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FACTS: The USS Guardian is an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship of the US Navy. In December 2012, the US Embassy in the Philippines requested diplomatic clearance for the said vessel “to enter and exit the territorial waters of the Philippines and to arrive at the port of Subic Bay for the purpose of routine ship replenishment, maintenance, and crew liberty.” On January 6, 2013, the ship left Sasebo, Japan for Subic Bay, arriving on January 13, 2013 after a brief stop for fuel in Okinawa, Japan. On January 15, 2013, the USS Guardian departed Subic Bay for its next port of call in Makassar, Indonesia. On January 17, 2013 at 2:20 a.m. while transiting the Sulu Sea, the ship ran aground on the northwest side of South Shoal of the Tubbataha Reefs, about 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan. No one was injured in the incident, and there have been no reports of leaking fuel or oil. Petitioners claim that the grounding, salvaging and post-salvaging operations of the USS Guardian cause and continue to cause environmental damage of such magnitude as to affect the provinces of Palawan, Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which events violate their constitutional rights to a balanced and healthful ecology.
ISSUE: Whether or not petitioners have legal standing.
DECISION: The petition was DENIED.
RATIO DECIDENDI: Yes. Petitioners have legal standing. Locus standi is “a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question.” Specifically, it is “a party’s personal and substantial interest in a case where he has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result” of the act being challenged, and “calls for more than just a generalized grievance.” However, the rule on standing is a procedural matter which this Court has relaxed for non-traditional plaintiffs like ordinary citizens, taxpayers and legislators when the public interest so requires, such as when the subject matter of the controversy is of transcendental importance, of overreaching significance to society, or of paramount public interest.
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