NatRes_case Digest 4

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    G.R. No. 110249 August 21, 1997 ALFREDO TANO, et al. vs. HON. GOV. SALVADOR P. SOCRATES, et al. FACTS The Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Puerto Princesa City enacted Ordinance No. 15-92 which took effect on January 1, 1993 entitled: “ An Ordinance Banning the Shipment of All Live Fish and Lobster Outside Puerto Princesa City from January 1, 1993 to January 1, 1998 and Providing Exemptions, Penalties and for Other Purposes Thereof.”  The purpose of the ordinance is to free the city’s  waters from cyanide by prohibiting the ship out of any live fish and lobster except sea bass, catfish, mudfish, and milkfish fries. To implement the city ordinance, the acting mayor issued Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993 dated January 22, 1993, authorising the inspections on cargoes containing live fish and lobster being shipped out from any port within the jurisdiction of the city to any point of destination either via aircraft or sea craft. On February 19, 1993, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Provincial Government of Palawan enacted Resolution No. 33 entitled: “ A Resolution Prohibiting the Catching, Gathering, Possessing, Buying, Selling and Shipment of Live Marine Coral Dwelling Aquatic Organisms, to wit: Family:Scaridae (Mameng), Epine pheleus fasciatus (Suno), Crompileptes altivelis (Panther or Señorita), Lobster below 200 grams and spawning, Tridacna gigs (Taklobo), Pinctada margaritefera (Mother pearl, Oysters, Giant clams and other species), Penaeus monsoon (Tiger Prawn-breeder size or mother), Epinephelus Suillus (Loba or Green grouper) and Family: Balistidae (tropical aquarium fishes) for a Period Five (5) years In and Coming from Palawan Waters”  prohibiting the engagement in catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms as enumerated, in and coming out of Palawan Waters for a period of five (5) years. Petitioners Alfredo Tano and seven others were criminally charged for violating the Sangguninang Panlalawigan Resolution and the ordinances. The rest of the petitioners numbering 77, all of whom except the Airline Shippers Association of Palawan —  an alleged private association of several marine merchants —  are natural persons who claim to be fishermen. They directly invoked the Supreme Court’s  srcinal jurisdiction by filing this petition on 4 June 1993, without seeking redress from the concerned local government units, prosecutor's office and courts. The primary interest of the first set of petitioners is, of course, to prevent the prosecution, trial and determination of the criminal cases until the constitutionality or legality of the Ordinances they allegedly violated shall have been resolved. The second set of petitioners merely claim that being fishermen or marine merchants, they would be adversely affected by the ordinance's. ISSUE 1 Whether Ordinance No. 15-92, Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993, and Resolution No. 33, Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993 are constitutional. RULING No. Procedural: The case for the first set of petitioners must fail on the ground of prematurity amounting to a lack of cause of action. There is no showing that they, as the accused in the criminal cases, have filed motions to quash the informations therein and that the same were denied. The ground available for such motions is that the facts charged therein do not constitute an offense because the ordinances in question are unconstitutional. It cannot then be said that the lower courts acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion to justify recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition. As to the second set of petitioners, the instant petition is obviously one for DECLARATORY RELIEF, i.e., for a declaration that the Ordinances in question are a nullity . . . for being unconstitutional. As such, their petition must likewise fail, as this Court is not possessed    of srcinal jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved, it being settled that the Court merely exercises appellate jurisdiction over such petitions. Notwithstanding the foregoing procedural obstacles the Supreme Court opted to resolve this case on its merits considering that the lifetime of the challenged Ordinances is about to end. Alfredo Tano, et al. specifically point to Section 2, Article XII and Sections 2 and 7, Article XIII of the Constitution as having been transgressed by the Ordinances. They argue that these provisions grant preferential rights to subsistence or marginal fishermen as to the use of the nation’s  marine wealth. There is absolutely no showing that any of the petitioners qualifies as a subsistence or marginal fisherman. A marginal fisherman is an individual engaged in fishing whose margin of return or reward in his harvest of fish as measured by existing price levels is barely sufficient to yield a profit or cover the cost of gathering the fish, while a subsistence fisherman is one whose catch yields but the irreducible minimum for his livelihood. In their petition, petitioner Airline Shippers Association of Palawan is self-described as a private association composed of Marine Merchants; petitioners Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, as merchants; while the rest of the petitioners claim to be fishermen, without any qualification, however, as to their status. Besides, Section 2 of Article XII aims primarily not to bestow any right to subsistence fishermen, but to lay stress on the duty of the State to protect the nation's marine wealth. The only provision of law which speaks of a preferential right of marginal fishermen is Section 149 of the LGC, which pertinently provides: Fishery Rentals, Fees and Charges. —  . . .(b) The sangguniang bayan may: (1) Grant fishery privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster, mussels or other aquatic beds or bangus fry areas, within a definite zone of the municipal waters, as determined by it: Provided, however, That duly registered organizations and cooperatives of marginal fishermen shall have the preferential right to such fishery privileges . . . . Anent Section 7 of Article XIII, it speaks not only of the use of communal marine and fishing resources, but of their protection, development and conservation. the ordinances in question are meant precisely to protect and conserve our marine resources to the end that their enjoyment may be guaranteed not only for the present generation, but also for the generations to come. The preferential right of subsistence or marginal fishermen to the use of marine resources is not at all absolute. In accordance with the Regalian Doctrine, marine resources belong to the State, and, pursuant to the first paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, their exploration, development and utilization . . . shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. Moreover, their mandated protection, development and conservation as necessarily recognized by the framers of the Constitution, imply certain restrictions on whatever right of enjoyment there may be in favor of anyone. A state policy is enshrined in the Constitution regarding the duty of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. The LGC provision on general welfare states: “Sec.  16. General Welfare. —  Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial  jurisdictions, local government units shall . . . enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology. . .”  The LGC vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters and impose rentals, fees or charges therefor; to penalize, by appropriate ordinances, the use of explosives, noxious or poisonous substances, electricity, muro-ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing; and to prosecute any violation of the provisions of applicable fishery laws. Further, the sangguniang bayan, the sangguniang panlungsod and the sangguniang panlalawigan are directed to enact ordinances for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants, which shall include, inter alia, ordinances that protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing . . . and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, or of ecological imbalance.”  The centerpiece of LGC is the system of decentralization as expressly mandated by the Constitution. Indispensable to decentralization is devolution. One of the devolved powers enumerated in the section of the LGC on devolution is the enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves. This necessarily includes the enactment of ordinances to effectively carry out such fishery laws within the municipal waters. These fishery laws     which local government units may enforce under Section 17(b)(2)(i) in municipal waters include: (1) P.D. No. 704; (2) P.D. No. 1015 which, inter alia, authorizes the establishment of a closed season in any Philippine water if necessary for conservation or ecological purposes; (3) P.D. No. 1219 which provides for the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources; (4) R.A. No. 5474, as amended by B.P. Blg. 58, which makes it unlawful for any person, association or corporation to catch or cause to be caught, sell, offer to sell, purchase, or have in possession any of the fish specie called gobiidae or ipon during closed season; and (5) R.A. No. 6451 which prohibits and punishes electrofishing, as well as various issuances of the BFAR. To those specifically devolved insofar as the control and regulation of fishing in municipal waters and the protection of its marine environment are concerned, must be added the following: 1. Issuance of permits to construct fish cages within municipal waters; 2. Issuance of permits to gather aquarium fishes within municipal waters; 3. Issuance of permits to gather kapis shells within municipal waters; 4. Issuance of permits to gather/culture shelled mollusks within municipal waters; 5. Issuance of licenses to establish seaweed farms within municipal waters; 6. Issuance of licenses to establish culture pearls within municipal waters; 7. Issuance of auxiliary invoice to transport fish and fishery products; and 8. Establishment of closed season in municipal waters. In light then of the principles of decentralization and devolution enshrined in the LGC and the powers granted therein to local government units, which unquestionably involve the exercise of police power, the validity of the questioned Ordinances cannot be doubted. The destruction of coral reefs results in serious, if not irreparable, ecological imbalance, for coral reefs are among nature's life-support systems. They collect, retain and recycle nutrients for adjacent nearshore areas such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and reef flats; provide food for marine plants and animals; and serve as a protective shelter for aquatic organisms. It is said that [e]cologically, the reefs are to the oceans what forests are to continents: they are shelter and breeding grounds for fish and plant species that will disappear without them. The prohibition against catching live fish stems, in part, from the modern phenomenon of live-fish trade which entails the catching of so-called exotic species of tropical fish, not only for aquarium use in the West, but also for the market for live banquet fish [which] is virtually insatiable in ever more affluent Asia. These exotic species are coral-dwellers, and fishermen catch them by diving in shallow water with corraline habitats and squirting sodium cyanide poison at passing fish directly or onto coral crevices; once affected the fish are immobilized [merely stunned] and then scooped by hand. The diver then surfaces and dumps his catch into a submerged net attached to the skiff. Twenty minutes later, the fish can swim normally. Back on shore, they are placed in holding pens, and within a few weeks, they expel the cyanide from their system and are ready to be hauled. They are then placed in saltwater tanks or packaged in plastic bags filled with seawater for shipment by air freight to major markets for live food fish. While the fish are meant to survive, the opposite holds true for their former home as “after   the fisherman squirts the cyanide, the first thing to perish is the reef algae, on which fish feed. Days later, the living coral starts to expire. Soon the reef loses its function as habitat for the fish, which eat both the algae and invertebrates that cling to the coral. The reef becomes an underwater graveyard, its skeletal remains brittle, bleached of all color and vulnerable to erosion from the pounding of the waves. It has been found that cyanide fishing kills most hard and soft corals within three months of repeated application. The nexus then between the activities barred by Ordinance No. 15-92 of the City of Puerto Princesa and the prohibited acts provided in Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993 of the Province of Palawan, on one hand, and the use of sodium cyanide, on the other, is painfully obvious. In sum, the public purpose and reasonableness of the Ordinances may not then be controverted. G.R. No. 110286 April 2, 1997 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs.    RENERIO P. VERGARA, ERNESTO T. CUESTRA, JR., PEDRO G. DAGAÑO and BERNARDO P. CUESTRA FACTS At about 7:30 in the morning of 04 July 1992, a team composed of deputized Fish Warden and President of the Leyte Fish Warden Association, Police Officers of the Palo PNP Station, Leyte, Fish Wardens and a Fish Examiner of the Department of Agriculture were on board, Bantay-Dagat, a pumpboat, on preventive patrol along the municipal waters fronting barangays Baras and Candahug of Palo, Leyte, when they chanced upon a blue-colored fishing boat at a distance of approximately 200 meters away. The boat had on board Vergara, et al. The team saw Vergara throw into the sea a bottle known in the locality as badil containing ammonium nitrate and having a blasting cap on top which, when ignited and thrown into the water, could explode. The explosion would indiscriminately kill schools and various species of fish within a certain radius. Approximately three seconds after appellant had thrown the badil into the sea, the explosion occurred. Vergara and Cuesta dove into the sea with their gear while Dagaño and Cuesta, Jr., stayed on board to tend to the air hose for the divers. Moments later, they surfaced, each carrying a fishnet or sibot filled with about a kilo of bolinao fish scooped from under the water. Having been caught red-handed, the four accused were apprehended. Vergara, et al. were charged in an information for violation of Section 33 of Presidential Decree ( P.D. ) No. 704, as amended by P.D. No. 1508. ISSUE RULING G.R. No. 110286 April 2, 1997 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. RENERIO P. VERGARA, ERNESTO T. CUESTRA, JR., PEDRO G. DAGAÑO and BERNARDO P. CUESTRA, accused. RENERIO P. VERGARA FACTS In the morning of 04 July 1992, authorities on board, Bantay-Dagat, a pumpboat, on preventive patrol along the municipal waters fronting barangays Baras and Candahug of Palo, Leyte chanced upon a blue-colored fishing boat at a distance of approximately 200 meters away. The boat, 30 feet long, had on board appellant Renerio Vergara, et al. and was on parallel course toward the general direction of Samar. Momentarily, the team saw Vergara throw into the sea a bottle known in the locality as badil containing ammonium nitrate and having a blasting cap on top which, when ignited and thrown into the water, could explode. The explosion would indiscriminately kill schools and various species of fish within a certain radius. Approximately three seconds after appellant had thrown the badil into the sea, the explosion occurred. Vergara and Cuesta dove into the sea with their gear while Dagaño and Cuesta, Jr., stayed on board to tend to the air hose for the divers. Moments later, they surfaced, each carrying a fishnet or sibot filled with about a kilo of bolinao fish scooped from under the water. Having been caught red-handed, the four accused were apprehended. Vergara, et al. were charged in an information for violation of Section 33 of Presidential Decree ( P.D. ) No. 704, as amended by P.D. No. 1508.
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