Case Brief: Chevron Philippines Inc v Bases Conversion Development Authority

G.R. No. 173863  September 15, 2010
CHEVRON PHILIPPINES, INC. (Formerly CALTEX PHILIPPINES, INC.), Petitioner,
vs.
BASES CONVERSION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY and CLARK DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Respondents

Facts:

On June 28, 2002, the Board of Directors of respondent Clark Development Corporation (CDC) issued and approved Policy Guidelines on the Movement of Petroleum Fuel to and from the Clark Special Economic Zone. In one of its provisions, it levied royalty fees to suppliers delivering Coastal fuel from outside sources for Php0.50 per liter for those delivering fuel to CSEZ locators not sanctioned by CDC and Php1.00 per litter for those bringing-in petroleum fuel from outside sources. The policy guidelines were implemented effective July 27, 2002.

The petitioner Chevron Philippines Inc (formerly Caltex Philippines Inc) who is a fuel supplier to Nanox Philippines, a locator inside the CSEZ, received a Statement of Account from CDC billing them to pay the royalty fees amounting to Php115,000 for its fuel sales from Coastal depot to Nanox Philippines from August 1 to September 21, 2002.

Petitioner, contending that nothing in the law authorizes CDC to impose royalty fees based on a per unit measurement of any commodity sold within the special economic zone, protested against the CDC and Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). They alleged that the royalty fees imposed had no reasonable relation to the probably expenses of regulation and that the imposition on a per unit measurement of fuel sales was for a revenue generating purpose, thus, akin to a “tax”.

BCDA denied the protest. The Office of the President dismissed the appeal as well for lack of merit.

Upon appeal, CA dismissed the case. CA held that in imposing the royalty fees, CDC was exercising its right to regulate the flow of fuel into CSEZ under the vested exclusive right to distribute fuel within CSEZ pursuant to its Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Coastal Subic Bay Terminal, Inc. (CSBTI) dated April 11, 1996. The appellate court also found that royalty fees were assessed on fuel delivered, not on the sale, by petitioner and that the basis of such imposition was petitioner’s delivery receipts to Nanox Philippines. The fact that revenue is incidentally also obtained does not make the imposition a tax as long as the primary purpose of such imposition is regulation.

When elevated in SC, petitioner argued that: 1) CDC has no power to impose fees on sale of fuel inside CSEZ on the basis of income generating functions and its right to market and distribute goods inside the CSEZ as this would amount to tax which they have no power to impose, and that the imposed fee is not regulatory in nature but rather a revenue generating measure; 2) even if the fees are regulatory in nature, it is unreasonable and are grossly in excess of regulation costs.

Respondents contended that the purpose of royalty fees is to regulate the flow of fuel to and from the CSEZ and revenue (if any) is just an incidental product. They viewed it as a valid exercise of police power since it is aimed at promoting the general welfare of public; that being the CSEZ administrator, they are responsible for the safe distribution of fuel products inside the CSEZ.

Issue:
Whether the act of CDC in imposing royalty fees can be considered as valid exercise of the police power.

Held:
Yes. SC held that CDC was within the limits of the police power of the State when it imposed royalty fees.

In distinguishing tax and regulation as a form of police power, the determining factor is the purpose of the implemented measure. If the purpose is primarily to raise revenue, then it will be deemed a tax even though the measure results in some form of regulation. On the other hand, if the purpose is primarily to regulate, then it is deemed a regulation and an exercise of the police power of the state, even though incidentally, revenue is generated.

In this case, SC held that the subject royalty fee was imposed for regulatory purposes and not for generation of income or profits. The Policy Guidelines was issued to ensure the safety, security, and good condition of the petroleum fuel industry within the CSEZ. The questioned royalty fees form part of the regulatory framework to ensure “free flow or movement” of petroleum fuel to and from the CSEZ. The fact that respondents have the exclusive right to distribute and market petroleum products within CSEZ pursuant to its JVA with SBMA and CSBTI does not diminish the regulatory purpose of the royalty fee for fuel products supplied by petitioner to its client at the CSEZ.

However, it was erroneous for petitioner to argue that such exclusive right of respondent CDC to market and distribute fuel inside CSEZ is the sole basis of the royalty fees imposed under the Policy Guidelines. Being the administrator of CSEZ, the responsibility of ensuring the safe, efficient and orderly distribution of fuel products within the Zone falls on CDC. Addressing specific concerns demanded by the nature of goods or products involved is encompassed in the range of services which respondent CDC is expected to provide under Sec. 2 of E.O. No. 80, in pursuance of its general power of supervision and control over the movement of all supplies and equipment into the CSEZ.

There can be no doubt that the oil industry is greatly imbued with public interest as it vitally affects the general welfare. Fuel is a highly combustible product which, if left unchecked, poses a serious threat to life and property. Also, the reasonable relation between the royalty fees imposed on a “per liter” basis and the regulation sought to be attained is that the higher the volume of fuel entering CSEZ, the greater the extent and frequency of supervision and inspection required to ensure safety, security, and order within the Zone.

Respondents submit that the increased administrative costs were triggered by security risks that have recently emerged, such as terrorist strikes. The need for regulation is more evident in the light of 9/11 tragedy considering that what is being moved from one location to another are highly combustible fuel products that could cause loss of lives and damage to properties.

As to the issue of reasonableness of the amount of the fees, SC held that no evidence was adduced by the petitioner to show that the fees imposed are unreasonable. Administrative issuances have the force and effect of law. They benefit from the same presumption of validity and constitutionality enjoyed by statutes. These two precepts place a heavy burden upon any party assailing governmental regulations. Petitioner’s plain allegations are simply not enough to overcome the presumption of validity and reasonableness of the subject imposition.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit and the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated November 30, 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 87117 is hereby AFFIRMED.

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