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PAJE V.

CASIÑO
G.R. No. 207257
Del Castillo, J.

Facts:

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Taiwan Cogeneration Corporation (TCC) entered
into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) expressing their intention to build a power plant in
Subic Bay. SBMA and TCC entered into another MOU, whereby TCC undertook to build and
operate a coal-fired power plant. The SBMA Ecology Center issued Environmental Compliance
Certificate (ECC) in favor of Taiwan Cogeneration International Corporation (TCIC), a subsidiary
of TCC, for the construction, installation, and operation of 2x150-MW Circulating Fluidized Bed
(CFB) Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant. TCC then assigned all its rights and interests under the
MOU to Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. (RP Energy). Accordingly, an Addendum to the said
MOU was executed by SBMA and RP Energy. RP Energy then contracted GHD Pty, Ltd. (GHD)
to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed coal-fired power plant and
to assist RP Energy in applying for the issuance of an ECC from the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR). the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Olongapo City issued
Resolution No. 131, Series of 2008, expressing the city government’s objection to the coal-fired
power plant as an energy source and urging the proponent to consider safer alternative sources of
energy for Subic Bay. DENR then issued an ECC for the proposed 2x150-MW coal-fired power
plant. RP Energy decided to include additional components in its proposed coal-fired power plant,
due to this, RP Energy requested the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB)
to amend its ECC. In support of its request, RP Energy submitted to the DENR-EMB an
Environmental Performance Report and Management Plan (EPRMP), which was prepared by
GHD. RP Energy and SBMA entered into a Lease and Development Agreement (LDA) for the
parcel of land to be used for building and operating the coal-fired power plant. DENR-EMB issued
an amended ECC allowing the inclusion of additional components. RP Energy again requested the
DENR-EMB to amend the ECC because instead of the originally plan, it now sought to construct
a 1x300-MW coal-fired power plant. the DENR-EMB granted the request and further amended
the ECC. Then, the Sangguniang Panglalawigan of Zambales issued Resolution No. 2011-149,
opposing the establishment of a coal-fired thermal power plant, the Liga ng mga Barangay of
Olongapo City also issued Resolution No. 12, Series of 2011, expressing its strong objection to
the coal-fired power plant as an energy source.
The Casiño Group then filed before the Court a Petition for Writ of kalikasan against RP Energy,
SBMA, and Hon. Paje. The Court then resolved, among others, to: (1) issue a Writ of kalikasan;
and (2) refer the case to the CA for hearing and reception of evidence and rendition of judgment.
While the case was pending, RP Energy applied for another amendment to its ECC (third
amendment) and submitted another EPRMP to the DENR-EMB.
The Casiño Group alleged that the power plant project would cause grave environmental damage.
That it would adversely affect the health of the residents of the municipalities of Subic, Zambales,
Morong, Hermosa, and the City of Olongapo, that the ECC was issued and the LDA entered into
without the prior approval of the concerned sanggunians as required under Sections 26 and 27 of
the Local Government Code (LGC), that the LDA was entered into without securing a prior
certification from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as required under
Section 59 of RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA Law) that Section
8.3 of DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-30 (DAO 2003-30) which allows amendments of
ECCs is ultra vires because the DENR has no authority to decide on requests for amendments of
previously issued ECCs in the absence of a new EIS; and that due to the nullity of Section 8.3 of
DAO 2003-30, all amendments to RP Energy’s ECC are null and void.
During the trial, the Casiño Group presented three witnesses, Raymond V. Palatino, a two-term
representative of the Kabataan Partylist in the House of Representatives, Alex C. Hermoso, the
convenor of the Zambales-Olongapo City Civil Society Network, a director of the
PREDA Foundation, and a member of the Zambales Chapter of the Kaya Natin Movement and the
Zambales Chapter of the People Power Volunteers for Reform, and Ramon Lacbain, the Vice-
Governor of the Province of Zambales.
The CA rendered a Decision denying the privilege of the writ of kalikasan and the application for
an environment protection order due to the failure of the Casiño Group to prove that its
constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology was violated or threatened. The CA
likewise found no reason to nullify Section 8.3 of DAO No. 2003-30. It said that the provision was
not ultra vires, as the express power of the Secretary of the DENR, the Director and Regional
Directors of the EMB to issue an ECC impliedly includes the incidental power to amend the same.
Nonetheless, the CA resolved to invalidate the ECC for non-compliance with Section 59 of the
IPRA Law and Sections 26 and 27 of the LGC and for failure of Luis Miguel Aboitiz (Mr. Aboitiz),
Director of RP Energy, to affix his signature in the Sworn Statement of Full Responsibility, which
is an integral part of the ECC. Also declared invalid were the ECC first amendment and second
amendment dated in view of the failure of RP Energy to comply with the restrictions set forth in
the ECC, which specifically require that “any expansion of the project beyond the project
description or any change in the activity shall be subject to a new Environmental Impact
Assessment.” The CA also invalidated the LDA entered into by SBMA and RP Energy as it was
issued without the prior consultation and approval of all the sanggunians concerned as required
under Sections 26 and 27 of the LGC, and in violation of Section 59, Chapter VIII of the IPRA
Law, which enjoins all departments and other governmental agencies from granting any lease
without a prior certification that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. The
CA noted that no CNO was secured from the NCIP prior to the execution of the LDA.

Unsatisfied, the parties appealed to the Court.

Issues:

Whether or not the Casiño Group failed to substantiate its claims that the construction
and operation of the power plant will cause environmental damage.

Ruling:

The appellate court correctly ruled that the Casiño Group failed to substantiate its claims that the
construction and operation of the power plant will cause environmental damage of the magnitude
contemplated under the writ of kalikasan. On the other hand, RP Energy presented evidence to
establish that the subject project will not cause grave environmental damage, through its
Environmental Management Plan, which will ensure that the project will operate within the limits
of existing environmental laws and strandards.
The Rules on the Writ of kalikasan, which is Part III of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental
Cases, was issued by the Court pursuant to its power to promulgate rules for the protection and
enforcement of constitutional rights, in particular, the individual’s right to a balanced and healthful
ecology.