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Justice at Sea: Can Dolphins & Whales Sue?

Twodolphins Can dolphins sue a Japanese Firm? A legal debate is brewing in the Philippines where two lawyers are acting in behalf of resident sea mammals. The “petitioners” include “toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetacean species” whose habitat has been disturbed by underwater blasting and drilling from a Japanese oil exploration firm.

The question is whether or not cetaceans have rights under the Filipino Constitution. Raising many legal and environmental questions, the novel case was filed this week at the Filipino Supreme Court.

The petition for certiorari with mandamus and injunction seeks to stop further offshore explorations by the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company Ltd., (Japex) which started tests recently off the western side of the Philippine province of Cebu, which is flanked on both sides by the bio-diverse straits of Bohol and Tañon.

Along with the earlier mentioned marine mammals, the human petitioners are two Cebu lawyers Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Rose-Liza Eisma Osorio who are acting as the “legal guardians of the lesser life-forms and responsible stewards of God’s creations.”

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also named as an “unwilling co-petitioner” since she had signed an ASEAN Charter to protect the marine habitat. The case puts her in an awkward position since her Cabinet secretaries are being sued along with the firm for approving the drilling in the first place.

Named respondents in the case were Japex, which is a 100 percent Japanese-owned company, and three Cabinet secretaries for the portfolios of energy, agriculture, and environment and the Cebu-based regional director for environment.

The Supreme Court was asked to recognize the legal standing of sea mammals, represented by human guardians. In doing so, the petitioners are following the footsteps of a landmark 1992 case which recognized the rights of unborn Filipino children to a healthy, balanced environment and the right to sue in environmental-interest cases under the principle of “intergenerational responsibility.”

Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido, legal counsel of the petitioners, said dolphins and whales are beneficiaries of Philippine environmental laws and international agreements, which ensure their survival, perpetuation and protection of their habitat.

“This case is unprecedented not only in this country but in the whole world. This will test the limits of the legal standing of the petitioners. We cited several doctrines and we hope the Supreme Court will grant us a day in court,” he said.

The Tañon Strait, a rich source of biodiversity, is home to 11 out of 21 species of cetaceans. The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments so they could present expert witnesses to explain how the marine ecosystem will be irreversibly damaged if the oil exploration, drilling and blasting continue.

Scientists found that after seismic survey exploration in the Tañon Strait in May 2005, there was a 50 to 70 percent drop in fish catch. The continuous drilling and underwater blasting in the Tañon Strait produces ear-splitting and piercing level of decibels at five to 20 second intervals, which would likely affect the sea mammals.

“We have sympathizers from all over the world including scientists who have asked and pleaded with our government to listen to the experts and stop the oil drilling,” said Ramos.

Environment advocates set up a website calling for the stoppage of the oil drilling and so far around 500 from around the globe have signed. Ramos said the petition will be passed on to the Filipino Supreme Court and government agencies.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

For those interested in signing, the petition can be found at:

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In behalf of Alliance of Young Professional (AYP) in the Philippines, we express our indignation of the oil exploration at tanon strait, a protected area of marine ecosystem.

This is a destruction of a marine wildlife caused by capitalist system of economy.

-Engr. Eric Cabrera
Spokesperson, Alliance of Young Professional (AYP)

Here's the link to the petition! Everybody with a conscience, please sign, and pass this post along.

Oh God, the last thing we need is to spread the litigious net even wider. These people just need to focus on getting their government to do the right thing. They don't need to give anthropomorphic 'rights' to other species to achieve this.

I wish you were right Adam, but sadly all attempts to stop the government from destroying the marine ecosystem just because it's "the right thing to do" hasn't worked.

By the way, the main point of this post is to sign the petition, which isn't a form of litigation, but is doing just what you suggest--it's an attempt to get the government to do the right thing before litigation becomes necessary. I hope it works, and the more that sign it, the better that chance becomes!

Hire lawyers to stand for cetacean rights ? We're talking about LAWYERS here. Mostly highly - paid, well - educated people, very few of them of them would work pro - bono for such a cause, at the risk of coming across as a cynic or world - weary skeptic.
( Let's get George & Gracie to speak for them ! " Admiral, there be whales here !! ". )

I think that animals have certain rights as much as humans, I'm all for the protection & conservation of other intelligent & potentially intelligent species, especially since cetaceans, apes, & other creatures haven't screwed up this planet like the dominant species - A certain Homo Sapiens -has, but litigation for an entire species' rights ? I don't think so.

Maybe it is time to consider dolphins and marine mammals as intelligent beings with rights. They are regarded somewhat as members of the US Navy within the dolphin programs there and may have been involved in advanced activities. More in the article:

"Navy dolphins may be deployed: Did secret ESP research involve them?" (, February 14, 2007)at ...

The goverment peoples are get-rich-quick liberals. If you find a way to stop them... Well you probally won't.

when i heard Atty.Ben Cabrido expressed his call for justice, i knew he shall win that legal battle...

what else would make a lawyer look forward when the cycle of win or lose becomes a routine?

it's doing something that defines you, something that matters even when you're gone!

ADVOCACY my friend- that thing called giving back!

Very Nice and Thanks for this content.

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