Laguna Lake Development Authority vs. Court of Appeals

G.R.No. 120865-71
December 7, 1995

Facts:
The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) was created through RA No. 4850 in order to execute the policy towards environmental protection and sustainable development so as to accelerate the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces and towns.
PD No. 813 amended certain sections of RA 4850 since water quality studies have shown that the lake will deteriorate further if steps are not taken to check the same.
EO 927 further defined and enlarged the functions and powers of the LLDA and enumerated the towns, cities and provinces encompassed by the term “Laguna de Bay Region”.
Upon implementation of RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991), the municipalities assumed exclusive jurisdiction & authority to issue fishing privileges within their municipal waters since Sec.149 thereof provides: “Municipal corporations shall have the authority to grant fishery privileges in the municipal waters and impose rental fees or charges therefore…”
Big fishpen operators took advantage of the occasion to establish fishpens & fish cages to the consternation of the LLDA.
The implementation of separate independent policies in fish cages & fish pen operation and the indiscriminate grant of fishpen permits by the lakeshore municipalities have saturated the lake with fishpens, thereby aggravating the current environmental problems and ecological stress of Laguna Lake.
The LLDA then served notice to the general public that (1) fishpens, cages & other aqua-culture structures unregistered with the LLDA as of March 31, 1993 are declared illegal; (2) those declared illegal shall be subject to demolition by the Presidential Task Force for Illegal Fishpen and Illegal Fishing; and (3) owners of those declared illegal shall be criminally charged with violation of Sec.39-A of RA 4850 as amended by PD 813.
A month later, the LLDA sent notices advising the owners of the illegally constructed fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures advising them to dismantle their respective structures otherwise demolition shall be effected.

Issues:
1.Which agency of the government – the LLDA or the towns and municipalities comprising the region – should exercise jurisdiction over the Laguna lake and its environs insofar as the issuance of permits for fishery privileges is concerned?
2. Whether the LLDA is a quasi-judicial agency?

Held:
1. Sec.4(k) of the charter of the LLDA, RA 4850, the provisions of PD 813,and Sec.2 of EO No.927, specifically provide that the LLDA shall have exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for the use of all surface water for any projects or activities in or affecting the said region. On the other hand, RA 7160 has granted to the municipalities the exclusive authority to grant fishery privileges on municipal waters. The provisions of RA 7160 do not necessarily repeal the laws creating the LLDA and granting the latter water rights authority over Laguna de Bay and the lake region.

Where there is a conflict between a general law and a special statute, latter should prevail since it evinces the legislative intent more clearly than the general statute. The special law is to be taken as an exception to the general law in the absence of special circumstances forcing a contrary conclusion. Implied repeals are not favored and, as much as possible, effect must be given to all enactments of the legislature. A special law cannot be repealed, amended or altered by a subsequent general law by mere implication.

The power of LGUs to issue fishing privileges was granted for revenue purposes. On the other hand, the power of the LLDA to grant permits for fishpens, fish cages, and other aqua-culture structures is for the purpose of effectively regulating & monitoring activities in the Laguna de Bay region and for lake control and management. It partakes of the nature of police power which is the most pervasive, least limitable and most demanding of all state powers including the power of taxation. Accordingly, the charter of the LLDA which embodies a valid exercise of police power should prevail over the LGC of 1991 on matters affecting Laguna de Bay.

2. The LLDA has express powers as a regulatory and quasi-judicial body in respect to pollution cases with authority to issue a “cease and desist order” and on matters affecting the construction of illegal fishpens, fish cages and other aqua-culture structures in Laguna de Bay.

Sec.149 of RA 7160 has not repealed the provisions of the charter of the LLDA, RA 4850, as amended. Thus, the LLDA has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for enjoyment of fishery privileges in Laguna de Bay to the exclusion of municipalities situated therein and the authority to exercise such powers as are by its charter vested on it.

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