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Palace says protection of marine resources in WPS the top concern of gov’t

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By Prince Golez

The protection of the maritime environment in the disputed West Philippine Sea is “already a top concern and agenda” of the Duterte administration, Malacañang said.

Spokesman Salvador Panelo issued this remark after the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan, ordering the government “to protect, preserve, rehabilitate, and to restore” the marine ecosystem in Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef.

“We note that the writ was issued to prevent violations of our environmental laws in our territorial waters and in our exclusive economic zone located in the subject areas. The Executive Branch is duty-bound to implement all laws regardless of the existence of orders from a co-equal branch,” said Panelo.

“We find no issue of enforcing our laws as well as performing such enforcement pursuant to our Constitution and principles of international law,” he added.

But, Panelo denied that the government has been dragging its feet on protecting the environment against Chinese incursions in said areas.

“Our coast guards as well as other government agencies are performing their task in securing the subject of the writ. There have been concerns made with respect to security of the marine environment with allegations of certain unwanted incursions that have brought damage thereto, but we must remember that they have been made in contested areas,” according to him.

The chief presidential legal counsel also said the Philippines had lodged diplomatic protests on Chinese activities in the contested waters, as well as, carried out “protective measures.”

Panelo said the Office of the President has yet to receive a copy of the SC order.

“Given that there are governmental agencies impleaded in this case, coupled with the fact that the action is already being heard by the Judiciary, we will let the Office of the Solicitor General defend and explain the actions of this branch of the government before the High Court,” he said.

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