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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