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Report No. 186

Inter-generational equity:

Principles 1 and 2 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration refer to this concept. Principle 1 states that Man bears solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for the present and future generations. Principle 2 states that the national resources of the Earth must be safeguarded for the 'benefit of the present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate'.

Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration, 1992 also states that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 37/7 of 1980 also refers to the need for maintaining the balance between development and conservation of nature in the interest of present and future generations.

Over-exploitation of earth, water and other natural resources by the present generation must be prevented so as to preserve them for the benefit of future generations.

The Philippines Supreme Court entertained a case by a group of citizens representing the future generations for preservation of the ecology. (Minors Oposa vs. Secretary of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) (1994) 33 ILM 173 (see Right of Future Generations by K.I. Vibhuti Vol. 21 Academy Law Review p. 219-235.)

The Constitution of Philippines of 1987 confers in Article 11, section 16 a fundamental right to a balanced and healthful ecology and mandates the State 'to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature'. The then President of the Philippines issued an executive order in 1987 in that behalf which specifically referred to the right so conferred 'not only for the present generation but for future generation as well'.

In Minors Oposa, a group of Filipino minors named OPASA, joined by their respective parents, representing their own generation as well as generations yet unborn, urged the Supreme Court to enforce their and their unborn successors' constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology guaranteed under Article 11, section 16 and sought cancellation of all existing 139logging permits issued by the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to different companies on the basis of the Timber Licence Agreements (TLAs) and for restraining the DENR from accepting, processing, reviewing or approving the TLAs.

The Supreme Court allowed the applicants to file the case and emphasized the duty of the State as parens patriae. The Court observed that the petitioner's 'personality to sue on behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility'. The Court said:

"Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put differently, the minors' assertion of their right to sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for generations to come. The present generation, the Court opined, is a trustee and guardian of the environment for succeeding generations. Or else, the future generations would inherit nothing but 'parched earth'".

These and other principles must be required to be applied by the Environment Courts and provision must be made therefor in the statute.

Proposal to Constitute Environment Courts Back

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