Case Brief: Meralco Securities v Central Board of Assessment Appeals, et al

G.R. No. L-46245    May 31, 1982

MERALCO SECURITIES INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, petitioner,

vs.

CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS, BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS OF LAGUNA and PROVINCIAL ASSESSOR OF LAGUNA, respondents.

Facts:

Pursuant to a pipeline concession issued under the Petroleum Act of 1949, Republic Act No. 387, Meralco Securities installed from Batangas to Manila a pipeline system consisting of cylindrical steel pipes joined together and buried not less than one meter below the surface along the shoulder of the public highway. The pipes are embedded in the soil and are firmly and solidly welded together so as to preclude breakage or damage thereto and prevent leakage or seepage of the oil. The valves are welded to the pipes so as to make the pipeline system one single piece of property from end to end.

In order to repair, replace, remove or transfer segments of the pipeline, the pipes have to be cold-cut by means of a rotary hard-metal pipe-cutter after digging or excavating them out of the ground where they are buried. In points where the pipeline traversed rivers or creeks, the pipes were laid beneath the bed thereof. Hence, the pipes are permanently attached to the land.

Pursuant to the Assessment Law, Commonwealth Act No. 470, the provincial assessor of Laguna treated the pipeline as real property and issued tax declarations, containing the assessed values of portions of the pipeline.

Meralco appealed the assessments to the defendants, but the latter ruled that pipeline is subject to realty tax. The defendants argued that the pipeline is subject to realty tax because they are contemplated in Assessment Law and Real Property Tax Code; that they do not fall within the category of property exempt from realty tax under those laws; that Articles 415 & 416 of the Civil Code, defining real and personal property have no applications to this case because these pipes are constructions adhered to soil and things attached to the land in a fixed manner, and that Meralco Securities is not exempt from realty tax under petroleum law.

Meralco insists that its pipeline is not subject to realty tax because it is not real property within the meaning of Art. 415.

Issue:
Whether the aforementioned pipelines are subject to realty tax.

Held:
Yes, the pipelines are subject to realty tax.

Section 2 of the Assessment Law provides that the realty tax is due “on real property, including land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements.” This provision is reproduced with some modification in Section 38, Real Property Tax Code, which provides that “there shall be levied, assessed, and collected xxx annual ad valorem tax on real property such as land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements affixed or attached to real property xxx.”

It is incontestable that the pipeline of Meralco Securities does not fall within any of the classes of exempt real property enumerated in section 3 of the Assessment Law and section 40 of the Real Property Tax Code.

Pipeline means a line of pipe connected to pumps, valves and control devices for conveying liquids, gases or finely divided solids. It is a line of pipe running upon or in the earth, carrying with it the right to the use of the soil in which it is placed.

Article 415[l] and [3] provides that real property may consist of constructions of all kinds adhered to the soil and everything attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without breaking the material or deterioration of the object.

The pipeline system in question is indubitably a construction adhering to the soil. It is attached to the land in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without dismantling the steel pipes which were welded to form the pipeline.

WHEREFORE, the questioned decision and resolution are affirmed. The petition is dismissed. No costs.

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