Lawyers’ group calls for more time to talk with fishermen in Writ of Kalikasan plea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12)— The lawyers’ group which filed the Writ of Kalikasan plea against the government said on Friday it will call for more time to talk with fishermen, after a number of petitioners suddenly withdrew from the case.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said the lawyers handling the petition, which urges government officials to protect the West Philippine Sea, will ask the Supreme Court (SC) for more time to converse with Palawan and Zambales fisherfolk in a bid to fight for the case.

This comes after the government’s top lawyer, Jose Calida, on Tuesday said both parties have agreed to junk the petition, which asks the government to preserve, restore, and rehabilitate Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef -- all part of the West Philippine Sea.

“Considering the new allegations by the Office of the Solicitor General, the handling lawyers will request Supreme Court for time to confer with the fishermen in Zambales and in Palawan so that they can more appropriately act on the developments in the case,” IBP National President Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.

In affidavits obtained by CNN Philippines, 22 fisherfolk-petitioners denied signing the environmental suit against the government.

Chel Diokno, one of the lawyers representing the fishermen, slammed the administration for allegedly influencing their decision to disown the case. Malacañang, however, denied the government's supposed involvement, saying it was Diokno’s camp who “manipulated” the fishermen into signing the documents.

Diokno and lawyers from the IBP earlier sought a Writ of Kalikasan, noting that marine features in the West Philippine Sea have been heavily damaged due to China’s artificial island building activities in the area.

IBP said it stands firm with the fishermen and lawyers involved in the case, and will continue to advocate for the “enforcement of environmental laws, protection of the rights and welfare of fisherfolks, and securing the territory and patrimony of our country in the West Philippine Sea.”

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.