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O. International Environmental Law

1. Principle 21 of Stockholm Declaration


States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. (Principle 21, Stockholm Declaration


Principle has these two (2) balancing elements:

1) Sovereign right of each State to exploit its own natural resources; and

2) Obligation not to cause transfrontier environmental damage.

(Altea, Maria Pia M., Principle 21 of the Stockholm Declaration: A Customary Norm of International Environmental Law, p.438- Ateneo Law Journal, Vol. XLI, No. 2)

2. Precautionary principle


Precautionary principle – states that when human activities may lead to threats of serious and irreversible damage to the environment that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that threat. (Seection 4[f], Rule 1, A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC, Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases)

1) Applicability

When there is a lack of full scientific certainty in establishing a causal link between human activity and environmental effect, the court shall apply the precautionary principle in resolving the case before it. (Section 1, Rule 20, Ibid.)

The constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology shall be given the benefit of the doubt. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Rule 20, Ibid.)

The precautionary principle only applies when the link between the cause, that is the human activity sought to be inhibited, and the effect, that is the damage to the environment, cannot be established with full scientific certainty. (West Tower Condominium Corporation v. First Philippine Industrial Corporation, En Banc, G.R. No. 194239, 16 June 2015)

Case Law

1) In one case, a petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan was filed following the leak in the oil pipeline owned by First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC) in Makati City. On the issue of the absence of a link, it was held to be not an issue. Detecting the existence of a leak or the presence of defects in the White Oil Pipeline (WOPL) is different from determining whether the spillage of hazardous materials into the surroundings will cause environmental damage or will harm human health or that of other organisms. As a matter of fact, the petroleum leak and the harm that it caused to the environment and to the residents of the affected areas is not even questioned by FPIC. (Ibid.)

a) Uncertain scientific plausibility

Under the Rules, the precautionary principle shall be applied in resolving environmental cases when the causal link between human activity and an environmental effect cannot be established with certainty. Based on this principle, an uncertain scientific plausibility of serious and irreversible damage to the environment justifies actions to avoid the threat of damage. Avoidance of threat or damage, as in this case, usually comes in the form of inhibition of action or activity. (J. Leonen, Dissent in West Tower Condominium Corporation v. First Philippine Industrial Corporation, supra.)

2) Standards for application

In applying the precautionary principle, the following factors, among others, may be considered:

1) Threats to human life or health;

2) Inequity to present or future generations; or

3) Prejudice to the environment without legal consideration of the environmental rights of those affected. (Section 2, Rule 20, Ibid.)

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