Henares, et al. v. Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, et al.

G.R. No. 158290
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The Petitioners sought to require the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Department of Transport and Communications to use compressed natural gas (CNG) in their public utility vehicles. They alleged that particulate matter emitted from vehicles had caused serious health problems and lowered the overall quality of life, and contended that this problem was likely to grow as vehicle ownership in the Philippines increased.

In response to this problem, the Petitioners brought before the Supreme Court a petition for a writ of mandamus compelling the authorities to switch the fuel used in public vehicles from petrol and diesel to CNG, which was considered the cleanest fossil fuel. The evidence before the Court was that CNG produced up to 90 percent less carbon monoxide than diesel or petrol; 50 percent less nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons; 60 percent less particulate matter; and released virtually no sulfur dioxide.

The Supreme Court did not grant the writ of mandamus. It first recognized that the Petitioners had standing by virtue of the effect on pollution on their rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology, as well as because of public interest considerations.

However, it held that while air pollution was a serious environmental and health issue, the Petitioners could not point to a law that mandated the provision of CNG. As the writ of mandamus was only available to enforce a specific duty under law, the Petitioners could not point to general obligations under the Constitution and environmental legislation. The Petitioners needed to point to a law that specifically required the authorities to mandate the use of CNG instead of petrol or diesel. Additionally, mandamus could not be used by one branch of government against another, because of the equality of the branches of the government. It was therefore inappropriate to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the executive to order the legislature to bring in new environmental regulations.

“Regrettably, however, the plain, speedy and adequate remedy herein sought by petitioners, i.e., a writ of mandamus commanding the respondents to require PUVs to use CNG, is unavailing. Mandamus is available only to compel the doing of an act specifically enjoined by law as a duty. Here, there is no law that mandates the respondents LTFRB and the DOTC to order owners of motor vehicles to use CNG.” Page 7.

“It is the firm belief of this Court that in this case, it is timely to reaffirm the premium we have placed on the protection of the environment in the landmark case of Oposa. Yet, as serious as the statistics are on air pollution, with the present fuels deemed toxic as they are to the environment, as fatal as these pollutants are to the health of the citizens, and urgently requiring resort to drastic measures to reduce air pollutants emitted by motor vehicles, we must admit in particular that petitioners are unable to pinpoint the law that imposes an indubitable legal duty on respondents that will justify a grant of the writ of mandamus compelling the use of CNG for public utility vehicles. It appears to us that more properly, the legislature should provide first the specific statutory remedy to the complex environmental problems bared by herein petitioners before any judicial recourse by mandamus is taken.” Page 8.

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