ay teritoryo natin,” the opposition bet said.
“Hindi lang po yan nanggaling sa Arbitral Decision, meron na tayong mga ilang batas mismo ng ating Kongreso na kinikilala na ang ating teritoryo, sakop natin lahat ng nasa atin na 200 nautical miles mula sa ating coastline,” he added.