THE Supreme Court has junked the petition for writ of kalikasan filed by residents of the posh Magallanes Village in Makati City and an adjacent barangay in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, seeking to enjoin the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) from erecting electric poles and transmission lines near their houses citing health and safety risks.
In a 26-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and made public last October 27, the Court en banc affirmed the decision issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) on January 20, 2011, which also denied the petition for writ of kalikasan.
The case filed by the residents of Barangay 183 in Villamor, Pasay City and Magallanes Village in Makati City led by Gemma dela Cruz was the first ever case seeking the issuance of a writ of kalikasan, which also named Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) as Meralco’s co-respondent.
The petitioners argued that the erection of electricity poles carrying 115-kilovolt transmission lines near their residences was cleared by their barangay officials without consulting them as mandated under Section 27 of the Local Government Code and without studying the possible adverse effects of the lines to their health.
They claimed that based on scientific studies, the energy produced by the electricity running through the lines will bring hazardous effects to the health and safety of the people living nearby.
These transmission lines, the petitioners pointed out, produce a prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields, which have been found to increase the risk of developing leukemia and other cancer-related disorders in children.
The CA, in its 2011 decision, held that petitioners failed to demonstrate how transmitting high-voltage electric current through the transmission lines would violate their constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.
In affirming the appellate court’s ruling, the SC noted that the petitioners failed to satisfy the second and third requisites for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan, which mandates the petitioners to prove any unlawful act on the part of the respondents and to demonstrate that the magnitude of the actual or threatened environmental damage as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.
“To prohibit the installation works in Barangay 183 is to disrupt air travel to and from Manila. Stopping the installation works would be a regulatory policy too costly to implement, considering that the operation of international airport terminals is an undertaking imbued with public interest. This, adding, the lack of proof the magnitude of the environmental damage that might be caused by the installation works in Barangay 183, renders this Court unable to grant any of the remedies under the writ,” the SC said.
Furthermore, the Court said Meralco was able to prove that it conducted prior consultations in Barangay 183 on various dates before commencing installation works, as evidenced by the Notices and Attendance Sheets corresponding to the meeting dates.
“Here, the environmental damage alleged was neither shown to be potentially exponential in nature; nor was it shown to be large-scale. As alleged by respondent Meralco, this case involves a narrow strip, of between one to ten meters, running between two barangays,” the SC noted.
Prior to the filing of the case, the terminal’s former operator, the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. (PIATCO), applied for electric service with Meralco.
To fully operate, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (Naia 3) required the construction of a nearby power substation, as well as the installation of transmission lines, to carry electricity to the substation. Meralco determined that the most feasible route for the transmission lines would be through 10th and 11th Streets in Barangay 183, Zone 20, Villamor, Pasay City
Construction of the power substation was then commenced and was completed in 2002. As for the poles and transmission lines, Meralco commenced excavation. Works along 10th Street in Barangay 183, Zone 20, Villamor, Pasay City on September 10, 2009.
However, the excavation works were suspended on December 3, 2009 when, upon the complaint of some residents of Barangay 183, the City Engineering Office of Pasay issued a cease and desist order.
In addition to their complaint with the City Engineering Office, some residents of Barangay 183 filed a Petition for Issuance of a Writ of Prohibitory Injunction before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City on December 4, 2009.
Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the new operator of Naia 3, filed its own petition for injunction to lift the cease and desist order issued by the City Engineering Office, which was granted by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City in an order issued on July 23, 2010.
The petitioners then elevated the issue before the CA by filing a petition for a writ of kalikasan.