Case Digest: Resident Marine Mammals of the Protected Seascape TanonStrait, et al v. Secretary Angelo Reyes, et al
ISSUE: Whether or not Service Contract No. 46 is violative of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and statutes
FACTS: Petitioners, collectively referred to as the "Resident Marine Mammals" in the petition, are the toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other cetacean species, which inhabit the waters in and around the Tañon Strait. They are joined by Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio as their legal guardians and as friends (to be collectively known as "the Stewards") who allegedly empathize with, and seek the protection of, the aforementioned marine species. Also impleaded as an unwilling co-petitioner is former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for her express declaration and undertaking in the ASEAN Charter to protect the Tañon Strait, among others. On June 13, 2002, the Government of the Philippines, acting through the DOE, entered into a Geophysical Survey and Exploration Contract-102 (GSEC-102) with JAPEX. This contract involved geological and geophysical studies of the Tañon Strait. The studies included surface geology, sample analysis, and reprocessing of seismic and magnetic data. JAPEX, assisted by DOE, also conducted geophysical and satellite surveys, as well as oil and gas sampling in Tañon Strait. On December 21, 2004, DOE and JAPEX formally converted GSEC-102 into SC-46 for the exploration, development, and production of petroleum resources in a block covering approximately 2,850 square kilometers offshore the Tañon Strait. JAPEX committed to drill one exploration well during the second sub-phase of the project. On March 6, 2007, the EMB of DENR Region VII granted an ECC to the DOE and JAPEX for the offshore oil and gas exploration project in Tañon Strait.14 Months later, on November 16, 2007, JAPEX began to drill an exploratory well, with a depth of 3,150 meters, near Pinamungajan town in the western Cebu Province.15 This drilling lasted until February 8, 2008. The petitioners insist that SC-46 is null and void for having violated Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
RATIO DECIDENDI: This Court has previously settled the issue of whether service contracts are still allowed under the 1987 Constitution. In La Bugal, the Court held that the deletion of the words "service contracts" in the 1987 Constitution did not amount to a ban on them per se. In fact, portions of the deliberations of the members of the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) to show that in deliberating on paragraph 4, Section 2, Article XII, they were actually referring to service contracts as understood in the 1973 Constitution, albeit with safety measures to eliminate or minimize the abuses prevalent during the martial law regime. In summarizing the matters discussed in the ConCom, the Court established that paragraph 4, with the safeguards in place, is the exception to paragraph 1, Section 2 of Article XII. The following are the safeguards this Court enumerated in La Bugal: Such service contracts may be entered into only with respect to minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. The grant thereof is subject to several safeguards, among which are these requirements: (1) The service contract shall be crafted in accordance with a general law that will set standard or uniform terms, conditions and requirements, presumably to attain a certain uniformity in provisions and avoid the possible insertion of terms disadvantageous to the country. (2) The President shall be the signatory for the government because, supposedly before an agreement is presented to the President for signature, it will have been vetted several times over at different levels to ensure that it conforms to law and can withstand public scrutiny. (3) Within thirty days of the executed agreement, the President shall report it to Congress to give that branch of government an opportunity to look over the agreement and interpose timely objections, if any.69cralawlawlibrary. Adhering to the aforementioned guidelines, the Court finds that SC-46 is indeed null and void for noncompliance with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution.