THE Court of Appeals (CA) upheld its issuance of a writ of kalikasan urging a mining company in Zambales and other government agencies to stop cutting trees and levelling the mountain in Barangay Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz in Zambales.
The decision came after the CA’s Special Fourth Division, through Associate Justice Danton Bueser, denied the motion for reconsideration made by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which said the cut-and-fill operation conducted by LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (LAMI) for the construction of an access road within its private property does not pose any adverse environmental impact on Barangay Bolitoc.
The CA directed the metallic ore miner LAMI to permanently cease and decease (desists) from scraping off the land formation in question and from performing any activities in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction or damage.
The resolution was promulgated on February 17, 2016, but was released to the media only recently.
The case stemmed from the petition filed by Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones seeking to stop LAMI from further defiling the environment, alleging that the firm’s personnel, with their security details armed with guns, cut the trees in Barangay Bolitoc.
Named respondents in the suit were LAMI president Lawrence Lenio and general manager Philip Floria, Environment Sec. Jesus Paje, PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana, and Zambales Police Provincial Office Director Francisco Santiago Jr.
Palmones claimed that besides cutting trees, which serve as natural barriers in nearby communities from typhoons and floods, the mining company had allegedly started levelling off the mountain despite the undisputed physical evidence for the need to keep the trees and the place intact.
He revealed that LAMI has secured prior approval from the Sangguniang Bayan of Sta. Cruz, even without public consultations.
It also ordered the firm and Paje or their representatives to protect, preserve, rehabilitate and restore the land formation including the plants and trees.
In affirming its view on the matter, the appeals court pointed out that “the land formation or hill subject of the levelling or scraping off by respondent LAMI serves as a natural protective barrier floods brought about by the swelling or surging of the coastal water moving inward reaching even other towns of Zambales and Pangasinan.”
“The application of the precautionary principle in this case becomes more imperative in light of the calamity of unprecedented and epic proportion caused by the super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the various provinces in the Visayas, especially in Samar and Leyte sometime in November 2013, bring with it a sustained wind of 315 kph (195 mph) and engendering a 5.3-meter storm surge, bringing about unimaginable and horrendous devastation to thousands of lives, homes, and properties, not to mention the numerous infrastructure it damaged,” the court added.
However, the appellate tribunal turned down the motion to cite Paje and Environmental Management Bureau Dir. Lormelyn Claudio in contempt of court, as sought by Palmones.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Franchito Diamante.