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 It was recognized as one of the Philippines' oldest
TOPIC Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology ecosystems, containing excellent examples of
CASE NO. G.R. No. 206510, September 16, 2014 pristine reefs and a high diversity of marine life.
CASE NAME Arigo v. Swift  UNESCO cited Tubbataha's outstanding universal
PONENTE Villamara, Jr., J. value as an important and significant natural habitat
for in situ conservation of biological diversity; an
example representing significant on-going
Apostolic of Puerto Princesa D.D, et. al.
ecological and biological processes; and an area of
RESPONDENT SCOTT H. SWIFT in his capacity as
exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
Commander of the US. 7th Fleet, et al.
o In 2010, Congress passed R.A. No. 10067, otherwise known
TYPE OF CASE Petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan as the "Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) Act of 2009"
MEMBER Dane Nuesa "to ensure the protection and conservation of the
globally significant economic, biological, sociocultural,
ISSUE educational and scientific values of the Tubbataha Reefs
1. W/N petitioners have legal standing. YES. into perpetuity for the enjoyment of present and future
2. W/N Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the U.S. respondents. NO. generations."
3. W/N U.S. respondents may be held liable for damages caused by  Under the "no-take" policy, entry into the waters of
USS Guardian. YES TRNP is strictly regulated and many human
4. W/N the waiver of immunity from suit under VFA applies in this activities are prohibited and penalized or fined,
case. NO. including fishing, gathering, destroying and
disturbing the resources within the TRNP.
RELEVANT FACTS  The law likewise created the Tubbataha Protected
 "Tubbataha" came from the Samal language which means "long Area Management Board (TPAMB) which shall be
reef exposed at low tide." Tubbataha is composed of two huge the sole policy-making and permit-granting body of
coral atolls - the north atoll and the south atoll - and the Jessie the TRNP.
Beazley Reef, a smaller coral structure about 20 kilometers north of  The USS Guardian is an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship
the atolls. The reefs of Tubbataha and Jessie Beazley are considered of the US Navy. In December 2012, the US Embassy in the
part of Cagayancillo, a remote island municipality of Palawan Philippines requested diplomatic clearance for the said vessel "to
o In 1988, Tubbataha was declared a National Marine Park by enter and exit the territorial waters of the Philippines and to arrive at
virtue of Proclamation No. 306 issued by President Corazon the port of Subic Bay for the purpose of routine ship replenishment,
C. Aquino maintenance, and crew liberty."
o In 1993, Tubbataha was inscribed by the United Nations o On January 6, 2013, the ship left Sasebo, Japan for Subic
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization Bay, arriving on January 13, 2013
(UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site.

o On January 15, 2013, the USS Guardian departed Subic Bay o (1) the grounds relied upon for the issuance of a TEPO or
for its next port of call in Makassar, Indonesia. writ of Kalikasan have become fait accompli as the salvage
o On January 17, 2013 at 2:20 a.m. while transiting the Sulu operations on the USS Guardian were already completed;
Sea, the ship ran aground on the northwest side of South o (2) the petition is defective in form and substance;
Shoal of the Tubbataha Reefs, about 80 miles east-southeast o (3) the petition improperly raises issues involving the VFA
of Palawan. No cine was injured in the incident, and there between the Republic of the Philippines and the United
have been no reports of leaking fuel or oil. States of America; and
 On January 20, 2013, U.S. 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral o (4) the determination of the extent of responsibility of the
Scott Swift, expressed regret for the incident in a press US Government as regards the damage to the Tubbataha
statement. Reefs rests exclusively with the executive branch.
o Likewise, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K.
Thomas, Jr., in a meeting at DFA, "reiterated his regrets
over the grounding incident and assured Foreign Affairs RATIO DECIDENDI
Secretazy Albert F. del Rosario that the U.S. will provide 1.W/N petitioners have legal standing. YES.
appropriate compensation for damage to the reef caused  There is no dispute on the legal standing of petitioners to file the
by the ship." present petition.
o By 2013, the US Navy-led salvage team had finished  In the landmark case of Oposa v. Factoran, Jr., we recognized the
removing the last piece of the grounded ship from the coral "public right" of citizens to "a balanced and healthful ecology
reef. which, for the first time in our constitutional history, is solemnly
 Petitioners on their behalf and in representation of their respective incorporated in the fundamental law."
sector/organization and others, including minors or generations yet o On the novel element in the class suit filed by the petitioners
unborn, filed the present petition against respondents. minors in Oposa, this Court ruled that not only do ordinary
o Petitioners claim that the grounding, salvaging and post- citizens have legal standing to sue for the enforcement of
salvaging operations of the USS Guardian cause and environmental rights, they can do so in representation of
continue to cause environmental damage of such magnitude their own and future generations. Petitioners minors
as to affect the provinces of Palawan, Antique, Aklan, assert that they represent their generation as well as
Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, generations yet unborn. The Court find no difficulty in
Zamboanga del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their
events violate their constitutional rights to a balanced and generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class
healthful ecology. suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding
o Petitioners respectfully pray that the Honorable Court generations can only be based on the concept of
immediately issue a Temporary Environmental Protection intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a
Order (TEPO) and/or a Writ of Kalikasan. balanced and healthful ecology is concerned.
 Respondents assert that:

 In this case, the US respondents were sued in their official
2.W/N Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the U.S. respondents. NO. capacity as commanding officers of the US Navy who had control
 The immunity of the State from suit, known also as the doctrine and supervision over the USS Guardian and its crew. The alleged act
of sovereign immunity or non-suability of the State, is expressly or omission resulting in the unfortunate grounding of the USS
provided in Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution which states: Guardian on the TRNP was committed while they we’re performing
“Section 3. The State may not be sued without its consent.” official military duties. Considering that the satisfaction of a
 The matter deals with a sovereign nation and in the maxim “par in judgment against said officials will require remedial actions and
parem, non habet imperium” where all sovereign states are equals appropriation of funds by the US government, the suit is deemed to
and thus cannot assert jurisdiction over one another in which be one against the US itself. The principle of State immunity
assertion of jurisdiction may vex the peace among nations, the therefore bars the exercise of jurisdiction by this Court over the
matter is one that should be dealt with the executive department due persons of respondents Swift, Rice and Robling.
to its nature of dealing with another sovereign nation thus may not 
be dealt with judicially and the judiciary may not have
jurisdiction concerning the US respondents who did not submit 3.W/N U.S. respondents may be held liable for damages caused by USS
any pleading or manifestation. Guardian. YES.
o Suing a representative of a state is believed to be, in effect,  According to Justice Carpio, although the US to date has not ratified
suing the state itself. the UNCLOS, as a matter of long-standing policy the US considers
 This traditional rule of State immunity which exempts a State from itself bound by customary international rules on the "traditional uses
being sued in the courts of another State without the former's of the oceans" as codified in UNCLOS,
consent or waiver has evolved into a restrictive doctrine which o The UNCLOS is a product of international negotiation that
distinguishes sovereign and governmental acts (Jure imperil") from seeks to balance State sovereignty (mare clausum) and the
private, commercial and proprietary acts (Jure gestionis). principle of freedom of the high seas (mare liberum). The
o Under the restrictive rule of State immunity, State freedom to use the world's marine waters is one of the oldest
immunity extends only to acts Jure imperii. The customary principles of international law. The UNCLOS
restrictive application of State immunity is proper only gives to the coastal State sovereign rights in varying degrees
when the proceedings arise out of commercial transactions over the different zones of the sea which are: 1) internal
of the foreign sovereign, its commercial activities or waters, 2) territorial sea, 3) contiguous zone, 4) exclusive
economic affairs. economic zone, and 5) the high seas. It also gives coastal
o They state that the doctrine of immunity from suit will not States more or less jurisdiction over foreign vessels
apply and may not be invoked where the public official is depending on where the vessel is located.
being sued in his private and personal capacity as an  In the case of warships, as pointed out by Justice Carpio, they
ordinary citizen. The cloak of protection afforded the continue to enjoy sovereign immunity subject to the following
officers and agents of the government is removed the exceptions:
moment they are sued in their individual capacity.

o If any warship does not comply with the laws and VFA to US personnel who may be found responsible for the
regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through grounding of the USS Guardian, would be premature and
the territorial sea and disregards any request for compliance beyond the province of a petition for a writ of Kalikasan.
therewith which is made to it, the coastal State may require The Court finds it unnecessary at this point to determine
it to leave the territorial sea immediately. (Art 30) whether such waiver of State immunity is indeed absolute.
o The flag State shall bear international responsibility for In the same vein, we cannot grant damages, which have
any loss or damage to the coastal State resulting from the resulted from the violation of environmental laws.
non-compliance by a warship or other government ship
operated for non-commercial purposes with the laws and DISPOSITIVE POSITION
regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through Wherefore the petition for the issuance of the privilege of the Writ of
the territorial sea or with the provisions of this Convention Kalikasan is hereby DENIED.
or other rules of international law. (Art 31)
 The Court concur with Justice Carpio's view that non-membership DOCTRINE/PRECEDENT
in the UNCLOS does not mean that the US will disregard the  Locus standi is "a right of appearance in a court of justice on a
rights of the Philippines as a Coastal State over its internal given question." Specifically, it is "a party's personal and substantial
waters and territorial sea. The Court expect the US to bear interest in a case where he has sustained or will sustain direct injury
"international responsibility" in connection with the USS as a result" of the act being challenged, and "calls for more than just
Guardian grounding which adversely affected the Tubbataha reefs. a generalized grievance."
o However, the rule on standing is a procedural matter which
4.W/N the waiver of immunity from suit under VFA applies in this case. this Court has relaxed for non-traditional plaintiffs like
NO. ordinary citizens, taxpayers and legislators when the public
 The VFA is an agreement which defines the treatment of United interest so requires, such as when the subject matter of the
States troops and personnel visiting the Philippines to promote controversy is of transcendental importance, of overreaching
"common security interests" between the US and the Philippines in significance to society, or of paramount public interest.
the region. It provides for the guidelines to govern such visits of  Jure emperil: sovereign and governmental acts
military personnel, and further defines the rights of the United States  Jure gestionis: private, commercial and proprietary acts
and the Philippine government in the matter of criminal jurisdiction,
movement of vessel and aircraft, importation and exportation of RELEVANT LAWS
equipment, materials and supplies  Writ of Kalikasan: legal remedy under Philippine law for persons
 The waiver of State immunity under the VFA pertains only to whose constitutional right to “a balanced and healthful ecology” is
criminal jurisdiction and not to special civil actions such as the violated by an unlawful act or omission of a public official,
present petition for issuance of a writ of Kalikasan. employee, or private individual or entity.
o In any case, it is considered that a ruling on the application
or non-application of criminal jurisdiction provisions of the

 International law of the sea: a body of treaty rules arid customary  (d) Directing the respondent public official,
norms governing the uses of the sea, the exploitation of its government agency, or private person or
resources, and the exercise of jurisdiction over maritime regimes. It entity to make periodic reports on the
is a branch of public international law, regulating the relations of execution of the final judgment; and
states with respect to the uses of the oceans.  (e) Such other reliefs which relate to the
 Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases (Rules) right of the people to a balanced and
o Section 17, Rule 7 of the Rules that a criminal case against a healthful ecology or to the protection,
person charged with a violation of an environmental law is preservation, rehabilitation or restoration of
to be filed separately: the environment, except the award of
SEC. 17. Institution of separate actions.-The filing damages to individual petitioners
of a petition for the issuance of the writ of kalikasan
shall not preclude the filing of separate civil, SEPARATE OPINION
criminal or administrative actions. CONCURRING
o SEC. 15. Judgment.-Within sixty (60) days from the time  SERENO, CJ.:
the petition is submitted for decision, the court shall render Main Point:
judgment granting or denying the privilege of the writ of Sovereign immunity serves as a bar for the foreign sovereign to be
kalikasan. subjected to the trial process.
o The reliefs that may be granted under the writ are Discussion:
the following:  There are two conflicting concepts of sovereign immunity, each
 (a) Directing respondent to permanently widely held and firmly established. According to the classical or
cease and desist from committing acts or absolute theory, a sovereign cannot, without its consent, be made a
neglecting the performance of a duty in respondent in the courts of another sovereign. According to the
violation of environmental laws resulting in newer or restrictive theory, the immunity of the sovereign is
environmental destruction or damage; recognized only with regard to public acts or acts jurc imperii of a
 (b) Directing the respondent public official, state, but not with regard to private acts or acts jure gestionis.
govemment agency, private person or entity  The most important immunity to an international official, in the
to protect, preserve, rehabilitate or restore discharge of his international functions, is immunity from local
the environment; jurisdiction. There is no argument in doctrine or practice with the
 (c) Directing the respondent public official, principle that an international official is independent of the
government agency, private person or entity jurisdiction of the local authorities for his official acts. Those acts
to monitor strict compliance with the are not his, but arc imputed to the organization, and without waiver
decision and orders of the court; the local courts cannot hold him liable for them.

 The basic concept of state immunity is that no state may be its course, then the act is not necessarily robbed of its Jure imperii
subjected to the jurisdiction of another state without its consent. character and is thus entitled to immunity. The course of action of
o According to Professor Ian Brownlie, it is "a procedural bar the Philippine government would be to engage in diplomatic
(not a substantive defence) based on the status and functions negotiations for potential treaty breach liability.
of the state or official in question."  No exception exists in Philippine or international law that would
 The rules of State immunity are procedural in character and are remove the immunity of the United States in order to place it under
confined to determining whether or not the courts of one State may the jurisdiction of Philippine courts. The Writ of Kalikasan is a
exercise jurisdiction in respect of another State. They do not bear compulsory writ, and its issuance initiates a legal process that
upon the question whether or not the conduct in respect of which the would circumvent the internationally established rules of
proceedings are brought was lawful or unlawful. immunity. Should the Court issue the Writ, it could possibly entail
o What the Court is left to work with is a process by which international responsibility for breaching the jurisdictional immunity
jurisdiction and immunity can be determined by answering of a sovereign state.
several questions, summated thusly:
 1. Is the act of the foreign national or entity an act  LEONEN, J.:
Jure imperii, such that it can be considered an act Main Point:
of state entitled to immunity, or an act jure Petition should be dismissed primarily because it is moot and
gestionis, in which case it is to be considered a academic.
private act? Discussion:
 2. In respect of the above question, has the executive  The parties who brought this petition have no legal standing.
branch, in the exercise of its political power, o Citizen's suits are suits brought by parties suffering
determined whether absolute diplomatic immunity is direct and substantial injuries; although in the
applicable? environmental field, these injuries may be shared with
 3. If it is an act jure imperii and thus entitled to others. It is different from class suits brought as
sovereign immunity, does an exception apply to representative suits under Oposa v. Factoran.
withdraw the immunity privilege of such acts? o The rule with respect to standing should require that
 In this case, it is apparent that the act of the US.S. Guardian and parties bringing the suit are sufficiently and
its officers in entering Philippine waters is allowed by the VFA, substantially possessed of individual interest and
and as a treaty privilege should be considered an act Jure imperii. lts capability so that they can properly shape the issues
deviation into the waters of Tubbataha, and whether this can be brought before this court. The capability of the parties to
considered a private act; is a factual issue that should be determined bring suit can readily be seen through the allegations
by the proper body. Indeed, while Philippine authorities may not made in their petition.
have authorized the deviation, if the United States government  They also invoke the wrong remedy.
affirms that it gave the Guardian sufficient discretion to determine o The writ of kalikasan is not an all-embracing legal
remedy to be wielded like a political tool.1âwphi1 It is

both an extraordinary and equitable remedy which
assists to prevent environmental catastrophes. It does
not replace other legal remedies similarly motivated by
concern for the environment and the community's
ecological welfare.
 Certainly, when the petition itself alleges that
remedial and preventive remedies have
occurred, the functions of the writ cease to exist.
 Our doctrine regarding sovereign immunity also needs to be
refined in the proper case with respect to its nature, source, and
its limitations.
o The doctrine of sovereign immunity evolves out of the
theory and practice of sovereignty and the principle par
in parem non habet Jurisdictionem.
o Contemporarily, it is understood as a basic right
extended to states by other states on the basis of respect
for sovereignty and independence. There appears to be a
consensus among states that sovereign immunity as a
concept is legally binding.However, there remains to be
a lack of international agreement as to how it is to be
invoked and the extent of immunity in some cases.
 “Certainly, this petition being moot and not brought by the
proper parties, I agree that it is not the proper case where we can
lay down this doctrine. I, therefore, can· only concur in the