Boracay Foundation v. Aklan (G.R. No. 196870; June 26, 2012)


FACTS: Boracay Island (Boracay), a tropical paradise located in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines and one of the countrys most popular tourist destinations, was declared a tourist zone and marine reserve in 1973 under Presidential Proclamation No. 1801. The island comprises the barangays of Manoc-manoc, Balabag, and Yapak, all within the municipality of Malay, in the province of Aklan.More than a decade ago, respondent Province built the Caticlan Jetty Port and Passenger Terminal at Barangay Caticlan to be the main gateway to Boracay.It also built the corresponding Cagban Jetty Port and Passenger Terminal to be the receiving end for tourists in Boracay. Respondent Province operates both ports to provide structural facilities suited for locals, tourists and guests and to provide safety and security measures.

Governor Marquez sent a letter to respondent PRA on March 12, 2009 expressing the interest of respondent Province to reclaim about 2.64 hectares of land along the foreshores of Barangay Caticlan, Municipality of Malay, Province of Aklan, pursuant to Resolution No. 13, s. 2008 issued by the Sangguniang Barangay of Caticlan.

Sometime in April 2009, respondent Province entered into an agreement with the Financial Advisor/Consultant that won in the bidding process held a month before, to conduct the necessary feasibility study of the proposed project for the Renovation/Rehabilitation of the Caticlan Passenger Terminal Building and Jetty Port, Enhancement and Recovery of Old Caticlan Coastline, and Reclamation of a Portion of Foreshore for Commercial Purposes (the Marina Project), in Malay, Aklan.

Subsequently, on May 7, 2009, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of respondent Province issued Resolution No. 2009110, which authorized Governor Marquez to file an application to reclaim the 2.64 hectares of foreshore area in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan with respondent PRA.

Meanwhile, the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Malay expressed its strong opposition to the intended foreshore lease application, through Resolution No. 044, approved on July 22, 2009, manifesting therein that respondent Provinces foreshore lease application was for business enterprise purposes for its benefit, at the expense of the local government of Malay, which by statutory provisions was the rightful entity to develop, utilize and reap benefits from the natural resources found within its jurisdiction.

In August 2009, a Preliminary Geohazard Assessmentfor the enhancement/expansion of the existing Caticlan Jetty Port and Passenger Terminal through beach zone restoration and Protective Marina Developments in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan was completed.

Thereafter, Governor Marquez submitted an Environmental Performance Report and Monitoring Program (EPRMP) to DENR-EMB RVI, which he had attached to his letter dated September 19, 2009, as an initial step for securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). The letter reads in part:

With the project expected to start its construction implementation next month, the province hereby assures your good office that it will give preferential attention to and shall comply with whatever comments that you may have on this EPRMP.

Within the same month of October 2009, respondent Province deliberated on the possible expansion from its original proposed reclamation area of 2.64 hectares to forty (40) hectares.

Respondent PRA approved the reclamation project on April 20, 2010 in its Resolution No. 4094and authorized its General Manager/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to enter into a MOA with respondent Province for the implementation of the reclamation project.

On April 27, 2010, DENR-EMB RVI issued to respondent Province ECC-R6-1003-096-7100 (the questioned ECC) for Phase 1 of the Reclamation Project to the extent of 2.64 hectares to be done along the Caticlan side beside the existing jetty port.

On May 17, 2010, respondent Province entered into a MOA with respondent PRA.

In Resolution No. 046, Series of 2010, adopted on June 23, 2010, the Malay Municipality reiterated its strong opposition to respondent Provinces project and denied its request for afavorableendorsement of the Marina Project.

The Malay Municipality subsequently issued Resolution No. 016, Series of 2010, adopted on August 3, 2010, to request respondent PRA not to grant reclamation permit and notice to proceed to the Marina Project of the respondent Provincial Government of Aklan located at Caticlan, Malay, Aklan.

In a letter dated October 12, 2010, petitioner informed respondent PRA of its opposition to the reclamation project.

Petitioner likewise transmitted its Resolution No. 001, Series of 2010, registering its opposition to the reclamation project to respondent Province, respondent PRA, respondent DENR-EMB, the National Economic Development Authority Region VI, the Malay Municipality, and other concerned entities.

Petitioner alleges that despite the Malay Municipalitys denial of respondent Provinces request for afavorableendorsement, as well as the strong opposition manifested both by Barangay Caticlan and petitioner as an NGO, respondent Province still continued with the implementation of the Reclamation Project.

On June 1, 2011, petitioner filed the instant Petition for Environmental Protection Order/Issuance of the Writ of Continuing Mandamus. On June 7, 2011, this Court issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) and ordered the respondents to file their respective comments to the petition.

After receiving a copy of the TEPO on June 9, 2011, respondent Province immediately issued an order to the Provincial Engineering Office and the concerned contractor to cease and desist from conducting any construction activities until further orders from this Court.


[1] Whether or not the petition should be dismissed for having been rendered moot and academic;
[2] Whether or not the petition is premature because petitioner failed to exhaust administrative remedies before filing this case;
[3] Whether or not respondent Province failed to perform a full EIA as required by laws and regulations based on the scope and classification of the project;
[4] Whether or not respondent Province complied with all the requirements under the pertinent laws and regulations; and
[5] Whether or not there was proper, timely, and sufficient public consultation for the project

HELD: A close reading of the two LGUs respective resolutions would reveal that they are not sufficient to render the petition moot and academic, as there are explicit conditions imposed that must be complied with by respondent Province. In Resolution No. 003, series of 2012, of the Sangguniang Barangay of Caticlan it is stated that any vertical structures to be constructed shall be subject for barangay endorsement. Clearly, what the barangay endorsed was the reclamation only, and not the entire project that includes the construction of a commercial building and wellness center, and other tourism-related facilities.Petitioners objections, as may be recalled, pertain not only to the reclamation per se, but also to the building to be constructed and the entire projects perceived ill effects to the surrounding environment.

The Sangguniang Bayan of Malay obviously imposed explicit conditions for respondent Province to comply with on pain of revocation of its endorsement of the project, including the need to conduct a comprehensive study on the environmental impact of the reclamation project, which is the heart of the petition before us. Therefore, the contents of the two resolutions submitted by respondent Province do not support its conclusion that the subsequent favorable endorsement of the LGUs had already addressed all the issues raised and rendered the instant petition moot and academic.

We do not agree with respondents appreciation of the applicability of the rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies in this case. We are reminded of our ruling in Pagara v. Court of Appeals, which summarized our earlier decisions on the procedural requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies, to wit:

The rule regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies is not a hard and fast rule. It is not applicable: (1) where the question in dispute is purely a legal one, or (2) where the controverted act is patently illegal or was performed without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction; or (3) where the respondent is a department secretary, whose acts as an alter ego of the President bear the implied or assumed approval of the latter, unless actually disapproved by him, or (4) where there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention.

Said principle may also be disregarded when it does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, when there is no due process observed, or where the protestant has no other recourse.

Although petitioner was not a party to the proceedings where the decision to issue an ECC was rendered, it stands to be aggrieved by the decision, because it claims that the reclamation of land on the Caticlan side would unavoidably adversely affect the Boracay side, where petitioners members own establishments engaged in the tourism trade. As noted earlier, petitioner contends that the declared objective of the reclamation project is to exploit Boracays tourism trade because the project is intended to enhance support services thereto; however, this objective would not be achieved since the white-sand beaches for which Boracay is famous might be negatively affected by the project. Petitioners conclusion is that respondent Province, aided and abetted by respondents PRA and DENR-EMB RVI, ignored the spirit and letter of our environmental laws, and should thus be compelled to perform their duties under said laws.


The new Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC, provides a relief for petitioner under the writ of continuing mandamus, which is a special civil action that may be availed of to compel the performance of an act specifically enjoined by law and which provides for the issuance of a TEPO as an auxiliary remedy prior to the issuance of the writ itself. The Rationale of the said Rules explains the writ in this wise:

Environmental law highlights the shift in the focal-point from the initiation of regulation by Congress to the implementation of regulatory programs by the appropriate government agencies.

Thus, a government agencys inaction, if any, has serious implications on the future of environmental law enforcement. Private individuals, to the extent that they seek to change the scope of the regulatory process, will have to rely on such agencies to take the initial incentives, which may require a judicial component. Accordingly, questions regarding the propriety of an agencys action or inaction will need to be analyzed.

This point is emphasized in the availability of the remedy of the writ of mandamus, which allows for the enforcement of the conduct of the tasks to which the writ pertains: the performance of a legal duty.

The writ of continuing mandamus permits the court to retain jurisdiction after judgment in order to ensure the successful implementation of the reliefs mandated under the courts decision and, in order to do this, the court may compel the submission of compliance reports from the respondent government agencies as well as avail of other means to monitor compliance with its decision.

Petitioner had three options where to file this case under the rule: the Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction over the territory where the actionable neglect or omission occurred, the Court of Appeals, or this Court.

Petitioner had no other plain, speedy, or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law to determine the questions of unique national and local importance raised here that pertain to laws and rules for environmental protection, thus it was justified in coming to this Court.

3) Being the administrator of the EIS System, respondent DENR-EMB RVIs submissions bear great weight in this case.However, the following are the issues that put in question the wisdom of respondent DENR-EMB RVI in issuing the ECC:

[1] Its approval of respondent Provinces classification of the project as a mere expansion of the existing jetty port in Caticlan, instead of classifying it as a new project;
[2] Its classification of the reclamation project as a single instead of a co-located project;
[3] The lack of prior public consultations and approval of local government agencies; and
[4] The lack of comprehensive studies regarding the impact of the reclamation project to the environment.

As may be gleaned from the breakdown of the 2.64 hectares as described by respondent Province above, a significant portion of the reclaimed area would be devoted to the construction of a commercial building, and the area to be utilized for the expansion of the jetty port consists of a mere 3,000 square meters (sq. m). To be true to its definition, the EIA report submitted by respondent Province should at the very least predict the impact that the construction of the new buildings on the reclaimed land would have on the surrounding environment. These new constructions and their environmental effects were not covered by the old studies that respondent Province previously submitted for the construction of the original jetty port in 1999, and which it re-submitted in its application for ECC in this alleged expansion, instead of conducting updated and more comprehensive studies.

Any impact on the Boracay side cannot be totally ignored, as Caticlan and Boracay are separated only by a narrow strait. This becomes more imperative because of the significant contributions of Boracays white-sand beach to the countrys tourism trade, which requires respondent Province to proceed with utmost caution in implementing projects within its vicinity.


The Local Government Code establishes the duties of national government agencies in the maintenance of ecological balance, and requires them to secure prior public consultation and approval of local government units for the projects described therein.

In the case before us, the national agency involved is respondent PRA. Even if the project proponent is the local government of Aklan, it is respondent PRA which authorized the reclamation, being the exclusive agency of the government to undertake reclamation nationwide. Hence, it was necessary for respondent Province to go through respondent PRA and to execute a MOA, wherein respondent PRAs authority to reclaim was delegated to respondent Province. Respondent DENR-EMB RVI, regional office of the DENR, is also a national government institution which is tasked with the issuance of the ECC that is a prerequisite to projects covered by environmental laws such as the one at bar.

This project can be classified as a national project that affects the environmental and ecological balance of local communities, and is covered by the requirements found in the Local Government Code provisions.

Under the Local Government Code, therefore, two requisites must be met before a national project that affects the environmental and ecological balance of local communities can be implemented: prior consultationwith the affected local communities, and prior approval of the project by the appropriate sanggunian. Absent either of these mandatory requirements, the projects implementation is illegal.

Based on the above, therefore, prior consultations and prior approval are required by law to have been conducted and secured by the respondent Province. Accordingly, the information dissemination conducted months after the ECC had already been issued was insufficient to comply with this requirement under the Local Government Code. Had they been conducted properly, the prior public consultation should have considered the ecological or environmental concerns of the stakeholders and studied measures alternative to the project, to avoid or minimize adverse environmental impact or damage. In fact, respondent Province once tried to obtain the favorable endorsement of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay, but this was denied by the latter.

Moreover, DENR DAO 2003-30 provides:

5.3. ublic Hearing / Consultation Requirements

For projects under Category A-1, the conduct of public hearing as part of the EIS review is mandatory unless otherwise determined by EMB. For all other undertakings, a public hearing is not mandatory unless specifically required by EMB.

Proponents should initiate public consultations early in order to ensure that environmentally relevant concerns of stakeholders are taken into consideration in the EIA study and the formulation of the management plan. All public consultations and public hearings conducted during the EIA process are to be documented. The public hearing/consultation Process reportshall be validated by the EMB/EMB RD and shall constitute part of the records of the EIA process.

In essence, the above-quoted rule shows that in cases requiring public consultations, the same should be initiated early so that concerns of stakeholders could be taken into consideration in the EIA study. In this case, respondent Province had already filed its ECC application before it met with the local government units of Malay and Caticlan.

The lack of prior public consultation and approval is not corrected by the subsequent endorsement of the reclamation project by the Sangguniang Barangay of Caticlan on February 13, 2012, and the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Malay onFebruary 28, 2012, which were both undoubtedly achieved at the urging and insistence of respondent Province. As we have established above, the respective resolutions issued by the LGUs concerned did not render this petition moot and academic.

It is clear that both petitioner and respondent Province are interested in the promotion of tourism in Boracay and the protection of the environment, lest they kill the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg. At the beginning of this decision, we mentioned that there are common goals of national significance that are very apparent from both the petitioners and the respondents respective pleadings and memoranda.

As shown by the above provisions of our laws and rules, the speedy and smooth resolution of these issues would benefit all the parties. Thus, respondent Provinces cooperation with respondent DENR-EMB RVI in the Court-mandated review of the proper classification and environmental impact of the reclamation project is of utmost importance.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby PARTIALLY GRANTED. The TEPO issued by this Court is hereby converted into a writ of continuing mandamus specifically as follows:

1. Respondent Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau Regional Office VI shall revisit and review the following matters:

a. its classification of the reclamation project as a single instead of a co-located project;
b. its approval of respondent Provinces classification of the project as a mere expansion of the existing jetty port in Caticlan, instead of classifying it as a new project; and
c. the impact of the reclamation project to the environment based on new, updated, and comprehensive studies, which should forthwith be ordered by respondent DENR-EMB RVI.

2. Respondent Province of Aklan shall perform the following:

a. fully cooperate with respondent DENR-EMB RVI in its review of the reclamation project proposal and submit to the latter the appropriate report and study; and
b. secure approvals from local government units and hold proper consultations with non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders and sectors concerned as required by Section 27 in relation to Section 26 of the Local Government Code.

Respondent Philippine Reclamation Authority shall closely monitor the submission by respondent Province of the requirements to be issued by respondent DENR-EMB RVI in connection to the environmental concerns raised by petitioner, and shall coordinate with respondent Province in modifying the MOA, if necessary, based on the findings of respondent DENR-EMB RVI.

The petitioner Boracay Foundation, Inc. and the respondents The Province of Aklan, represented by Governor Carlito S. Marquez, The Philippine Reclamation Authority, and The DENR-EMB (Region VI) are mandated to submit their respective reports to this Court regarding their compliance with the requirements set forth in this Decision no later than three (3) months from the date of promulgation of this Decision.

In the meantime, the respondents, their concerned contractor/s, and/or their agents, representatives or persons acting in their place or stead, shall immediately cease and desist from continuing the implementation of the project covered by ECC-R6-1003-096-7100 until further orders from this Court. For this purpose, the respondents shall report within five (5) days to this Court the status of the project as of their receipt of this Decision, copy furnished the petitioner.