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G.R. NO. 206510 (Arigo, et al. v. Swift, et al.

SC denies petition for privilege of the writ of Kalikasan in connection with the
grounding of the USS Guardian.
The Court, voting 13--!, in a "ecision written #$ the %on. &ssociate 'ustice
(artin S. )illara*a 'r., "+,-+" the petition for the issuance of the privilege of
the writ of Kalikasan sought #$ the petitioners. The Chief 'ustice and 'ustice
(arvic .eonen will write separate concurring opinions/ &ssociate 'ustice 'ose
Catral (endo0a is on leave/ &ssociate 'ustice 1rancis %. 'ardele0a recused
hi*self due to previous participation as Solicitor General.
2etitioners had clai*ed that the grounding, salvaging and post-salvaging
operations of the USS Guardian caused and continue to cause environ*ental
da*age of such *agnitude as to a3ect the provinces of 2alawan, &nti4ue,
&klan, Gui*aras, -loilo, ,egros 5ccidental, ,egros 5riental, 6a*#oanga del
,orte, 7asilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which violate their constitutional rights to a
#alanced and healthful ecolog$. 2etitioners also sought a directive fro* the
Court for the institution of civil, ad*inistrative, and cri*inal suits for acts
co**itted in violation of environ*ental laws and regulations in connection
with the grounding incident.
&fter upholding the standing of petitioners to sue, the Court addressed the
4uestion of its 8urisdiction over the US respondents who did not su#*it an$
pleading or *anifestsation in this case. -n this petition, the US respondents
were sued in their o9cial capacit$ as co**anding o9cers of the US ,av$ who
have control and supervision over the USS Guardian and its crew. The Court
found that since the satisfaction of an$ 8udge*ent against these o9cials would
re4uire re*edial actions and the appropriation of funds #$ the US govern*ent,
the suit is dee*ed to #e one against the US itself. The Court ruled that the
principle of State -**unit$ fro* suit #ars the e:ercise of 8urisdiction #$ this
Court over the persons of Swift, ;ice and ;o#ling, all of who* are o9cers of
the US ,av$.
The Court also discussed and agreed with the position taken #$ Senior
&ssociate 'ustice &ntonio T. Carpio, during its deli#erations, that <the conduct
of the US, in this case, when its warship had entered a restricted area in
violation of ;& 1=> and caused da*age to the T;,2 reef s$ste*, #rings the
*atter within the a*#it of &rticle 31 of the United ,ations Convention on the
.aw of the Sea ?U,C.5S@.A
The Court discussed e:tensivel$ the nature of the U,C.5S and the legal
i*plications of the US non-ratiBcation of the U,C.5S. &ddressing this issue, the
Court agreed with 'ustice CarpioCs point that the US refusal to 8oin the U,C.5S
centered on its disagree*ent with the U,C.5S regi*e of deep sea#ed *ining
in 2art D-, which considers the sea#ed and oceans co**onl$ owned #$
*ankind #ut not with the USC acceptance of custo*ar$ international rules on
navigation.A Thus, the USC non-*e*#ership in the U,C.5S does not *ean that
the US will disregard the rights of the 2hilippines as a Coastal State over its
internal waters and territorial sea/ the Court stated that it e:pected the US to
#ear <international responsi#ilit$A under &rticle 31 in connection with the
grounding of the USS Guardian which adversel$ a3ected the Tu##ataha reefs.
The Court stated that the relevance of the U,C.5S provisions to the present
controvers$ is #e$ond dispute and while the treat$ upholds the i**unit$ of
warships fro* the 8urisdiction of the Coastal States while navigating the latterCs
territorial sea, the Eag States shall #e re4uired to leave the territorial sea
i**ediatel$ if the$ Eout the laws and regulations of the Coastal State and will
#e lia#le for da*ages caused #$ their warships or an$ other govern*ent vessel
operated for non-co**ercial purposes under &rticle 31.
The Court was not persuaded #$ the petitionersC argu*ent that there was a
waiver of i**unit$ fro* suit under the )isiting 1orces &gre*eent ?)1&@
#etween the US and the 2hilippines as an$ waiver of State i**unit$ under the
)1& pertains onl$ to cri*inal 8urisdiction and not to special civil actions such as
the present petition for the issuance of the writ of kalikasan.
The Court also found that a ruling on the application or non-application of
cri*inal 8urisdiction provisions of the )1& to US personnel who *a$ #e found
responsi#le for the grounding of the USS Guardian would #e pre*ature and
#e$ond the province of the writ of kalikasan. The Court also declined to grant
da*ages which have allegedl$ resulted fro* the violation of environ*ental
laws #ecause the rules on environ*ental protection and the writ of kalikasan
e:pressl$ provide that the recover$ of da*ages, including the collection of
ad*inistrative Bnes under ;& 1=>, are to #e *ade in a separate civil suit or
that one dee*ed instituted with an$ cri*inal action.
5n the *atter of the co*pensation and reha#ilitation *easures through
diplo*atic channels, the Court deferred to the +:ecutive 7ranch noting that the
conduct of foreign relations of the govern*ent is co**itted #$ the
Constitution to the political depart*ents of the govern*ent and the propriet$
of what *a$ #e done in the e:ercise of this political power is not su#8ect to
8udicial in4uir$ or decision.
The Court also declined to review the )1& and to nullif$ certain portions thereof
citing that the writ of kalikasan is not the proper re*ed$ to assail the
constitutionalit$ of the )1& and its provisions