Author: Ip Tsz Yan Natalie, BBA (Law) IV; HKU
A group of children, including those of renowned environmental activist Antonio Oposa, brought this lawsuit in conjunction with the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc. (a non-profit organization) to stop the destruction of the fast disappearing rain forests in their country. The plaintiff children based their claims in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, which recognizes the right of people to a “balanced and healthful ecology” and the right to “self-preservation and self-perpetuation”. Oposa also raised the idea of “intergenerational equity” before the court, which is the idea that natural resources belong to people of all ages and that if adults were to harvest all of a country’s resources, they would be stealing from their children, their children’s children, and all future generations.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the children, and made several groundbreaking and powerful statements, finding: “The right to a clean environment, to exist from the land, and to provide for future generations are fundamental. There is an intergenerational responsibility to maintain a clean environment, meaning each generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that environment, and children may sue to enforce that right on behalf of both their generation and future generations. The Philippine Constitution requires that the government ‘protect and promote the health of the people and instill health consciousness among them’.”