MANILA - The Court of Appeals has set aside a cease and desist order issued by the Laguna Lake Development Authority against a firm managing Taguig City’s garbage.
In a decision dated January 16, 2019, the CA former special 13th division said the LLDA gravely abused its discretion when it “effectively dispossessed” IPM Construction and Development Corporation (IPM) of its leased land instead of merely ordering the halt of alleged illegal backfilling and reclamation activities.
IPM operated a waste management facility under a contract with Taguig City.
The LLDA in December 2017 ordered IPM to stop its alleged illegal dumping and reclamation activities.
LLDA said a dumpsite or garbage pile activity that will cause pollution and ecological disturbance to the lake is prohibited in all titled and untitled lands within the lake’s shores.
IPM denied operating any backfilling or reclamation activities. It insisted that since the lot’s elevation is higher than 12.50 meters, it is not part of Laguna de Bay’s lakeshore and is outside the scope of LLDA’s jurisdiction.
On June 13, 2018, the LLDA issued a cease and desist order and on the same day seized control of the land, padlocked the gate and prohibited IPM’s employees from entering the property.
IPM questioned LLDA’s order before the CA, which ordered the LLDA to return the property to IPM in August 2018.
In the decision, Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla said the LLDA went beyond its authority to issue cease and desist orders.
“[W]hile LLDA ordered to stop the alleged reclamation and backfilling activities and all of IPM's operations, it went further thereby exceeding the authority vested in it by law,” she said.
“In so enforcing the June 13, 2018 CDO, LLDA seized control of the subject property and ordered the closure of the premises. Further, it ordered that the pull-out of any equipments (sic) therefrom may be made only after a permission is sought from LLDA. Also, such permission must be obtained before IPM's employees could enter and exit the area. Hence, IPM was practically dispossessed of its right over the property preventing it to do its legitimate business operations,” she explained.
Baltazar-Padilla clarified that under LLDA’s own rules, the stoppage and closure order could only be done if IPM failed to pay the fine imposed for any illegal activity. But in this case, she noted, there was no previous order from LLDA for IPM to pay a fine.
“It made a short-cut by immediately ordering the stoppage of all its operations in the premises. Worse, it padlocked the establishment and seized control of the entire property,” she said.
The decision questioned the indefinite period of effectivity of the cease and desist order.
It also noted that the facility operated not only as a waste management facility but also as an office, staging and storage area for IPM.
The decision made permanent the writs of mandatory and prohibitory injunctions earlier issued by the court.
Associate Justices Victoria Isabel Paredes and Germano Francisco Legaspi concurred in the decision.