[G.R. No. 127882. December 1, 2004]
LA BUGAL-BLAAN TRIBAL ASSOCIATION, INC., Represented by its Chairman FLONG MIGUEL M. LUMAYONG; WIGBERTO E. TAADA; PONCIANO BENNAGEN; JAIME TADEO; RENATO R. CONSTANTINO JR.; FLONG AGUSTIN M. DABIE; ROBERTO P. AMLOY; RAQIM L. DABIE; SIMEON H. DOLOJO; IMELDA M. GANDON; LENY B. GUSANAN; MARCELO L. GUSANAN; QUINTOL A. LABUAYAN; LOMINGGES D. LAWAY; BENITA P. TACUAYAN; Minors JOLY L. BUGOY, Represented by His Father UNDERO D. BUGOY and ROGER M. DADING; Represented by His Father ANTONIO L. DADING; ROMY M. LAGARO, Represented by His Father TOTING A. LAGARO; MIKENY JONG B. LUMAYONG, Represented by His Father MIGUEL M. LUMAYONG; RENE T. MIGUEL, Represented by His Mother EDITHA T. MIGUEL; ALDEMAR L. SAL, Represented by His Father DANNY M. SAL; DAISY RECARSE, Represented by Her Mother LYDIA S. SANTOS; EDWARD M. EMUY; ALAN P. MAMPARAIR; MARIO L. MANGCAL; ALDEN S. TUSAN; AMPARO S. YAP; VIRGILIO CULAR; MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN; JULIA REGINA CULAR, GIAN CARLO CULAR, VIRGILIO CULAR JR., Represented by Their Father VIRGILIO CULAR; PAUL ANTONIO P. VILLAMOR, Represented by His Parents JOSE VILLAMOR and ELIZABETH PUA-VILLAMOR; ANA GININA R. TALJA, Represented by Her Father MARIO JOSE B. TALJA; SHARMAINE R. CUNANAN, Represented by Her Father ALFREDO M. CUNANAN; ANTONIO JOSE A. VITUG III, Represented by His Mother ANNALIZA A. VITUG, LEAN D. NARVADEZ, Represented by His Father MANUEL E. NARVADEZ JR.; ROSERIO MARALAG LINGATING, Represented by Her Father RIO OLIMPIO A. LINGATING; MARIO JOSE B. TALJA; DAVID E. DE VERA; MARIA MILAGROS L. SAN JOSE; Sr. SUSAN O. BOLANIO, OND; LOLITA G. DEMONTEVERDE; BENJIE L. NEQUINTO; ROSE LILIA S. ROMANO; ROBERTO S. VERZOLA; EDUARDO AURELIO C. REYES; LEAN LOUEL A. PERIA, Represented by His Father ELPIDIO V. PERIA; GREEN FORUM PHILIPPINES; GREEN FORUM WESTERN VISAYAS (GF-WV); ENVIRONMENTAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE CENTER (ELAC); KAISAHAN TUNGO SA KAUNLARAN NG KANAYUNAN AT REPORMANG PANSAKAHAN (KAISAHAN); PARTNERSHIP FOR AGRARIAN REFORM and RURAL DEVELOPMENT SERVICES, INC. (PARRDS); PHILIPPINE PARTNERSHIP FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES IN THE RURAL AREAS, INC. (PHILDHRRA); WOMENS LEGAL BUREAU (WLB); CENTER FOR ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES, INC. (CADI); UPLAND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE (UDI); KINAIYAHAN FOUNDATION, INC.; SENTRO NG ALTERNATIBONG LINGAP PANLIGAL (SALIGAN); and LEGAL RIGHTS AND NATURAL RESOURCES CENTER, INC. (LRC), petitioners, vs. VICTOR O. RAMOS, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); HORACIO RAMOS, Director, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-DENR); RUBEN TORRES, Executive Secretary; and WMC (PHILIPPINES), INC., respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
All mineral resources are owned by the State. Their exploration, development and utilization (EDU) must always be subject to the full control and supervision of the State. More specifically, given the inadequacy of Filipino capital and technology in large-scale EDU activities, the State may secure the help of foreign companies in all relevant matters -- especially financial and technical assistance -- provided that, at all times, the State maintains its right of full control. The foreign assistor or contractor assumes all financial, technical and entrepreneurial risks in the EDU activities; hence, it may be given reasonable management, operational, marketing, audit and other prerogatives to protect its investments and to enable the business to succeed.
Full control is not anathematic to day-to-day management by the contractor, provided that the State retains the power to direct overall strategy; and to set aside, reverse or modify plans and actions of the contractor. The idea of full control is similar to that which is exercised by the board of directors of a private corporation: the performance of managerial, operational, financial, marketing and other functions may be delegated to subordinate officers or given to contractual entities, but the board retains full residual control of the business.
Who or what organ of government actually exercises this power of control on behalf of the State? The Constitution is crystal clear: the President. Indeed, the Chief Executive is the official constitutionally mandated to enter into agreements with foreign owned corporations. On the other hand, Congress may review the action of the President once it is notified of every contract entered into in accordance with this [constitutional] provision within thirty days from its execution. In contrast to this express mandate of the President and Congress in the EDU of natural resources, Article XII of the Constitution is silent on the role of the judiciary. However, should the President and/or Congress gravely abuse their discretion in this regard, the courts may -- in a proper case -- exercise their residual duty under Article VIII. Clearly then, the judiciary should not inordinately interfere in the exercise of this presidential power of control over the EDU of our natural resources.
The Constitution should be read in broad, life-giving strokes. It should not be used to strangulate economic growth or to serve narrow, parochial interests. Rather, it should be construed to grant the President and Congress sufficient discretion and reasonable leeway to enable them to attract foreign investments and expertise, as well as to secure for our people and our posterity the blessings of prosperity and peace.
On the basis of this control standard, this Court upholds the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Law, its Implementing Rules and Regulations -- insofar as they relate to financial and technical agreements -- as well as the subject Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).
The Petition for Prohibition and Mandamus before the Court challenges the constitutionality of (1) Republic Act No. [RA] 7942 (The Philippine Mining Act of 1995); (2) its Implementing Rules and Regulations (DENR Administrative Order No. [DAO] 96-40); and (3) the FTAA dated March 30, 1995, executed by the government with Western Mining Corporation (Philippines), Inc. (WMCP).
On January 27, 2004, the Court en banc promulgated its Decision granting the Petition and declaring the unconstitutionality of certain provisions of RA 7942, DAO 96-40, as well as of the entire FTAA executed between the government and WMCP, mainly on the finding that FTAAs are service contracts prohibited by the 1987 Constitution.
The Decision struck down the subject FTAA for being similar to service contracts, which, though permitted under the 1973 Constitution, were subsequently denounced for being antithetical to the principle of sovereignty over our natural resources, because they allowed foreign control over the exploitation of our natural resources, to the prejudice of the Filipino nation.
The Decision quoted several legal scholars and authors who had criticized service contracts for, inter alia, vesting in the foreign contractor exclusive management and control of the enterprise, including operation of the field in the event petroleum was discovered; control of production, expansion and development; nearly unfettered control over the disposition and sale of the products discovered/extracted; effective ownership of the natural resource at the point of extraction; and beneficial ownership of our economic resources. According to the Decision, the 1987 Constitution (Section 2 of Article XII) effectively banned such service contracts.
Subsequently, respondents filed separate Motions for Reconsideration. In a Resolution dated March 9, 2004, the Court required petitioners to comment thereon. In the Resolution of June 8, 2004, it set the case for Oral Argument on June 29, 2004.
After hearing the opposing sides, the Court required the parties to submit their respective Memoranda in amplification of their arguments. In a Resolution issued later the same day, June 29, 2004, the Court noted, inter alia, the Manifestation and Motion (in lieu of comment) filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on behalf of public respondents. The OSG said that it was not interposing any objection to the Motion for Intervention filed by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Inc. (CMP) and was in fact joining and adopting the latters Motion for Reconsideration.
Memoranda were accordingly filed by the intervenor as well as by petitioners, public respondents, and private respondent, dwelling at length on the three issues discussed below. Later, WMCP submitted its Reply Memorandum, while the OSG -- in obedience to an Order of this Court -- filed a Compliance submitting copies of more FTAAs entered into by the government.
Three Issues Identified by the Court
During the Oral Argument, the Court identified the three issues to be resolved in the present controversy, as follows:
1. Has the case been rendered moot by the sale of WMC shares in WMCP to Sagittarius (60 percent of Sagittarius equity is owned by Filipinos and/or Filipino-owned corporations while 40 percent is owned by Indophil Resources NL, an Australian company) and by the subsequent transfer and registration of the FTAA from WMCP to Sagittarius?
2. Assuming that the case has been rendered moot, would it still be proper to resolve the constitutionality of the assailed provisions of the Mining Law, DAO 96-40 and the WMCP FTAA?
3. What is the proper interpretation of the phrase Agreements Involving Either Technical or Financial Assistance contained in paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution?
Should the Motion for Reconsideration
Respondents and intervenors Motions for Reconsideration should be granted, for the reasons discussed below. The foregoing three issues identified by the Court shall now be taken up seriatim.
In declaring unconstitutional certain provisions of RA 7942, DAO 96-40, and the WMCP FTAA, the majority Decision agreed with petitioners contention that the subject FTAA had been executed in violation of Section 2 of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. According to petitioners, the FTAAs entered into by the government with foreign-owned corporations are limited by the fourth paragraph of the said provision to agreements involving only technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. Furthermore, the foreign contractor is allegedly permitted by the FTAA in question to fully manage and control the mining operations and, therefore, to acquire beneficial ownership of our mineral resources.
The Decision merely shrugged off the Manifestation by WMPC informing the Court (1) that on January 23, 2001, WMC had sold all its shares in WMCP to Sagittarius Mines, Inc., 60 percent of whose equity was held by Filipinos; and (2) that the assailed FTAA had likewise been transferred from WMCP to Sagittarius. The ponencia declared that the instant case had not been rendered moot by the transfer and registration of the FTAA to a Filipino-owned corporation, and that the validity of the said transfer remained in dispute and awaited final judicial determination. Patently therefore, the Decision is anchored on the assumption that WMCP had remained a foreign corporation.
The crux of this issue of mootness is the fact that WMCP, at the time it entered into the FTAA, happened to be wholly owned by WMC Resources International Pty., Ltd. (WMC), which in turn was a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings Ltd., a publicly listed major Australian mining and exploration company.
The nullity of the FTAA was obviously premised upon the contractor being a foreign corporation. Had the FTAA been originally issued to a Filipino-owned corporation, there would have been no constitutionality issue to speak of. Upon the other hand, the conveyance of the WMCP FTAA to a Filipino corporation can be likened to the sale of land to a foreigner who subsequently acquires Filipino citizenship, or who later resells the same land to a Filipino citizen. The conveyance would be validated, as the property in question would no longer be owned by a disqualified vendee.
And, inasmuch as the FTAA is to be implemented now by a Filipino corporation, it is no longer possible for the Court to declare it unconstitutional. The case pending in the Court of Appeals is a dispute between two Filipino companies (Sagittarius and Lepanto), both claiming the right to purchase the foreign shares in WMCP. So, regardless of which side eventually wins, the FTAA would still be in the hands of a qualified Filipino company. Considering that there is no longer any justiciable controversy, the plea to nullify the Mining Law has become a virtual petition for declaratory relief, over which this Court has no original jurisdiction.
In their Final Memorandum, however, petitioners argue that the case has not become moot, considering the invalidity of the alleged sale of the shares in WMCP from WMC to Sagittarius, and of the transfer of the FTAA from WMCP to Sagittarius, resulting in the change of contractor in the FTAA in question. And even assuming that the said transfers were valid, there still exists an actual case predicated on the invalidity of RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (DAO 96-40). Presently, we shall discuss petitioners objections to the transfer of both the shares and the FTAA. We shall take up the alleged invalidity of RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 later on in the discussion of the third issue.
No Transgression of the Constitution
by the Transfer of the WMCP Shares
Petitioners claim, first, that the alleged invalidity of the transfer of the WMCP shares to Sagittarius violates the fourth paragraph of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution; second, that it is contrary to the provisions of the WMCP FTAA itself; and third, that the sale of the shares is suspect and should therefore be the subject of a case in which its validity may properly be litigated.
On the first ground, petitioners assert that paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII permits the government to enter into FTAAs only with foreign-owned corporations. Petitioners insist that the first paragraph of this constitutional provision limits the participation of Filipino corporations in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources to only three species of contracts -- production sharing, co-production and joint venture -- to the exclusion of all other arrangements or variations thereof, and the WMCP FTAA may therefore not be validly assumed and implemented by Sagittarius. In short, petitioners claim that a Filipino corporation is not allowed by the Constitution to enter into an FTAA with the government.
However, a textual analysis of the first paragraph of Section 2 of Article XII does not support petitioners argument. The pertinent part of the said provision states: Sec. 2. x x x The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. x x x. Nowhere in the provision is there any express limitation or restriction insofar as arrangements other than the three aforementioned contractual schemes are concerned.
Neither can one reasonably discern any implied stricture to that effect. Besides, there is no basis to believe that the framers of the Constitution, a majority of whom were obviously concerned with furthering the development and utilization of the countrys natural resources, could have wanted to restrict Filipino participation in that area. This point is clear, especially in the light of the overarching constitutional principle of giving preference and priority to Filipinos and Filipino corporations in the development of our natural resources.
Besides, even assuming (purely for arguments sake) that a constitutional limitation barring Filipino corporations from holding and implementing an FTAA actually exists, nevertheless, such provision would apply only to the transfer of the FTAA to Sagittarius, but definitely not to the sale of WMCs equity stake in WMCP to Sagittarius. Otherwise, an unreasonable curtailment of property rights without due process of law would ensue. Petitioners argument must therefore fail.
FTAA Not Intended
Solely for Foreign Corporation
Equally barren of merit is the second ground cited by petitioners -- that the FTAA was intended to apply solely to a foreign corporation, as can allegedly be seen from the provisions therein. They manage to cite only one WMCP FTAA provision that can be regarded as clearly intended to apply only to a foreign contractor: Section 12, which provides for international commercial arbitration under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce, after local remedies are exhausted. This provision, however, does not necessarily imply that the WMCP FTAA cannot be transferred to and assumed by a Filipino corporation like Sagittarius, in which event the said provision should simply be disregarded as a superfluity.
No Need for a Separate
Litigation of the Sale of Shares
Petitioners claim as third ground the suspicious sale of shares from WMC to Sagittarius; hence, the need to litigate it in a separate case. Section 40 of RA 7942 (the Mining Law) allegedly requires the Presidents prior approval of a transfer.
A re-reading of the said provision, however, leads to a different conclusion. Sec. 40. Assignment/Transfer -- A financial or technical assistance agreement may be assigned or transferred, in whole or in part, to a qualified person subject to the prior approval of the President: Provided, That the President shall notify Congress of every financial or technical assistance agreement assigned or converted in accordance with this provision within thirty (30) days from the date of the approval thereof.
Section 40 expressly applies to the assignment or transfer of the FTAA, not to the sale and transfer of shares of stock in WMCP. Moreover, when the transferee of an FTAA is another foreign corporation, there is a logical application of the requirement of prior approval by the President of the Republic and notification to Congress in the event of assignment or transfer of an FTAA. In this situation, such approval and notification are appropriate safeguards, considering that the new contractor is the subject of a foreign government.
On the other hand, when the transferee of the FTAA happens to be a Filipino corporation, the need for such safeguard is not critical; hence, the lack of prior approval and notification may not be deemed fatal as to render the transfer invalid. Besides, it is not as if approval by the President is entirely absent in this instance. As pointed out by private respondent in its Memorandum, the issue of approval is the subject of one of the cases brought by Lepanto against Sagittarius in GR No. 162331. That case involved the review of the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated November 21, 2003 in CA-GR SP No. 74161, which affirmed the DENR Order dated December 31, 2001 and the Decision of the Office of the President dated July 23, 2002, both approving the assignment of the WMCP FTAA to Sagittarius.
Petitioners also question the sale price and the financial
capacity of the transferee. According to the Deed of Absolute Sale dated
January 23, 2001, executed between WMC and Sagittarius, the price of the WMCP
shares was fixed at US$9,875,000, equivalent to
P553 million at an
exchange rate of 56:1. Sagittarius had an authorized capital stock of P250
million and a paid up capital of P60 million. Therefore, at the time of
approval of the sale by the DENR, the debt-to-equity ratio of the transferee
was over 9:1 -- hardly ideal for an FTAA contractor, according to petitioners.
However, private respondents counter that the Deed of Sale specifically provides that the payment of the purchase price would take place only after Sagittarius commencement of commercial production from mining operations, if at all. Consequently, under the circumstances, we believe it would not be reasonable to conclude, as petitioners did, that the transferees high debt-to-equity ratio per se necessarily carried negative implications for the enterprise; and it would certainly be improper to invalidate the sale on that basis, as petitioners propose.
FTAA Not Void,
To bolster further their claim that the case is not moot, petitioners insist that the FTAA is void and, hence cannot be transferred; and that its transfer does not operate to cure the constitutional infirmity that is inherent in it; neither will a change in the circumstances of one of the parties serve to ratify the void contract.
While the discussion in their Final Memorandum was skimpy, petitioners in their Comment (on the MR) did ratiocinate that this Court had declared the FTAA to be void because, at the time it was executed with WMCP, the latter was a fully foreign-owned corporation, in which the former vested full control and management with respect to the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources, contrary to the provisions of paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution. And since the FTAA was per se void, no valid right could be transferred; neither could it be ratified, so petitioners conclude.
Petitioners have assumed as fact that which has yet to be established. First and foremost, the Decision of this Court declaring the FTAA void has not yet become final. That was precisely the reason the Court still heard Oral Argument in this case. Second, the FTAA does not vest in the foreign corporation full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources, to the exclusion of the government. This point will be dealt with in greater detail below; but for now, suffice it to say that a perusal of the FTAA provisions will prove that the government has effective overall direction and control of the mining operations, including marketing and product pricing, and that the contractors work programs and budgets are subject to its review and approval or disapproval.
As will be detailed later on, the government does not have to micro-manage the mining operations and dip its hands into the day-to-day management of the enterprise in order to be considered as having overall control and direction. Besides, for practical and pragmatic reasons, there is a need for government agencies to delegate certain aspects of the management work to the contractor. Thus the basis for declaring the FTAA void still has to be revisited, reexamined and reconsidered.
Chavez clearly teaches: Thus, the Court has ruled consistently that where a Filipino citizen sells land to an alien who later sells the land to a Filipino, the invalidity of the first transfer is corrected by the subsequent sale to a citizen. Similarly, where the alien who buys the land subsequently acquires Philippine citizenship, the sale is validated since the purpose of the constitutional ban to limit land ownership to Filipinos has been achieved. In short, the law disregards the constitutional disqualification of the buyer to hold land if the land is subsequently transferred to a qualified party, or the buyer himself becomes a qualified party.
In their Comment, petitioners contend that in Chavez and Halili, the object of the transfer (the land) was not what was assailed for alleged unconstitutionality. Rather, it was the transaction that was assailed; hence subsequent compliance with constitutional provisions would cure its infirmity. In contrast, in the instant case it is the FTAA itself, the object of the transfer, that is being assailed as invalid and unconstitutional. So, petitioners claim that the subsequent transfer of a void FTAA to a Filipino corporation would not cure the defect.
Petitioners are confusing themselves. The present Petition has been filed, precisely because the grantee of the FTAA was a wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign corporation. It cannot be gainsaid that anyone would have asserted that the same FTAA was void if it had at the outset been issued to a Filipino corporation. The FTAA, therefore, is not per se defective or unconstitutional. It was questioned only because it had been issued to an allegedly non-qualified, foreign-owned corporation.
We believe that this case is clearly analogous to Halili, in which the land acquired by a non-Filipino was re-conveyed to a qualified vendee and the original transaction was thereby cured. Paraphrasing Halili, the same rationale applies to the instant case: assuming arguendo the invalidity of its prior grant to a foreign corporation, the disputed FTAA -- being now held by a Filipino corporation -- can no longer be assailed; the objective of the constitutional provision -- to keep the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources in Filipino hands -- has been served.
More accurately speaking, the present situation is one degree better than that obtaining in Halili, in which the original sale to a non-Filipino was clearly and indisputably violative of the constitutional prohibition and thus void ab initio. In the present case, the issuance/grant of the subject FTAA to the then foreign-owned WMCP was not illegal, void or unconstitutional at the time. The matter had to be brought to court, precisely for adjudication as to whether the FTAA and the Mining Law had indeed violated the Constitution. Since, up to this point, the decision of this Court declaring the FTAA void has yet to become final, to all intents and purposes, the FTAA must be deemed valid and constitutional.
At bottom, we find completely outlandish petitioners contention that an FTAA could be entered into by the government only with a foreign corporation, never with a Filipino enterprise. Indeed, the nationalistic provisions of the Constitution are all anchored on the protection of Filipino interests. How petitioners can now argue that foreigners have the exclusive right to FTAAs totally overturns the entire basis of the Petition -- preference for the Filipino in the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources. It does not take deep knowledge of law and logic to understand that what the Constitution grants to foreigners should be equally available to Filipinos.
Whether the Court Can Still Decide the Case,
Even Assuming It Is Moot
All the protagonists are in agreement that the Court has jurisdiction to decide this controversy, even assuming it to be moot.
Petitioners stress the following points. First, while a case becomes moot and academic when there is no more actual controversy between the parties or no useful purpose can be served in passing upon the merits, what is at issue in the instant case is not only the validity of the WMCP FTAA, but also the constitutionality of RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Second, the acts of private respondent cannot operate to cure the law of its alleged unconstitutionality or to divest this Court of its jurisdiction to decide. Third, the Constitution imposes upon the Supreme Court the duty to declare invalid any law that offends the Constitution.
Petitioners also argue that no amendatory laws have been passed to make the Mining Act of 1995 conform to constitutional strictures (assuming that, at present, it does not); that public respondents will continue to implement and enforce the statute until this Court rules otherwise; and that the said law continues to be the source of legal authority in accepting, processing and approving numerous applications for mining rights.
Indeed, it appears that as of June 30, 2002, some 43 FTAA applications had been filed with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), with an aggregate area of 2,064,908.65 hectares -- spread over Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao -- applied for. It may be a bit far-fetched to assert, as petitioners do, that each and every FTAA that was entered into under the provisions of the Mining Act invites potential litigation for as long as the constitutional issues are not resolved with finality. Nevertheless, we must concede that there exists the distinct possibility that one or more of the future FTAAs will be the subject of yet another suit grounded on constitutional issues.
But of equal if not greater significance is the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the mining industry, which is even now scaring away foreign investments. Attesting to this climate of anxiety is the fact that the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines saw the urgent need to intervene in the case and to present its position during the Oral Argument; and that Secretary General Romulo Neri of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) requested this Court to allow him to speak, during that Oral Argument, on the economic consequences of the Decision of January 27, 2004.
We are convinced. We now agree that the Court must recognize the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest involved, as well as the necessity for a ruling to put an end to the uncertainties plaguing the mining industry and the affected communities as a result of doubts cast upon the constitutionality and validity of the Mining Act, the subject FTAA and future FTAAs, and the need to avert a multiplicity of suits. Paraphrasing Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, it is evident that strong reasons of public policy demand that the constitutionality issue be resolved now.
In further support of the immediate resolution of the constitutionality issue, public respondents cite Acop v. Guingona, to the effect that the courts will decide a question -- otherwise moot and academic -- if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review. Public respondents ask the Court to avoid a situation in which the constitutionality issue may again arise with respect to another FTAA, the resolution of which may not be achieved until after it has become too late for our mining industry to grow out of its infancy. They also recall Salonga v. Cruz Pao, in which this Court declared that (t)he Court also has the duty to formulate guiding and controlling constitutional principles, precepts, doctrines or rules. It has the symbolic function of educating the bench and bar on the extent of protection given by constitutional guarantees. x x x.
The mootness of the case in relation to the WMCP FTAA led the undersigned ponente to state in his dissent to the Decision that there was no more justiciable controversy and the plea to nullify the Mining Law has become a virtual petition for declaratory relief. The entry of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Inc., however, has put into focus the seriousness of the allegations of unconstitutionality of RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 which converts the case to one for prohibition in the enforcement of the said law and regulations.
Indeed, this CMP entry brings to fore that the real issue in this case is whether paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution is contravened by RA 7942 and DAO 96-40, not whether it was violated by specific acts implementing RA 7942 and DAO 96-40. [W]hen an act of the legislative department is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, settling the controversy becomes the duty of this Court. By the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged action, the dispute is said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. This ruling can be traced from Taada v. Angara, in which the Court said:
In seeking to nullify an act of the Philippine Senate on the ground that it contravenes the Constitution, the petition no doubt raises a justiciable controversy. Where an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute.
x x x x x x x x x
As this Court has repeatedly and firmly emphasized in many cases, it will not shirk, digress from or abandon its sacred duty and authority to uphold the Constitution in matters that involve grave abuse of discretion brought before it in appropriate cases, committed by any officer, agency, instrumentality or department of the government.
Additionally, the entry of CMP into this case has also effectively forestalled any possible objections arising from the standing or legal interest of the original parties.
For all the foregoing reasons, we believe that the Court should proceed to a resolution of the constitutional issues in this case.
The Proper Interpretation of the Constitutional Phrase
Agreements Involving Either Technical or Financial Assistance
The constitutional provision at the nucleus of the controversy is paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. In order to appreciate its context, Section 2 is reproduced in full:
Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.
The State shall protect the nations marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fish-workers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons.
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall promote the development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution.
No Restriction of Meaning by
a Verba Legis Interpretation
To interpret the foregoing provision, petitioners adamantly assert that the language of the Constitution should prevail; that the primary method of interpreting it is to seek the ordinary meaning of the words used in its provisions. They rely on rulings of this Court, such as the following:
The fundamental principle in constitutional construction however is that the primary source from which to ascertain constitutional intent or purpose is the language of the provision itself. The presumption is that the words in which the constitutional provisions are couched express the objective sought to be attained. In other words, verba legis prevails. Only when the meaning of the words used is unclear and equivocal should resort be made to extraneous aids of construction and interpretation, such as the proceedings of the Constitutional Commission or Convention to shed light on and ascertain the true intent or purpose of the provision being construed.
First, verba legis, that is, wherever possible, the words used in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed. x x x.
x x x x x x x x x
Second, where there is ambiguity, ratio legis est anima. The words of the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of its framers. x x x.
x x x x x x x x x
Finally, ut magis valeat quam pereat. The Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole.
For ease of reference and in consonance with verba legis, we reconstruct and stratify the aforequoted Section 2 as follows:
1. All natural resources are owned by the State. Except for agricultural lands, natural resources cannot be alienated by the State.
2. The exploration, development and utilization (EDU) of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State.
3. The State may undertake these EDU activities through either of the following:
(a) By itself directly and solely
(b) By (i) co-production; (ii) joint venture; or (iii) production sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or corporations, at least 60 percent of the capital of which is owned by such citizens
4. Small-scale utilization of natural resources may be allowed by law in favor of Filipino citizens.
5. For large-scale EDU of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance according to the general terms and conditions provided by law x x x.
Note that in all the three foregoing mining activities -- exploration, development and utilization -- the State may undertake such EDU activities by itself or in tandem with Filipinos or Filipino corporations, except in two instances: first, in small-scale utilization of natural resources, which Filipinos may be allowed by law to undertake; and second, in large-scale EDU of minerals, petroleum and mineral oils, which may be undertaken by the State via agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance as provided by law.
Petitioners claim that the phrase agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance simply means technical assistance or financial assistance agreements, nothing more and nothing else. They insist that there is no ambiguity in the phrase, and that a plain reading of paragraph 4 quoted above leads to the inescapable conclusion that what a foreign-owned corporation may enter into with the government is merely an agreement for either financial or technical assistance only, for the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils; such a limitation, they argue, excludes foreign management and operation of a mining enterprise.
This restrictive interpretation, petitioners believe, is in line with the general policy enunciated by the Constitution reserving to Filipino citizens and corporations the use and enjoyment of the countrys natural resources. They maintain that this Courts Decision of January 27, 2004 correctly declared the WMCP FTAA, along with pertinent provisions of RA 7942, void for allowing a foreign contractor to have direct and exclusive management of a mining enterprise. Allowing such a privilege not only runs counter to the full control and supervision that the State is constitutionally mandated to exercise over the exploration, development and utilization of the countrys natural resources; doing so also vests in the foreign company beneficial ownership of our mineral resources. It will be recalled that the Decision of January 27, 2004 zeroed in on management or other forms of assistance or other activities associated with the service contracts of the martial law regime, since the management or operation of mining activities by foreign contractors, which is the primary feature of service contracts, was precisely the evil that the drafters of the 1987 Constitution sought to eradicate.
On the other hand, the intervenor and public respondents argue that the FTAA allowed by paragraph 4 is not merely an agreement for supplying limited and specific financial or technical services to the State. Rather, such FTAA is a comprehensive agreement for the foreign-owned corporations integrated exploration, development and utilization of mineral, petroleum or other mineral oils on a large-scale basis. The agreement, therefore, authorizes the foreign contractors rendition of a whole range of integrated and comprehensive services, ranging from the discovery to the development, utilization and production of minerals or petroleum products.
We do not see how applying a strictly literal or verba legis interpretation of paragraph 4 could inexorably lead to the conclusions arrived at in the ponencia. First, the drafters choice of words -- their use of the phrase agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance -- does not indicate the intent to exclude other modes of assistance. The drafters opted to use involving when they could have simply said agreements for financial or technical assistance, if that was their intention to begin with. In this case, the limitation would be very clear and no further debate would ensue.
In contrast, the use of the word involving signifies the possibility of the inclusion of other forms of assistance or activities having to do with, otherwise related to or compatible with financial or technical assistance. The word involving as used in this context has three connotations that can be differentiated thus: one, the sense of concerning, having to do with, or affecting; two, entailing, requiring, implying or necessitating; and three, including, containing or comprising.
Plainly, none of the three connotations convey a sense of exclusivity. Moreover, the word involving, when understood in the sense of including, as in including technical or financial assistance, necessarily implies that there are activities other than those that are being included. In other words, if an agreement includes technical or financial assistance, there is apart from such assistance -- something else already in, and covered or may be covered by, the said agreement.
In short, it allows for the possibility that matters, other than those explicitly mentioned, could be made part of the agreement. Thus, we are now led to the conclusion that the use of the word involving implies that these agreements with foreign corporations are not limited to mere financial or technical assistance. The difference in sense becomes very apparent when we juxtapose agreements for technical or financial assistance against agreements including technical or financial assistance. This much is unalterably clear in a verba legis approach.
Second, if the real intention of the drafters was to confine foreign corporations to financial or technical assistance and nothing more, their language would have certainly been so unmistakably restrictive and stringent as to leave no doubt in anyones mind about their true intent. For example, they would have used the sentence foreign corporations are absolutely prohibited from involvement in the management or operation of mining or similar ventures or words of similar import. A search for such stringent wording yields negative results. Thus, we come to the inevitable conclusion that there was a conscious and deliberate decision to avoid the use of restrictive wording that bespeaks an intent not to use the expression agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance in an exclusionary and limiting manner.
Deletion of Service Contracts to
Avoid Pitfalls of Previous Constitutions,
Not to Ban Service Contracts Per Se
Third, we do not see how a verba legis approach leads to the conclusion that the management or operation of mining activities by foreign contractors, which is the primary feature of service contracts, was precisely the evil that the drafters of the 1987 Constitution sought to eradicate. Nowhere in the above-quoted Section can be discerned the objective to keep out of foreign hands the management or operation of mining activities or the plan to eradicate service contracts as these were understood in the 1973 Constitution. Still, petitioners maintain that the deletion or omission from the 1987 Constitution of the term service contracts found in the 1973 Constitution sufficiently proves the drafters intent to exclude foreigners from the management of the affected enterprises.
To our mind, however, such intent cannot be definitively and conclusively established from the mere failure to carry the same expression or term over to the new Constitution, absent a more specific, explicit and unequivocal statement to that effect. What petitioners seek (a complete ban on foreign participation in the management of mining operations, as previously allowed by the earlier Constitutions) is nothing short of bringing about a momentous sea change in the economic and developmental policies; and the fundamentally capitalist, free-enterprise philosophy of our government. We cannot imagine such a radical shift being undertaken by our government, to the great prejudice of the mining sector in particular and our economy in general, merely on the basis of the omission of the terms service contract from or the failure to carry them over to the new Constitution. There has to be a much more definite and even unarguable basis for such a drastic reversal of policies.
Fourth, a literal and restrictive interpretation of paragraph 4, such as that proposed by petitioners, suffers from certain internal logical inconsistencies that generate ambiguities in the understanding of the provision. As the intervenor pointed out, there has never been any constitutional or statutory provision that reserved to Filipino citizens or corporations, at least 60 percent of which is Filipino-owned, the rendition of financial or technical assistance to companies engaged in mining or the development of any other natural resource. The taking out of foreign-currency or peso-denominated loans or any other kind of financial assistance, as well as the rendition of technical assistance -- whether to the State or to any other entity in the Philippines -- has never been restricted in favor of Filipino citizens or corporations having a certain minimum percentage of Filipino equity. Such a restriction would certainly be preposterous and unnecessary. As a matter of fact, financial, and even technical assistance, regardless of the nationality of its source, would be welcomed in the mining industry anytime with open arms, on account of the dearth of local capital and the need to continually update technological know-how and improve technical skills.
There was therefore no need for a constitutional provision specifically allowing foreign-owned corporations to render financial or technical assistance, whether in respect of mining or some other resource development or commercial activity in the Philippines. The last point needs to be emphasized: if merely financial or technical assistance agreements are allowed, there would be no need to limit them to large-scale mining operations, as there would be far greater need for them in the smaller-scale mining activities (and even in non-mining areas). Obviously, the provision in question was intended to refer to agreements other than those for mere financial or technical assistance.
In like manner, there would be no need to require the President of the Republic to report to Congress, if only financial or technical assistance agreements are involved. Such agreements are in the nature of foreign loans that -- pursuant to Section 20 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution -- the President may contract or guarantee, merely with the prior concurrence of the Monetary Board. In turn, the Board is required to report to Congress within thirty days from the end of every quarter of the calendar year, not thirty days after the agreement is entered into.
And if paragraph 4 permits only agreements for loans and other forms of financial, or technical assistance, what is the point of requiring that they be based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country? For instance, how is one to measure and assess the real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country that may ensue from a foreign-currency loan agreement or a technical-assistance agreement for, say, the refurbishing of an existing power generating plant for a mining operation somewhere in Mindanao? Such a criterion would make more sense when applied to a major business investment in a principal sector of the industry.
The conclusion is clear and inescapable -- a verba legis construction shows that paragraph 4 is not to be understood as one limited only to foreign loans (or other forms of financial support) and to technical assistance. There is definitely more to it than that. These are provisions permitting participation by foreign companies; requiring the Presidents report to Congress; and using, as yardstick, contributions based on economic growth and general welfare. These were neither accidentally inserted into the Constitution nor carelessly cobbled together by the drafters in lip service to shallow nationalism. The provisions patently have significance and usefulness in a context that allows agreements with foreign companies to include more than mere financial or technical assistance.
Fifth, it is argued that Section 2 of Article XII authorizes nothing more than a rendition of specific and limited financial service or technical assistance by a foreign company. This argument begs the question To whom or for whom would it be rendered? or Who is being assisted? If the answer is The State, then it necessarily implies that the State itself is the one directly and solely undertaking the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of a mineral resource, so it follows that the State must itself bear the liability and cost of repaying the financing sourced from the foreign lender and/or of paying compensation to the foreign entity rendering technical assistance.
However, it is of common knowledge, and of judicial notice as well, that the government is and has for many many years been financially strapped, to the point that even the most essential services have suffered serious curtailments -- education and health care, for instance, not to mention judicial services -- have had to make do with inadequate budgetary allocations. Thus, government has had to resort to build-operate-transfer and similar arrangements with the private sector, in order to get vital infrastructure projects built without any governmental outlay.
The very recent brouhaha over the gargantuan fiscal crisis or budget deficit merely confirms what the ordinary citizen has suspected all along. After the reality check, one will have to admit the implausibility of a direct undertaking -- by the State itself -- of large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. Such an undertaking entails not only humongous capital requirements, but also the attendant risk of never finding and developing economically viable quantities of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils.
It is equally difficult to imagine that such a provision restricting foreign companies to the rendition of only financial or technical assistance to the government was deliberately crafted by the drafters of the Constitution, who were all well aware of the capital-intensive and technology-oriented nature of large-scale mineral or petroleum extraction and the countrys deficiency in precisely those areas. To say so would be tantamount to asserting that the provision was purposely designed to ladle the large-scale development and utilization of mineral, petroleum and related resources with impossible conditions; and to remain forever and permanently reserved for future generations of Filipinos.
A More Reasonable Look
at the Charters Plain Language
Sixth, we shall now look closer at the plain language of the Charter and examining the logical inferences. The drafters chose to emphasize and highlight agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance in relation to foreign corporations participation in large-scale EDU. The inclusion of this clause on technical or financial assistance recognizes the fact that foreign business entities and multinational corporations are the ones with the resources and know-how to provide technical and/or financial assistance of the magnitude and type required for large-scale exploration, development and utilization of these resources.
The drafters -- whose ranks included many academicians, economists, businessmen, lawyers, politicians and government officials -- were not unfamiliar with the practices of foreign corporations and multinationals.
Neither were they so nave as to believe that these entities would provide assistance without conditionalities or some quid pro quo. Definitely, as business persons well know and as a matter of judicial notice, this matter is not just a question of signing a promissory note or executing a technology transfer agreement. Foreign corporations usually require that they be given a say in the management, for instance, of day-to-day operations of the joint venture. They would demand the appointment of their own men as, for example, operations managers, technical experts, quality control heads, internal auditors or comptrollers. Furthermore, they would probably require seats on the Board of Directors -- all these to ensure the success of the enterprise and the repayment of the loans and other financial assistance and to make certain that the funding and the technology they supply would not go to waste. Ultimately, they would also want to protect their business reputation and bottom lines.
In short, the drafters will have to be credited with enough pragmatism and savvy to know that these foreign entities will not enter into such agreements involving assistance without requiring arrangements for the protection of their investments, gains and benefits.
Thus, by specifying such agreements involving assistance, the drafters necessarily gave implied assent to everything that these agreements necessarily entailed; or that could reasonably be deemed necessary to make them tenable and effective, including management authority with respect to the day-to-day operations of the enterprise and measures for the protection of the interests of the foreign corporation, PROVIDED THAT Philippine sovereignty over natural resources and full control over the enterprise undertaking the EDU activities remain firmly in the State.
Petitioners Theory Deflated by the
Absence of Closing-Out Rules or Guidelines
Seventh and final point regarding the plain-language approach, one of the practical difficulties that results from it is the fact that there is nothing by way of transitory provisions that would serve to confirm the theory that the omission of the term service contract from the 1987 Constitution signaled the demise of service contracts.
The framers knew at the time they were deliberating that there were various service contracts extant and in force and effect, including those in the petroleum industry. Many of these service contracts were long-term (25 years) and had several more years to run. If they had meant to ban service contracts altogether, they would have had to provide for the termination or pretermination of the existing contracts. Accordingly, they would have supplied the specifics and the when and how of effecting the extinguishment of these existing contracts (or at least the mechanics for determining them); and of putting in place the means to address the just claims of the contractors for compensation for their investments, lost opportunities, and so on, if not for the recovery thereof.
If the framers had intended to put an end to service contracts, they would have at least left specific instructions to Congress to deal with these closing-out issues, perhaps by way of general guidelines and a timeline within which to carry them out. The following are some extant examples of such transitory guidelines set forth in Article XVIII of our Constitution:
Section 23. Advertising entities affected by paragraph (2), Section 11 of Article XVI of this Constitution shall have five years from its ratification to comply on a graduated and proportionate basis with the minimum Filipino ownership requirement therein.
x x x x x x x x x
Section 25. After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.
Section 26. The authority to issue sequestration or freeze orders under Proclamation No. 3 dated March 25, 1986 in relation to the recovery of ill-gotten wealth shall remain operative for not more than eighteen months after the ratification of this Constitution. However, in the national interest, as certified by the President, the Congress may extend such period.
A sequestration or freeze order shall be issued only upon showing of a prima facie case. The order and the list of the sequestered or frozen properties shall forthwith be registered with the proper court. For orders issued before the ratification of this Constitution, the corresponding judicial action or proceeding shall be filed within six months from its ratification. For those issued after such ratification, the judicial action or proceeding shall be commenced within six months from the issuance thereof.
The sequestration or freeze order is deemed automatically lifted if no judicial action or proceeding is commenced as herein provided. 
It is inconceivable that the drafters of the Constitution would leave such an important matter -- an expression of sovereignty as it were -- indefinitely hanging in the air in a formless and ineffective state. Indeed, the complete absence of even a general framework only serves to further deflate petitioners theory, like a childs balloon losing its air.
Under the circumstances, the logical inconsistencies resulting from petitioners literal and purely verba legis approach to paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII compel a resort to other aids to interpretation.
Petitioners Posture Also Negated
by Ratio Legis Et Anima
Thus, in order to resolve the inconsistencies, incongruities and ambiguities encountered and to supply the deficiencies of the plain-language approach, there is a need for recourse to the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. There is a need for ratio legis et anima.
Service Contracts Not
Pertinent portions of the deliberations of the members of the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) conclusively show that they discussed agreements involving either technical or financial assistance in the same breadth as service contracts and used the terms interchangeably. The following exchange between Commissioner Jamir (sponsor of the provision) and Commissioner Suarez irrefutably proves that the agreements involving technical or financial assistance were none other than service contracts.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Jamir is recognized. We are still on Section 3.
MR. JAMIR. Yes, Madam President. With respect to the second paragraph of Section 3, my amendment by substitution reads: THE PRESIDENT MAY ENTER INTO AGREEMENTS WITH FOREIGN-OWNED CORPORATIONS INVOLVING EITHER TECHNICAL OR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR LARGE-SCALE EXPLORATION, DEVELOPMENT AND UTILIZATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES ACCORDING TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS PROVIDED BY LAW.
MR. VILLEGAS. The Committee accepts the amendment. Commissioner Suarez will give the background.
MR. JAMIR. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Suarez is recognized.
MR. SUAREZ. Thank you, Madam President.
Will Commissioner Jamir answer a few clarificatory questions?
MR. JAMIR. Yes, Madam President.
MR. SUAREZ. This particular portion of the section has reference to what was popularly known before as service contracts, among other things, is that correct?
MR. JAMIR. Yes, Madam President.
MR. SUAREZ. As it is formulated, the President may enter into service contracts but subject to the guidelines that may be promulgated by Congress?
MR. JAMIR. That is correct.
MR. SUAREZ. Therefore, that aspect of negotiation and consummation will fall on the President, not upon Congress?
MR. JAMIR. That is also correct, Madam President.
MR. SUAREZ. Except that all of these contracts, service or otherwise, must be made strictly in accordance with guidelines prescribed by Congress?
MR. JAMIR. That is also correct.
MR. SUAREZ. And the Gentleman is thinking in terms of a law that uniformly covers situations of the same nature?
MR. JAMIR. That is 100 percent correct.
MR. SUAREZ. I thank the Commissioner.
MR. JAMIR. Thank you very much.
The following exchange leaves no doubt that the commissioners knew exactly what they were dealing with: service contracts.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Gascon is recognized.
MR. GASCON. Commissioner Jamir had proposed an amendment with regard to special service contracts which was accepted by the Committee. Since the Committee has accepted it, I would like to ask some questions.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Gascon may proceed.
MR. GASCON. As it is proposed now, such service contracts will be entered into by the President with the guidelines of a general law on service contract to be enacted by Congress. Is that correct?
MR. VILLEGAS. The Commissioner is right, Madam President.
MR. GASCON. According to the original proposal, if the President were to enter into a particular agreement, he would need the concurrence of Congress. Now that it has been changed by the proposal of Commissioner Jamir in that Congress will set the general law to which the President shall comply, the President will, therefore, not need the concurrence of Congress every time he enters into service contracts. Is that correct?
MR. VILLEGAS. That is right.
MR. GASCON. The proposed amendment of Commissioner Jamir is in indirect contrast to my proposed amendment, so I would like to object and present my proposed amendment to the body.
x x x x x x x x x
MR. GASCON. Yes, it will be up to the body.
I feel that the general law to be set by Congress as regard service contract agreements which the President will enter into might be too general or since we do not know the content yet of such a law, it might be that certain agreements will be detrimental to the interest of the Filipinos. This is in direct contrast to my proposal which provides that there be effective constraints in the implementation of service contracts.
So instead of a general law to be passed by Congress to serve as a guideline to the President when entering into service contract agreements, I propose that every service contract entered into by the President would need the concurrence of Congress, so as to assure the Filipinos of their interests with regard to the issue in Section 3 on all lands of the public domain. My alternative amendment, which we will discuss later, reads: THAT THE PRESIDENT SHALL ENTER INTO SUCH AGREEMENTS ONLY WITH THE CONCURRENCE OF TWO-THIRDS VOTE OF ALL THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SITTING SEPARATELY.
x x x x x x x x x
MR. BENGZON. The reason we made that shift is that we realized the original proposal could breed corruption. By the way, this is not just confined to service contracts but also to financial assistance. If we are going to make every single contract subject to the concurrence of Congress which, according to the Commissioners amendment is the concurrence of two-thirds of Congress voting separately then (1) there is a very great chance that each contract will be different from another; and (2) there is a great temptation that it would breed corruption because of the great lobbying that is going to happen. And we do not want to subject our legislature to that.
Now, to answer the Commissioners apprehension, by general law, we do not mean statements of motherhood. Congress can build all the restrictions that it wishes into that general law so that every contract entered into by the President under that specific area will have to be uniform. The President has no choice but to follow all the guidelines that will be provided by law.
MR. GASCON. But my basic problem is that we do not know as of yet the contents of such a general law as to how much constraints there will be in it. And to my mind, although the Committees contention that the regular concurrence from Congress would subject Congress to extensive lobbying, I think that is a risk we will have to take since Congress is a body of representatives of the people whose membership will be changing regularly as there will be changing circumstances every time certain agreements are made. It would be best then to keep in tab and attuned to the interest of the Filipino people, whenever the President enters into any agreement with regard to such an important matter as technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development and utilization of natural resources or service contracts, the peoples elected representatives should be on top of it.
x x x x x x x x x
MR. OPLE. Madam President, we do not need to suspend the session. If Commissioner Gascon needs a few minutes, I can fill up the remaining time while he completes his proposed amendment. I just wanted to ask Commissioner Jamir whether he would entertain a minor amendment to his amendment, and it reads as follows: THE PRESIDENT SHALL SUBSEQUENTLY NOTIFY CONGRESS OF EVERY SERVICE CONTRACT ENTERED INTO IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GENERAL LAW. I think the reason is, if I may state it briefly, as Commissioner Bengzon said, Congress can always change the general law later on to conform to new perceptions of standards that should be built into service contracts. But the only way Congress can do this is if there were a notification requirement from the Office of the President that such service contracts had been entered into, subject then to the scrutiny of the Members of Congress. This pertains to a situation where the service contracts are already entered into, and all that this amendment seeks is the reporting requirement from the Office of the President. Will Commissioner Jamir entertain that?
MR. JAMIR. I will gladly do so, if it is still within my power.
MR. VILLEGAS. Yes, the Committee accepts the amendment.
x x x x x x x x x
SR. TAN. Madam President, may I ask a question?
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Tan is recognized.
SR. TAN. Am I correct in thinking that the only difference between these future service contracts and the past service contracts under Mr. Marcos is the general law to be enacted by the legislature and the notification of Congress by the President? That is the only difference, is it not?
MR. VILLEGAS. That is right.
SR. TAN. So those are the safeguards.
MR. VILLEGAS. Yes. There was no law at all governing service contracts before.
SR. TAN. Thank you, Madam President.
More Than Mere Financial
and Technical Assistance
Entailed by the Agreements
The clear words of Commissioner Jose N. Nolledo quoted below explicitly and eloquently demonstrate that the drafters knew that the agreements with foreign corporations were going to entail not mere technical or financial assistance but, rather, foreign investment in and management of an enterprise involved in large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Nolledo is recognized.
MR. NOLLEDO. Madam President, I have the permission of the Acting Floor Leader to speak for only two minutes in favor of the amendment of Commissioner Gascon.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Nolledo may proceed.
MR. NOLLEDO. With due respect to the members of the Committee and Commissioner Jamir, I am in favor of the objection of Commissioner Gascon.
Madam President, I was one of those who refused to sign the 1973 Constitution, and one of the reasons is that there were many provisions in the Transitory Provisions therein that favored aliens. I was shocked when I read a provision authorizing service contracts while we, in this Constitutional Commission, provided for Filipino control of the economy. We are, therefore, providing for exceptional instances where aliens may circumvent Filipino control of our economy. And one way of circumventing the rule in favor of Filipino control of the economy is to recognize service contracts.
As far as I am concerned, if I should have my own way, I am for the complete deletion of this provision. However, we are presenting a compromise in the sense that we are requiring a two-thirds vote of all the Members of Congress as a safeguard. I think we should not mistrust the future Members of Congress by saying that the purpose of this provision is to avoid corruption. We cannot claim that they are less patriotic than we are. I think the Members of this Commission should know that entering into service contracts is an exception to the rule on protection of natural resources for the interest of the nation, and therefore, being an exception it should be subject, whenever possible, to stringent rules. It seems to me that we are liberalizing the rules in favor of aliens.
I say these things with a heavy heart, Madam President. I do not claim to be a nationalist, but I love my country. Although we need investments, we must adopt safeguards that are truly reflective of the sentiments of the people and not mere cosmetic safeguards as they now appear in the Jamir amendment. (Applause)
Thank you, Madam President.
Another excerpt, featuring then Commissioner (now Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide Jr., indicates the limitations of the scope of such service contracts -- they are valid only in regard to minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, not to all natural resources.
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Davide is recognized.
MR. DAVIDE. Thank you, Madam President. This is an amendment to the Jamir amendment and also to the Ople amendment. I propose to delete NATURAL RESOURCES and substitute it with the following: MINERALS, PETROLEUM AND OTHER MINERAL OILS. On the Ople amendment, I propose to add: THE NOTIFICATION TO CONGRESS SHALL BE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS FROM THE EXECUTION OF THE SERVICE CONTRACT.
THE PRESIDENT. What does the Committee say with respect to the first amendment in lieu of NATURAL RESOURCES?
MR. VILLEGAS. Could Commissioner Davide explain that?
MR. DAVIDE. Madam President, with the use of NATURAL RESOURCES here, it would necessarily include all lands of the public domain, our marine resources, forests, parks and so on. So we would like to limit the scope of these service contracts to those areas really where these may be needed, the exploitation, development and exploration of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. And so, we believe that we should really, if we want to grant service contracts at all, limit the same to only those particular areas where Filipino capital may not be sufficient, and not to all natural resources.
MR. SUAREZ. Just a point of clarification again, Madam President. When the Commissioner made those enumerations and specifications, I suppose he deliberately did not include agricultural land?
MR. DAVIDE. That is precisely the reason we have to enumerate what these resources are into which service contracts may enter. So, beyond the reach of any service contract will be lands of the public domain, timberlands, forests, marine resources, fauna and flora, wildlife and national parks.
After the Jamir amendment was voted upon and approved by a vote of 21 to 10 with 2 abstentions, Commissioner Davide made the following statement, which is very relevant to our quest:
THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Davide is recognized.
MR. DAVIDE. I am very glad that Commissioner Padilla emphasized minerals, petroleum and mineral oils. The Commission has just approved the possible foreign entry into the development, exploration and utilization of these minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils by virtue of the Jamir amendment. I voted in favor of the Jamir amendment because it will eventually give way to vesting in exclusively Filipino citizens and corporations wholly owned by Filipino citizens the right to utilize the other natural resources. This means that as a matter of policy, natural resources should be utilized and exploited only by Filipino citizens or corporations wholly owned by such citizens. But by virtue of the Jamir amendment, since we feel that Filipino capital may not be enough for the development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the President can enter into service contracts with foreign corporations precisely for the development and utilization of such resources. And so, there is nothing to fear that we will stagnate in the development of minerals, petroleum and mineral oils because we now allow service contracts. x x x.
The foregoing are mere fragments of the framers lengthy discussions of the provision dealing with agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance, which ultimately became paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution. Beyond any doubt, the members of the ConCom were actually debating about the martial-law-era service contracts for which they were crafting appropriate safeguards.
In the voting that led to the approval of Article XII by the ConCom, the explanations given by Commissioners Gascon, Garcia and Tadeo indicated that they had voted to reject this provision on account of their objections to the constitutionalization of the service contract concept.
Mr. Gascon said, I felt that if we would constitutionalize any provision on service contracts, this should always be with the concurrence of Congress and not guided only by a general law to be promulgated by Congress. Mr. Garcia explained, Service contracts are given constitutional legitimization in Sec. 3, even when they have been proven to be inimical to the interests of the nation, providing, as they do, the legal loophole for the exploitation of our natural resources for the benefit of foreign interests. Likewise, Mr. Tadeo cited inter alia the fact that service contracts continued to subsist, enabling foreign interests to benefit from our natural resources. It was hardly likely that these gentlemen would have objected so strenuously, had the provision called for mere technical or financial assistance and nothing more.
The deliberations of the ConCom and some commissioners explanation of their votes leave no room for doubt that the service contract concept precisely underpinned the commissioners understanding of the agreements involving either technical or financial assistance.
Summation of the
At this point, we sum up the matters established, based on a careful reading of the ConCom deliberations, as follows:
In their deliberations on what was to become paragraph 4, the framers used the term service contracts in referring to agreements x x x involving either technical or financial assistance.
They spoke of service contracts as the concept was understood in the 1973 Constitution.
It was obvious from their discussions that they were not about to ban or eradicate service contracts.
Instead, they were plainly crafting provisions to put in place safeguards that would eliminate or minimize the abuses prevalent during the marital law regime. In brief, they were going to permit service contracts with foreign corporations as contractors, but with safety measures to prevent abuses, as an exception to the general norm established in the first paragraph of Section 2 of Article XII. This provision reserves or limits to Filipino citizens -- and corporations at least 60 percent of which is owned by such citizens -- the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources.
This provision was prompted by the perceived insufficiency of Filipino capital and the felt need for foreign investments in the EDU of minerals and petroleum resources.
The framers for the most part debated about the sort of safeguards that would be considered adequate and reasonable. But some of them, having more radical leanings, wanted to ban service contracts altogether; for them, the provision would permit aliens to exploit and benefit from the nations natural resources, which they felt should be reserved only for Filipinos.
In the explanation of their votes, the individual commissioners were heard by the entire body. They sounded off their individual opinions, openly enunciated their philosophies, and supported or attacked the provisions with fervor. Everyones viewpoint was heard.
In the final voting, the Article on the National Economy and Patrimony -- including paragraph 4 allowing service contracts with foreign corporations as an exception to the general norm in paragraph 1 of Section 2 of the same article -- was resoundingly approved by a vote of 32 to 7, with 2 abstentions.
Agreements Involving Technical
or Financial Assistance Are
Service Contracts With Safeguards
From the foregoing, we are impelled to conclude that the phrase agreements involving either technical or financial assistance, referred to in paragraph 4, are in fact service contracts. But unlike those of the 1973 variety, the new ones are between foreign corporations acting as contractors on the one hand; and on the other, the government as principal or owner of the works. In the new service contracts, the foreign contractors provide capital, technology and technical know-how, and managerial expertise in the creation and operation of large-scale mining/extractive enterprises; and the government, through its agencies (DENR, MGB), actively exercises control and supervision over the entire operation.
Such service contracts may be entered into only with respect to minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. The grant thereof is subject to several safeguards, among which are these requirements:
(1) The service contract shall be crafted in accordance with a general law that will set standard or uniform terms, conditions and requirements, presumably to attain a certain uniformity in provisions and avoid the possible insertion of terms disadvantageous to the country.
(2) The President shall be the signatory for the government because, supposedly before an agreement is presented to the President for signature, it will have been vetted several times over at different levels to ensure that it conforms to law and can withstand public scrutiny.
(3) Within thirty days of the executed agreement, the President shall report it to Congress to give that branch of government an opportunity to look over the agreement and interpose timely objections, if any.
Use of the Record of the
ConCom to Ascertain Intent
At this juncture, we shall address, rather than gloss over, the use of the framers intent approach, and the criticism hurled by petitioners who quote a ruling of this Court:
While it is permissible in this jurisdiction to consult the debates and proceedings of the constitutional convention in order to arrive at the reason and purpose of the resulting Constitution, resort thereto may be had only when other guides fail as said proceedings are powerless to vary the terms of the Constitution when the meaning is clear. Debates in the constitutional convention are of value as showing the views of the individual members, and as indicating the reason for their votes, but they give us no light as to the views of the large majority who did not talk, much less the mass of our fellow citizens whose votes at the polls gave that instrument the force of fundamental law. We think it safer to construe the constitution from what appears upon its face. The proper interpretation therefore depends more on how it was understood by the people adopting it than in the framers understanding thereof.
The notion that the deliberations reflect only the views of those members who spoke out and not the views of the majority who remained silent should be clarified. We must never forget that those who spoke out were heard by those who remained silent and did not react. If the latter were silent because they happened not to be present at the time, they are presumed to have read the minutes and kept abreast of the deliberations. By remaining silent, they are deemed to have signified their assent to and/or conformity with at least some of the views propounded or their lack of objections thereto. It was incumbent upon them, as representatives of the entire Filipino people, to follow the deliberations closely and to speak their minds on the matter if they did not see eye to eye with the proponents of the draft provisions.
In any event, each and every one of the commissioners had the opportunity to speak out and to vote on the matter. Moreover, the individual explanations of votes are on record, and they show where each delegate stood on the issues. In sum, we cannot completely denigrate the value or usefulness of the record of the ConCom, simply because certain members chose not to speak out.
It is contended that the deliberations therein did not necessarily reflect the thinking of the voting population that participated in the referendum and ratified the Constitution. Verily, whether we like it or not, it is a bit too much to assume that every one of those who voted to ratify the proposed Charter did so only after carefully reading and mulling over it, provision by provision.
Likewise, it appears rather extravagant to assume that every one of those who did in fact bother to read the draft Charter actually understood the import of its provisions, much less analyzed it vis--vis the previous Constitutions. We believe that in reality, a good percentage of those who voted in favor of it did so more out of faith and trust. For them, it was the product of the hard work and careful deliberation of a group of intelligent, dedicated and trustworthy men and women of integrity and conviction, whose love of country and fidelity to duty could not be questioned.
In short, a large proportion of the voters voted yes because the drafters, or a majority of them, endorsed the proposed Constitution. What this fact translates to is the inescapable conclusion that many of the voters in the referendum did not form their own isolated judgment about the draft Charter, much less about particular provisions therein. They only relied or fell back and acted upon the favorable endorsement or recommendation of the framers as a group. In other words, by voting yes, they may be deemed to have signified their voluntary adoption of the understanding and interpretation of the delegates with respect to the proposed Charter and its particular provisions. If its good enough for them, its good enough for me; or, in many instances, If its good enough for President Cory Aquino, its good enough for me.
And even for those who voted based on their own individual assessment of the proposed Charter, there is no evidence available to indicate that their assessment or understanding of its provisions was in fact different from that of the drafters. This unwritten assumption seems to be petitioners as well. For all we know, this segment of voters must have read and understood the provisions of the Constitution in the same way the framers had, an assumption that would account for the favorable votes.
Fundamentally speaking, in the process of rewriting the Charter, the members of the ConCom as a group were supposed to represent the entire Filipino people. Thus, we cannot but regard their views as being very much indicative of the thinking of the people with respect to the matters deliberated upon and to the Charter as a whole.
It is therefore reasonable and unavoidable to make the following conclusion, based on the above arguments. As written by the framers and ratified and adopted by the people, the Constitution allows the continued use of service contracts with foreign corporations -- as contractors who would invest in and operate and manage extractive enterprises, subject to the full control and supervision of the State -- sans the abuses of the past regime. The purpose is clear: to develop and utilize our mineral, petroleum and other resources on a large scale for the immediate and tangible benefit of the Filipino people.
In view of the foregoing discussion, we should reverse the Decision of January 27, 2004, and in fact now hold a view different from that of the Decision, which had these findings: (a) paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII limits foreign involvement in the local mining industry to agreements strictly for either financial or technical assistance only; (b) the same paragraph precludes agreements that grant to foreign corporations the management of local mining operations, as such agreements are purportedly in the nature of service contracts as these were understood under the 1973 Constitution; (c) these service contracts were supposedly de-constitutionalized and proscribed by the omission of the term service contracts from the 1987 Constitution; (d) since the WMCP FTAA contains provisions permitting the foreign contractor to manage the concern, the said FTAA is invalid for being a prohibited service contract; and (e) provisions of RA 7942 and DAO 96-40, which likewise grant managerial authority to the foreign contractor, are also invalid and unconstitutional.
Ultimate Test: States Control
Determinative of Constitutionality
But we are not yet at the end of our quest. Far from it. It seems that we are confronted with a possible collision of constitutional provisions. On the one hand, paragraph 1 of Section 2 of Article XII explicitly mandates the State to exercise full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources. On the other hand, paragraph 4 permits safeguarded service contracts with foreign contractors. Normally, pursuant thereto, the contractors exercise management prerogatives over the mining operations and the enterprise as a whole. There is thus a legitimate ground to be concerned that either the States full control and supervision may rule out any exercise of management authority by the foreign contractor; or, the other way around, allowing the foreign contractor full management prerogatives may ultimately negate the States full control and supervision.
Ut Magis Valeat
Under the third principle of constitutional construction laid down in Francisco -- ut magis valeat quam pereat -- every part of the Constitution is to be given effect, and the Constitution is to be read and understood as a harmonious whole. Thus, full control and supervision by the State must be understood as one that does not preclude the legitimate exercise of management prerogatives by the foreign contractor. Before any further discussion, we must stress the primacy and supremacy of the principle of sovereignty and State control and supervision over all aspects of exploration, development and utilization of the countrys natural resources, as mandated in the first paragraph of Section 2 of Article XII.
But in the next breadth we have to point out that full control and supervision cannot be taken literally to mean that the State controls and supervises everything involved, down to the minutest details, and makes all decisions required in the mining operations. This strained concept of control and supervision over the mining enterprise would render impossible the legitimate exercise by the contractors of a reasonable degree of management prerogative and authority necessary and indispensable to their proper functioning.
For one thing, such an interpretation would discourage foreign entry into large-scale exploration, development and utilization activities; and result in the unmitigated stagnation of this sector, to the detriment of our nations development. This scenario renders paragraph 4 inoperative and useless. And as respondents have correctly pointed out, the government does not have to micro-manage the mining operations and dip its hands into the day-to-day affairs of the enterprise in order for it to be considered as having full control and supervision.
The concept of control adopted in Section 2 of Article XII must be taken to mean less than dictatorial, all-encompassing control; but nevertheless sufficient to give the State the power to direct, restrain, regulate and govern the affairs of the extractive enterprises. Control by the State may be on a macro level, through the establishment of policies, guidelines, regulations, industry standards and similar measures that would enable the government to control the conduct of affairs in various enterprises and restrain activities deemed not desirable or beneficial.
The end in view is ensuring that these enterprises contribute to the economic development and general welfare of the country, conserve the environment, and uplift the well-being of the affected local communities. Such a concept of control would be compatible with permitting the foreign contractor sufficient and reasonable management authority over the enterprise it invested in, in order to ensure that it is operating efficiently and profitably, to protect its investments and to enable it to succeed.
The question to be answered, then, is whether RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules enable the government to exercise that degree of control sufficient to direct and regulate the conduct of affairs of individual enterprises and restrain undesirable activities.
On the resolution of these questions will depend the validity and constitutionality of certain provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (DAO 96-40), as well as the WMCP FTAA.
Indeed, petitioners charge that RA 7942, as well as its Implementing Rules and Regulations, makes it possible for FTAA contracts to cede full control and management of mining enterprises over to fully foreign-owned corporations, with the result that the State is allegedly reduced to a passive regulator dependent on submitted plans and reports, with weak review and audit powers. The State does not supposedly act as the owner of the natural resources for and on behalf of the Filipino people; it practically has little effective say in the decisions made by the enterprise. Petitioners then conclude that the law, the implementing regulations, and the WMCP FTAA cede beneficial ownership of the mineral resources to the foreign contractor.
A careful scrutiny of the provisions of RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules belies petitioners claims. Paraphrasing the Constitution, Section 4 of the statute clearly affirms the States control thus:
Sec. 4. Ownership of Mineral Resources. Mineral resources are owned by the State and the exploration, development, utilization and processing thereof shall be under its full control and supervision. The State may directly undertake such activities or it may enter into mineral agreements with contractors.
The State shall recognize and protect the rights of the indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands as provided for by the Constitution.
The aforequoted provision is substantively reiterated in Section 2 of DAO 96-40 as follows:
Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. All mineral resources in public and private lands within the territory and exclusive economic zone of the Republic of the Philippines are owned by the State. It shall be the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of the Government and private sector in order to enhance national growth in a way that effectively safeguards the environment and protects the rights of affected communities.
Sufficient Control Over Mining
Operations Vested in the State
by RA 7942 and DAO 96-40
RA 7942 provides for the States control and supervision over mining operations. The following provisions thereof establish the mechanism of inspection and visitorial rights over mining operations and institute reportorial requirements in this manner:
1. Sec. 8 which provides for the DENRs power of over-all supervision and periodic review for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the States mineral resources;
2. Sec. 9 which authorizes the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) under the DENR to exercise direct charge in the administration and disposition of mineral resources, and empowers the MGB to monitor the compliance by the contractor of the terms and conditions of the mineral agreements, confiscate surety and performance bonds, and deputize whenever necessary any member or unit of the Phil. National Police, barangay, duly registered non-governmental organization (NGO) or any qualified person to police mining activities;
3. Sec. 66 which vests in the Regional Director exclusive jurisdiction over safety inspections of all installations, whether surface or underground, utilized in mining operations.
4. Sec. 35, which incorporates into all FTAAs the following terms, conditions and warranties:
(g) Mining operations shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Act and its IRR.
(h) Work programs and minimum expenditures commitments.
x x x x x x x x x
(k) Requiring proponent to effectively use appropriate anti-pollution technology and facilities to protect the environment and restore or rehabilitate mined-out areas.
(l) The contractors shall furnish the Government records of geologic, accounting and other relevant data for its mining operation, and that books of accounts and records shall be open for inspection by the government. x x x.
(m) Requiring the proponent to dispose of the minerals at the highest price and more advantageous terms and conditions.
(n) x x x x x x x x x
(o) Such other terms and conditions consistent with the Constitution and with this Act as the Secretary may deem to be for the best interest of the State and the welfare of the Filipino people.
The foregoing provisions of Section 35 of RA 7942 are also reflected and implemented in Section 56 (g), (h), (l), (m) and (n) of the Implementing Rules, DAO 96-40.
Moreover, RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 also provide various stipulations confirming the governments control over mining enterprises:
The contractor is to relinquish to the government those portions of the contract area not needed for mining operations and not covered by any declaration of mining feasibility (Section 35-e, RA 7942; Section 60, DAO 96-40).
The contractor must comply with the provisions pertaining to mine safety, health and environmental protection (Chapter XI, RA 7942; Chapters XV and XVI, DAO 96-40).
For violation of any of its terms and conditions, government may cancel an FTAA. (Chapter XVII, RA 7942; Chapter XXIV, DAO 96-40).
An FTAA contractor is obliged to open its books of accounts and records for inspection by the government (Section 56-m, DAO 96-40).
An FTAA contractor has to dispose of the minerals and by-products at the highest market price and register with the MGB a copy of the sales agreement (Section 56-n, DAO 96-40).
MGB is mandated to monitor the contractors compliance with the terms and conditions of the FTAA; and to deputize, when necessary, any member or unit of the Philippine National Police, the barangay or a DENR-accredited nongovernmental organization to police mining activities (Section 7-d and -f, DAO 96-40).
An FTAA cannot be transferred or assigned without prior approval by the President (Section 40, RA 7942; Section 66, DAO 96-40).
A mining project under an FTAA cannot proceed to the construction/development/utilization stage, unless its Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility has been approved by government (Section 24, RA 7942).
The Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility filed by the contractor cannot be approved without submission of the following documents:
1. Approved mining project feasibility study (Section 53-d, DAO 96-40)
2. Approved three-year work program (Section 53-a-4, DAO 96-40)
3. Environmental compliance certificate (Section 70, RA 7942)
4. Approved environmental protection and enhancement program (Section 69, RA 7942)
5. Approval by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Bayan/Barangay (Section 70, RA 7942; Section 27, RA 7160)
6. Free and prior informed consent by the indigenous peoples concerned, including payment of royalties through a Memorandum of Agreement (Section 16, RA 7942; Section 59, RA 8371)
The FTAA contractor is obliged to assist in the development of its mining community, promotion of the general welfare of its inhabitants, and development of science and mining technology (Section 57, RA 7942).
The FTAA contractor is obliged to submit reports (on quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis as the case may be; per Section 270, DAO 96-40), pertaining to the following:
3. Mineral resources and reserves
4. Energy consumption
6. Sales and marketing
8. Payment of taxes, royalties, fees and other Government Shares
9. Mine safety, health and environment
10. Land use
11. Social development
12. Explosives consumption
An FTAA pertaining to areas within government reservations cannot be granted without a written clearance from the government agencies concerned (Section 19, RA 7942; Section 54, DAO 96-40).
An FTAA contractor is required to post a financial guarantee bond in favor of the government in an amount equivalent to its expenditures obligations for any particular year. This requirement is apart from the representations and warranties of the contractor that it has access to all the financing, managerial and technical expertise and technology necessary to carry out the objectives of the FTAA (Section 35-b, -e, and -f, RA 7942).
Other reports to be submitted by the contractor, as required under DAO 96-40, are as follows: an environmental report on the rehabilitation of the mined-out area and/or mine waste/tailing covered area, and anti-pollution measures undertaken (Section 35-a-2); annual reports of the mining operations and records of geologic accounting (Section 56-m); annual progress reports and final report of exploration activities (Section 56-2).
Other programs required to be submitted by the contractor, pursuant to DAO 96-40, are the following: a safety and health program (Section 144); an environmental work program (Section 168); an annual environmental protection and enhancement program (Section 171).
The foregoing gamut of requirements, regulations, restrictions and limitations imposed upon the FTAA contractor by the statute and regulations easily overturns petitioners contention. The setup under RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 hardly relegates the State to the role of a passive regulator dependent on submitted plans and reports. On the contrary, the government agencies concerned are empowered to approve or disapprove -- hence, to influence, direct and change -- the various work programs and the corresponding minimum expenditure commitments for each of the exploration, development and utilization phases of the mining enterprise.
Once these plans and reports are approved, the contractor is bound to comply with its commitments therein. Figures for mineral production and sales are regularly monitored and subjected to government review, in order to ensure that the products and by-products are disposed of at the best prices possible; even copies of sales agreements have to be submitted to and registered with MGB. And the contractor is mandated to open its books of accounts and records for scrutiny, so as to enable the State to determine if the government share has been fully paid.
The State may likewise compel the contractors compliance with mandatory requirements on mine safety, health and environmental protection, and the use of anti-pollution technology and facilities. Moreover, the contractor is also obligated to assist in the development of the mining community and to pay royalties to the indigenous peoples concerned.
Cancellation of the FTAA may be the penalty for violation of any of its terms and conditions and/or noncompliance with statutes or regulations. This general, all-around, multipurpose sanction is no trifling matter, especially to a contractor who may have yet to recover the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into a mining project.
Overall, considering the provisions of the statute and the regulations just discussed, we believe that the State definitely possesses the means by which it can have the ultimate word in the operation of the enterprise, set directions and objectives, and detect deviations and noncompliance by the contractor; likewise, it has the capability to enforce compliance and to impose sanctions, should the occasion therefor arise.
In other words, the FTAA contractor is not free to do whatever it pleases and get away with it; on the contrary, it will have to follow the government line if it wants to stay in the enterprise. Ineluctably then, RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 vest in the government more than a sufficient degree of control and supervision over the conduct of mining operations.
Section 3(aq) of RA 7942
An objection has been expressed that Section 3(aq) of RA 7942 -- which allows a foreign contractor to apply for and hold an exploration permit -- is unconstitutional. The reasoning is that Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution does not allow foreign-owned corporations to undertake mining operations directly. They may act only as contractors of the State under an FTAA; and the State, as the party directly undertaking exploitation of its natural resources, must hold through the government all exploration permits and similar authorizations. Hence, Section 3(aq), in permitting foreign-owned corporations to hold exploration permits, is unconstitutional.
The objection, however, is not well-founded. While the Constitution mandates the State to exercise full control and supervision over the exploitation of mineral resources, nowhere does it require the government to hold all exploration permits and similar authorizations. In fact, there is no prohibition at all against foreign or local corporations or contractors holding exploration permits. The reason is not hard to see.
Pursuant to Section 20 of RA 7942, an exploration permit merely grants to a qualified person the right to conduct exploration for all minerals in specified areas. Such a permit does not amount to an authorization to extract and carry off the mineral resources that may be discovered. This phase involves nothing but expenditures for exploring the contract area and locating the mineral bodies. As no extraction is involved, there are no revenues or incomes to speak of. In short, the exploration permit is an authorization for the grantee to spend its own funds on exploration programs that are pre-approved by the government, without any right to recover anything should no minerals in commercial quantities be discovered. The State risks nothing and loses nothing by granting these permits to local or foreign firms; in fact, it stands to gain in the form of data generated by the exploration activities.
Pursuant to Section 24 of RA 7942, an exploration permit grantee who determines the commercial viability of a mining area may, within the term of the permit, file with the MGB a declaration of mining project feasibility accompanied by a work program for development. The approval of the mining project feasibility and compliance with other requirements of RA 7942 vests in the grantee the exclusive right to an MPSA or any other mineral agreement, or to an FTAA.
Thus, the permit grantee may apply for an MPSA, a joint venture agreement, a co-production agreement, or an FTAA over the permit area, and the application shall be approved if the permit grantee meets the necessary qualifications and the terms and conditions of any such agreement. Therefore, the contractor will be in a position to extract minerals and earn revenues only when the MPSA or another mineral agreement, or an FTAA, is granted. At that point, the contractors rights and obligations will be covered by an FTAA or a mineral agreement.
But prior to the issuance of such FTAA or mineral agreement, the exploration permit grantee (or prospective contractor) cannot yet be deemed to have entered into any contract or agreement with the State, and the grantee would definitely need to have some document or instrument as evidence of its right to conduct exploration works within the specified area. This need is met by the exploration permit issued pursuant to Sections 3(aq), 20 and 23 of RA 7942.
In brief, the exploration permit serves a practical and legitimate purpose in that it protects the interests and preserves the rights of the exploration permit grantee (the would-be contractor) -- foreign or local -- during the period of time that it is spending heavily on exploration works, without yet being able to earn revenues to recoup any of its investments and expenditures. Minus this permit and the protection it affords, the exploration works and expenditures may end up benefiting only claim-jumpers. Such a possibility tends to discourage investors and contractors. Thus, Section 3(aq) of RA 7942 may not be deemed unconstitutional.
The Terms of the WMCP FTAA
A Deference to State Control
A perusal of the WMCP FTAA also reveals a slew of stipulations providing for State control and supervision:
1. The contractor is obligated to account for the value of production and sale of minerals (Clause 1.4).
2. The contractors work program, activities and budgets must be approved by/on behalf of the State (Clause 2.1).
3. The DENR secretary has the power to extend the exploration period (Clause 3.2-a).
4. Approval by the State is necessary for incorporating lands into the FTAA contract area (Clause 4.3-c).
5. The Bureau of Forest Development is vested with discretion in regard to approving the inclusion of forest reserves as part of the FTAA contract area (Clause 4.5).
6. The contractor is obliged to relinquish periodically parts of the contract area not needed for exploration and development (Clause 4.6).
7. A Declaration of Mining Feasibility must be submitted for approval by the State (Clause 4.6-b).
8. The contractor is obligated to report to the State its exploration activities (Clause 4.9).
9. The contractor is required to obtain State approval of its work programs for the succeeding two-year periods, containing the proposed work activities and expenditures budget related to exploration (Clause 5.1).
10. The contractor is required to obtain State approval for its proposed expenditures for exploration activities (Clause 5.2).
11. The contractor is required to submit an annual report on geological, geophysical, geochemical and other information relating to its explorations within the FTAA area (Clause 5.3-a).
12. The contractor is to submit within six months after expiration of exploration period a final report on all its findings in the contract area (Clause 5.3-b).
13. The contractor, after conducting feasibility studies, shall submit a declaration of mining feasibility, along with a description of the area to be developed and mined, a description of the proposed mining operations and the technology to be employed, and a proposed work program for the development phase, for approval by the DENR secretary (Clause 5.4).
14. The contractor is obliged to complete the development of the mine, including construction of the production facilities, within the period stated in the approved work program (Clause 6.1).
15. The contractor is obligated to submit for approval of the DENR secretary a work program covering each period of three fiscal years (Clause 6.2).
16. The contractor is to submit reports to the DENR secretary on the production, ore reserves, work accomplished and work in progress, profile of its work force and management staff, and other technical information (Clause 6.3).
17. Any expansions, modifications, improvements and replacements of mining facilities shall be subject to the approval of the secretary (Clause 6.4).
18. The State has control with respect to the amount of funds that the contractor may borrow within the Philippines (Clause 7.2).
19. The State has supervisory power with respect to technical, financial and marketing issues (Clause 10.1-a).
20. The contractor is required to ensure 60 percent Filipino equity in the contractor, within ten years of recovering specified expenditures, unless not so required by subsequent legislation (Clause 10.1).
21. The State has the right to terminate the FTAA for the contractors unremedied substantial breach thereof (Clause 13.2);
22. The States approval is needed for any assignment of the FTAA by the contractor to an entity other than an affiliate (Clause 14.1).
We should elaborate a little on the work programs and budgets, and what they mean with respect to the States ability to exercise full control and effective supervision over the enterprise. For instance, throughout the initial five-year exploration and feasibility phase of the project, the contractor is mandated by Clause 5.1 of the WMCP FTAA to submit a series of work programs (copy furnished the director of MGB) to the DENR secretary for approval. The programs will detail the contractors proposed exploration activities and budget covering each subsequent period of two fiscal years.
In other words, the concerned government officials will be informed beforehand of the proposed exploration activities and expenditures of the contractor for each succeeding two-year period, with the right to approve/disapprove them or require changes or adjustments therein if deemed necessary.
Likewise, under Clause 5.2(a), the amount that the contractor was supposed to spend for exploration activities during the first contract year of the exploration period was fixed at not less than P24 million; and then for the succeeding years, the amount shall be as agreed between the DENR secretary and the contractor prior to the commencement of each subsequent fiscal year. If no such agreement is arrived upon, the previous years expenditure commitment shall apply.
This provision alone grants the government through the DENR secretary a very big say in the exploration phase of the project. This fact is not something to be taken lightly, considering that the government has absolutely no contribution to the exploration expenditures or work activities and yet is given veto power over such a critical aspect of the project. We cannot but construe as very significant such a degree of control over the project and, resultantly, over the mining enterprise itself.
Following its exploration activities or feasibility studies, if the contractor believes that any part of the contract area is likely to contain an economic mineral resource, it shall submit to the DENR secretary a declaration of mining feasibility (per Clause 5.4 of the FTAA), together with a technical description of the area delineated for development and production, a description of the proposed mining operations including the technology to be used, a work program for development, an environmental impact statement, and a description of the contributions to the economic and general welfare of the country to be generated by the mining operations (pursuant to Clause 5.5).
The work program for development is subject to the approval of the DENR secretary. Upon its approval, the contractor must comply with it and complete the development of the mine, including the construction of production facilities and installation of machinery and equipment, within the period provided in the approved work program for development (per Clause 6.1).
Thus, notably, the development phase of the project is likewise subject to the control and supervision of the government. It cannot be emphasized enough that the proper and timely construction and deployment of the production facilities and the development of the mine are of pivotal significance to the success of the mining venture. Any missteps here will potentially be very costly to remedy. Hence, the submission of the work program for development to the DENR secretary for approval is particularly noteworthy, considering that so many millions of dollars worth of investments -- courtesy of the contractor -- are made to depend on the States consideration and action.
Throughout the operating period, the contractor is required to submit to the DENR secretary for approval, copy furnished the director of MGB, work programs covering each period of three fiscal years (per Clause 6.2). During the same period (per Clause 6.3), the contractor is mandated to submit various quarterly and annual reports to the DENR secretary, copy furnished the director of MGB, on the tonnages of production in terms of ores and concentrates, with corresponding grades, values and destinations; reports of sales; total ore reserves, total tonnage of ores, work accomplished and work in progress (installations and facilities related to mining operations), investments made or committed, and so on and so forth.
Under Section VIII, during the period of mining operations, the contractor is also required to submit to the DENR secretary (copy furnished the director of MGB) the work program and corresponding budget for the contract area, describing the mining operations that are proposed to be carried out during the period covered. The secretary is, of course, entitled to grant or deny approval of any work program or budget and/or propose revisions thereto. Once the program/budget has been approved, the contractor shall comply therewith.
In sum, the above provisions of the WMCP FTAA taken together, far from constituting a surrender of control and a grant of beneficial ownership of mineral resources to the contractor in question, bestow upon the State more than adequate control and supervision over the activities of the contractor and the enterprise.
No Surrender of Control
Under the WMCP FTAA
Petitioners, however, take aim at Clause 8.2, 8.3, and 8.5 of the WMCP FTAA which, they say, amount to a relinquishment of control by the State, since it cannot truly impose its own discretion in respect of the submitted work programs.
8.2. The Secretary shall be deemed to have approved any Work Programme or Budget or variation thereof submitted by the Contractor unless within sixty (60) days after submission by the Contractor the Secretary gives notice declining such approval or proposing a revision of certain features and specifying its reasons therefor (the Rejection Notice).
8.3. If the Secretary gives a Rejection Notice, the Parties shall promptly meet and endeavor to agree on amendments to the Work Programme or Budget. If the Secretary and the Contractor fail to agree on the proposed revision within 30 days from delivery of the Rejection Notice then the Work Programme or Budget or variation thereof proposed by the Contractor shall be deemed approved, so as not to unnecessarily delay the performance of the Agreement.
8.4. x x x x x x x x x
8.5. So far as is practicable, the Contractor shall comply with any approved Work Programme and Budget. It is recognized by the Secretary and the Contractor that the details of any Work Programmes or Budgets may require changes in the light of changing circumstances. The Contractor may make such changes without approval of the Secretary provided they do not change the general objective of any Work Programme, nor entail a downward variance of more than twenty per centum (20percent) of the relevant Budget. All other variations to an approved Work Programme or Budget shall be submitted for approval of the Secretary.
From the provisions quoted above, petitioners generalize by asserting that the government does not participate in making critical decisions regarding the operations of the mining firm. Furthermore, while the State can require the submission of work programs and budgets, the decision of the contractor will still prevail, if the parties have a difference of opinion with regard to matters affecting operations and management.
We hold, however, that the foregoing provisions do not manifest a relinquishment of control. For instance, Clause 8.2 merely provides a mechanism for preventing the business or mining operations from grinding to a complete halt as a result of possibly over-long and unjustified delays in the governments handling, processing and approval of submitted work programs and budgets. Anyway, the provision does give the DENR secretary more than sufficient time (60 days) to react to submitted work programs and budgets. It cannot be supposed that proper grounds for objecting thereto, if any exist, cannot be discovered within a period of two months.
On the other hand, Clause 8.3 seeks to provide a temporary, stop-gap solution in the event a disagreement over the submitted work program or budget arises between the State and the contractor and results in a stalemate or impasse, in order that there will be no unreasonably long delays in the performance of the works.
These temporary or stop-gap solutions are not necessarily evil or wrong. Neither does it follow that the government will inexorably be aggrieved if and when these temporary remedies come into play. First, avoidance of long delays in these situations will undoubtedly redound to the benefit of the State as well as the contractor. Second, who is to say that the work program or budget proposed by the contractor and deemed approved under Clause 8.3 would not be the better or more reasonable or more effective alternative? The contractor, being the insider, as it were, may be said to be in a better position than the State -- an outsider looking in -- to determine what work program or budget would be appropriate, more effective, or more suitable under the circumstances.
All things considered, we take exception to the characterization of the DENR secretary as a subservient nonentity whom the contractor can overrule at will, on account of Clause 8.3. And neither is it true that under the same clause, the DENR secretary has no authority whatsoever to disapprove the work program. As Respondent WMCP reasoned in its Reply-Memorandum, the State -- despite Clause 8.3 -- still has control over the contract area and it may, as sovereign authority, prohibit work thereon until the dispute is resolved. And ultimately, the State may terminate the agreement, pursuant to Clause 13.2 of the same FTAA, citing substantial breach thereof. Hence, it clearly retains full and effective control of the exploitation of the mineral resources.
On the other hand, Clause 8.5 is merely an acknowledgment of the parties need for flexibility, given that no one can accurately forecast under all circumstances, or predict how situations may change. Hence, while approved work programs and budgets are to be followed and complied with as far as practicable, there may be instances in which changes will have to be effected, and effected rapidly, since events may take shape and unfold with suddenness and urgency. Thus, Clause 8.5 allows the contractor to move ahead and make changes without the express or implicit approval of the DENR secretary. Such changes are, however, subject to certain conditions that will serve to limit or restrict the variance and prevent the contractor from straying very far from what has been approved.
Clause 8.5 provides the contractor a certain amount of flexibility to meet unexpected situations, while still guaranteeing that the approved work programs and budgets are not abandoned altogether. Clause 8.5 does not constitute proof that the State has relinquished control. And ultimately, should there be disagreement with the actions taken by the contractor in this instance as well as under Clause 8.3 discussed above, the DENR secretary may resort to cancellation/termination of the FTAA as the ultimate sanction.
Discretion to Select Contract
Area Not an Abdication of Control
Next, petitioners complain that the contractor has full discretion to select -- and the government has no say whatsoever as to -- the parts of the contract area to be relinquished pursuant to Clause 4.6 of the WMCP FTAA. This clause, however, does not constitute abdication of control. Rather, it is a mere acknowledgment of the fact that the contractor will have determined, after appropriate exploration works, which portions of the contract area do not contain minerals in commercial quantities sufficient to justify developing the same and ought therefore to be relinquished. The State cannot just substitute its judgment for that of the contractor and dictate upon the latter which areas to give up.
Moreover, we can be certain that the contractors self-interest will propel proper and efficient relinquishment. According to private respondent, a mining company tries to relinquish as much non-mineral areas as soon as possible, because the annual occupation fees paid to the government are based on the total hectarage of the contract area, net of the areas relinquished. Thus, the larger the remaining area, the heftier the amount of occupation fees to be paid by the contractor. Accordingly, relinquishment is not an issue, given that the contractor will not want to pay the annual occupation fees on the non-mineral parts of its contract area. Neither will it want to relinquish promising sites, which other contractors may subsequently pick up.
Petitioners further maintain that the contractor can compel the government to exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire surface areas within the contract area for the contractors use. Clause 10.2 (e) of the WMCP FTAA provides that the government agrees that the contractor shall (e) have the right to require the Government at the Contractors own cost, to purchase or acquire surface areas for and on behalf of the Contractor at such price and terms as may be acceptable to the contractor. At the termination of this Agreement such areas shall be sold by public auction or tender and the Contractor shall be entitled to reimbursement of the costs of acquisition and maintenance, adjusted for inflation, from the proceeds of sale.
According to petitioners, government becomes a subcontractor to the contractor and may, on account of this provision, be compelled to make use of its power of eminent domain, not for public purposes but on behalf of a private party, i.e., the contractor. Moreover, the power of the courts to determine the amount corresponding to the constitutional requirement of just compensation has allegedly also been contracted away by the government, on account of the latters commitment that the acquisition shall be at such terms as may be acceptable to the contractor.
However, private respondent has proffered a logical explanation for the provision. Section 10.2(e) contemplates a situation applicable to foreign-owned corporations. WMCP, at the time of the execution of the FTAA, was a foreign-owned corporation and therefore not qualified to own land. As contractor, it has at some future date to construct the infrastructure -- the mine processing plant, the camp site, the tailings dam, and other infrastructure -- needed for the large-scale mining operations. It will then have to identify and pinpoint, within the FTAA contract area, the particular surface areas with favorable topography deemed ideal for such infrastructure and will need to acquire the surface rights. The State owns the mineral deposits in the earth, and is also qualified to own land.
Section 10.2(e) sets forth the mechanism whereby the foreign-owned contractor, disqualified to own land, identifies to the government the specific surface areas within the FTAA contract area to be acquired for the mine infrastructure. The government then acquires ownership of the surface land areas on behalf of the contractor, in order to enable the latter to proceed to fully implement the FTAA.
The contractor, of course, shoulders the purchase price of the land. Hence, the provision allows it, after termination of the FTAA, to be reimbursed from proceeds of the sale of the surface areas, which the government will dispose of through public bidding. It should be noted that this provision will not be applicable to Sagittarius as the present FTAA contractor, since it is a Filipino corporation qualified to own and hold land. As such, it may therefore freely negotiate with the surface rights owners and acquire the surface property in its own right.
Clearly, petitioners have needlessly jumped to unwarranted conclusions, without being aware of the rationale for the said provision. That provision does not call for the exercise of the power of eminent domain -- and determination of just compensation is not an issue -- as much as it calls for a qualified party to acquire the surface rights on behalf of a foreign-owned contractor.
Rather than having the foreign contractor act through a dummy corporation, having the State do the purchasing is a better alternative. This will at least cause the government to be aware of such transaction/s and foster transparency in the contractors dealings with the local property owners. The government, then, will not act as a subcontractor of the contractor; rather, it will facilitate the transaction and enable the parties to avoid a technical violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.
Absence of Provision
Requiring Sale at Posted
Prices Not Problematic
The supposed absence of any provision in the WMCP FTAA directly and explicitly requiring the contractor to sell the mineral products at posted or market prices is not a problem. Apart from Clause 1.4 of the FTAA obligating the contractor to account for the total value of mineral production and the sale of minerals, we can also look to Section 35 of RA 7942, which incorporates into all FTAAs certain terms, conditions and warranties, including the following:
(l) The contractors shall furnish the Government records of geologic, accounting and other relevant data for its mining operation, and that books of accounts and records shall be open for inspection by the government. x x x
(m) Requiring the proponent to dispose of the minerals at the highest price and more advantageous terms and conditions.
For that matter, Section 56(n) of DAO 99-56 specifically obligates an FTAA contractor to dispose of the minerals and by-products at the highest market price and to register with the MGB a copy of the sales agreement. After all, the provisions of prevailing statutes as well as rules and regulations are deemed written into contracts.
Contractors Right to Mortgage
Not Objectionable Per Se
Petitioners also question the absolute right of the contractor under Clause 10.2 (l) to mortgage and encumber not only its rights and interests in the FTAA and the infrastructure and improvements introduced, but also the mineral products extracted. Private respondents do not touch on this matter, but we believe that this provision may have to do with the conditions imposed by the creditor-banks of the then foreign contractor WMCP to secure the lendings made or to be made to the latter. Ordinarily, banks lend not only on the security of mortgages on fixed assets, but also on encumbrances of goods produced that can easily be sold and converted into cash that can be applied to the repayment of loans. Banks even lend on the security of accounts receivable that are collectible within 90 days.
It is not uncommon to find that a debtor corporation has executed deeds of assignment by way of security over the production for the next twelve months and/or the proceeds of the sale thereof -- or the corresponding accounts receivable, if sold on terms -- in favor of its creditor-banks. Such deeds may include authorizing the creditors to sell the products themselves and to collect the sales proceeds and/or the accounts receivable.
Seen in this context, Clause 10.2(l) is not something out of the ordinary or objectionable. In any case, as will be explained below, even if it is allowed to mortgage or encumber the mineral end-products themselves, the contractor is not freed of its obligation to pay the government its basic and additional shares in the net mining revenue, which is the essential thing to consider.
In brief, the alarum raised over the contractors right to mortgage the minerals is simply unwarranted. Just the same, the contractor must account for the value of mineral production and the sales proceeds therefrom. Likewise, under the WMCP FTAA, the government remains entitled to its sixty percent share in the net mining revenues of the contractor. The latters right to mortgage the minerals does not negate the States right to receive its share of net mining revenues.
to Sell Their Stocks
Petitioners likewise criticize Clause 10.2(k), which gives the contractor authority to change its equity structure at any time. This provision may seem somewhat unusual, but considering that WMCP then was 100 percent foreign-owned, any change would mean that such percentage would either stay unaltered or be decreased in favor of Filipino ownership. Moreover, the foreign-held shares may change hands freely. Such eventuality is as it should be.
We believe it is not necessary for government to attempt to limit or restrict the freedom of the shareholders in the contractor to freely transfer, dispose of or encumber their shareholdings, consonant with the unfettered exercise of their business judgment and discretion. Rather, what is critical is that, regardless of the identity, nationality and percentage ownership of the various shareholders of the contractor -- and regardless of whether these shareholders decide to take the company public, float bonds and other fixed-income instruments, or allow the creditor-banks to take an equity position in the company -- the foreign-owned contractor is always in a position to render the services required under the FTAA, under the direction and control of the government.
Contractors Right to Ask
For Amendment Not Absolute
With respect to Clauses 10.4(e) and (i), petitioners complain that these provisions bind government to allow amendments to the FTAA if required by banks and other financial institutions as part of the conditions for new lendings. However, we do not find anything wrong with Clause 10.4(e), which only states that if the Contractor seeks to obtain financing contemplated herein from banks or other financial institutions, (the Government shall) cooperate with the Contractor in such efforts provided that such financing arrangements will in no event reduce the Contractors obligations or the Governments rights hereunder. The colatilla obviously safeguards the States interests; if breached, it will give the government cause to object to the proposed amendments.
On the other hand, Clause 10.4(i) provides that the Government shall favourably consider any request from [the] Contractor for amendments of this Agreement which are necessary in order for the Contractor to successfully obtain the financing. Petitioners see in this provision a complete renunciation of control. We disagree.
The proviso does not say that the government shall grant any request for amendment. Clause 10.4(i) only obliges the State to favorably consider any such request, which is not at all unreasonable, as it is not equivalent to saying that the government must automatically consent to it. This provision should be read together with the rest of the FTAA provisions instituting government control and supervision over the mining enterprise. The clause should not be given an interpretation that enables the contractor to wiggle out of the restrictions imposed upon it by merely suggesting that certain amendments are requested by the lenders.
Rather, it is up to the contractor to prove to the government that the requested changes to the FTAA are indispensable, as they enable the contractor to obtain the needed financing; that without such contract changes, the funders would absolutely refuse to extend the loan; that there are no other sources of financing available to the contractor (a very unlikely scenario); and that without the needed financing, the execution of the work programs will not proceed. But the bottom line is, in the exercise of its power of control, the government has the final say on whether to approve or disapprove such requested amendments to the FTAA. In short, approval thereof is not mandatory on the part of the government.
In fine, the foregoing evaluation and analysis of the aforementioned FTAA provisions sufficiently overturns petitioners litany of objections to and criticisms of the States alleged lack of control.
Financial Benefits Not
Surrendered to the Contractor
One of the main reasons certain provisions of RA 7942 were struck down was the finding mentioned in the Decision that beneficial ownership of the mineral resources had been conveyed to the contractor. This finding was based on the underlying assumption, common to the said provisions, that the foreign contractor manages the mineral resources in the same way that foreign contractors in service contracts used to. By allowing foreign contractors to manage or operate all the aspects of the mining operation, the above-cited provisions of R.A. No. 7942 have in effect conveyed beneficial ownership over the nations mineral resources to these contractors, leaving the State with nothing but bare title thereto. As the WMCP FTAA contained similar provisions deemed by the ponente to be abhorrent to the Constitution, the Decision struck down the Contract as well.
Beneficial ownership has been defined as ownership recognized by law and capable of being enforced in the courts at the suit of the beneficial owner. Blacks Law Dictionary indicates that the term is used in two senses: first, to indicate the interest of a beneficiary in trust property (also called equitable ownership); and second, to refer to the power of a corporate shareholder to buy or sell the shares, though the shareholder is not registered in the corporations books as the owner. Usually, beneficial ownership is distinguished from naked ownership, which is the enjoyment of all the benefits and privileges of ownership, as against possession of the bare title to property.
An assiduous examination of the WMCP FTAA uncovers no indication that it confers upon WMCP ownership, beneficial or otherwise, of the mining property it is to develop, the minerals to be produced, or the proceeds of their sale, which can be legally asserted and enforced as against the State.
As public respondents correctly point out, any interest the contractor may have in the proceeds of the mining operation is merely the equivalent of the consideration the government has undertaken to pay for its services. All lawful contracts require such mutual prestations, and the WMCP FTAA is no different. The contractor commits to perform certain services for the government in respect of the mining operation, and in turn it is to be compensated out of the net mining revenues generated from the sale of mineral products. What would be objectionable is a contractual provision that unduly benefits the contractor far in excess of the service rendered or value delivered, if any, in exchange therefor.
A careful perusal of the statute itself and its implementing rules reveals that neither RA 7942 nor DAO 99-56 can be said to convey beneficial ownership of any mineral resource or product to any foreign FTAA contractor.
of Financial Benefits
On the contrary, DAO 99-56, entitled Guidelines Establishing the Fiscal Regime of Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements aims to ensure an equitable sharing of the benefits derived from mineral resources. These benefits are to be equitably shared among the government (national and local), the FTAA contractor, and the affected communities. The purpose is to ensure sustainable mineral resources development; and a fair, equitable, competitive and stable investment regime for the large-scale exploration, development and commercial utilization of minerals. The general framework or concept followed in crafting the fiscal regime of the FTAA is based on the principle that the government expects real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country, while the contractor expects a reasonable return on its investments in the project.
Specifically, under the fiscal regime, the governments expectation is, inter alia, the receipt of its share from the taxes and fees normally paid by a mining enterprise. On the other hand, the FTAA contractor is granted by the government certain fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to help support the formers cash flow during the most critical phase (cost recovery) and to make the Philippines competitive with other mineral-producing countries. After the contractor has recovered its initial investment, it will pay all the normal taxes and fees comprising the basic share of the government, plus an additional share for the government based on the options and formulae set forth in DAO 99-56.
The said DAO spells out the financial benefits the government will receive from an FTAA, referred to as the Government Share, composed of a basic government share and an additional government share.
The basic government share is comprised of all direct taxes, fees and royalties, as well as other payments made by the contractor during the term of the FTAA. These are amounts paid directly to (i) the national government (through the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Mines & Geosciences Bureau and other national government agencies imposing taxes or fees), (ii) the local government units where the mining activity is conducted, and (iii) persons and communities directly affected by the mining project. The major taxes and other payments constituting the basic government share are enumerated below:
Payments to the National Government:
Excise tax on minerals - 2 percent of the gross output of mining operations
Contractor income tax - maximum of 32 percent of taxable income for corporations
Customs duties and fees on imported capital equipment -the rate is set by the Tariff and Customs Code (3-7 percent for chemicals; 3-10 percent for explosives; 3-15 percent for mechanical and electrical equipment; and 3-10 percent for vehicles, aircraft and vessels
VAT on imported equipment, goods and services 10 percent of value
Royalties due the government on minerals extracted from mineral reservations, if applicable 5 percent of the actual market value of the minerals produced
Documentary stamp tax - the rate depends on the type of transaction
Capital gains tax on traded stocks - 5 to 10 percent of the value of the shares
Withholding tax on interest payments on foreign loans -15 percent of the amount of interest
Withholding tax on dividend payments to foreign stockholders 15 percent of the dividend
Wharfage and port fees
Licensing fees (for example, radio permit, firearms permit, professional fees)
Other national taxes and fees.
Payments to Local Governments:
Local business tax - a maximum of 2 percent of gross sales or receipts (the rate varies among local government units)
Real property tax - 2 percent of the fair market value of the property, based on an assessment level set by the local government
Special education levy - 1 percent of the basis used for the real property tax
Occupation fees - PhP50 per hectare per year; PhP100 per hectare per year if located in a mineral reservation
Community tax - maximum of PhP10,500 per year
All other local government taxes, fees and imposts as of the effective date of the FTAA - the rate and the type depend on the local government
Royalty to indigenous cultural communities, if any 1 percent of gross output from mining operations
Special allowance - payment to claim owners and surface rights holders
Apart from the basic share, an additional government share is also collected from the FTAA contractor in accordance with the second paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942, which provides that the government share shall be comprised of, among other things, certain taxes, duties and fees. The subject proviso reads:
The Government share in a financial or technical assistance agreement shall consist of, among other things, the contractors corporate income tax, excise tax, special allowance, withholding tax due from the contractors foreign stockholders arising from dividend or interest payments to the said foreign stockholder in case of a foreign national, and all such other taxes, duties and fees as provided for under existing laws. (Bold types supplied.)
The government, through the DENR and the MGB, has interpreted the insertion of the phrase among other things as signifying that the government is entitled to an additional government share to be paid by the contractor apart from the basic share, in order to attain a fifty-fifty sharing of net benefits from mining.
The additional government share is computed by using one of three options or schemes presented in DAO 99-56: (1) a fifty-fifty sharing in the cumulative present value of cash flows; (2) the share based on excess profits; and (3) the sharing based on the cumulative net mining revenue. The particular formula to be applied will be selected by the contractor, with a written notice to the government prior to the commencement of the development and construction phase of the mining project.
Proceeds from the government shares arising from an FTAA contract are distributed to and received by the different levels of government in the following proportions:
National Government 50 percent
Provincial Government 10 percent
Municipal Government 20 percent
Affected Barangays 20 percent
The portion of revenues remaining after the deduction of the basic and additional government shares is what goes to the contractor.
Governments Share in an
FTAA Not Consisting Solely
of Taxes, Duties and Fees
In connection with the foregoing discussion on the basic and additional government shares, it is pertinent at this juncture to mention the criticism leveled at the second paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942, quoted earlier. The said proviso has been denounced, because, allegedly, the States share in FTAAs with foreign contractors has been limited to taxes, fees and duties only; in effect, the State has been deprived of a share in the after-tax income of the enterprise. In the face of this allegation, one has to consider that the law does not define the term among other things; and the Office of the Solicitor General, in its Motion for Reconsideration, appears to have erroneously claimed that the phrase refers to indirect taxes.
The law provides no definition of the term among other things, for the reason that Congress deliberately avoided setting unnecessary limitations as to what may constitute compensation to the State for the exploitation and use of mineral resources. But the inclusion of that phrase clearly and unmistakably reveals the legislative intent to have the State collect more than just the usual taxes, duties and fees. Certainly, there is nothing in that phrase -- or in the second paragraph of Section 81 -- that would suggest that such phrase should be interpreted as referring only to taxes, duties, fees and the like.
Precisely for that reason, to fulfill the legislative intent behind the inclusion of the phrase among other things in the second paragraph of Section 81, the DENR structured and formulated in DAO 99-56 the said additional government share. Such a share was to consist not of taxes, but of a share in the earnings or cash flows of the mining enterprise. The additional government share was to be paid by the contractor on top of the basic share, so as to achieve a fifty-fifty sharing -- between the government and the contractor -- of net benefits from mining. In the Ramos-DeVera paper, the explanation of the three options or formulas -- presented in DAO 99-56 for the computation of the additional government share -- serves to debunk the claim that the governments take from an FTAA consists solely of taxes, fees and duties.
Unfortunately, the Office of the Solicitor General -- although in possession of the relevant data -- failed to fully replicate or echo the pertinent elucidation in the Ramos-DeVera paper regarding the three schemes or options for computing the additional government share presented in DAO 99-56. Had due care been taken by the OSG, the Court would have been duly apprised of the real nature and particulars of the additional share.
But, perhaps, on account of the esoteric discussion in the Ramos-DeVera paper, and the even more abstruse mathematical jargon employed in DAO 99-56, the OSG omitted any mention of the three options. Instead, the OSG skipped to a side discussion of the effect of indirect taxes, which had nothing at all to do with the additional government share, to begin with. Unfortunately, this move created the wrong impression, pointed out in Justice Antonio T. Carpios Opinion, that the OSG had taken the position that the additional government share consisted of indirect taxes.
In any event, what is quite evident is the fact that the additional government share, as formulated, has nothing to do with taxes -- direct or indirect -- or with duties, fees or charges. To repeat, it is over and above the basic government share composed of taxes and duties. Simply put, the additional share may be (a) an amount that will result in a 50-50 sharing of the cumulative present value of the cash flows of the enterprise; (b) an amount equivalent to 25 percent of the additional or excess profits of the enterprise, reckoned against a benchmark return on investments; or (c) an amount that will result in a fifty-fifty sharing of the cumulative net mining revenue from the end of the recovery period up to the taxable year in question. The contractor is required to select one of the three options or formulae for computing the additional share, an option it will apply to all of its mining operations.
As used above, net mining revenue is defined as the gross output from mining operations for a calendar year, less deductible expenses (inclusive of taxes, duties and fees). Such revenue would roughly be equivalent to taxable income or income before income tax. Definitely, as compared with, say, calculating the additional government share on the basis of net income (after income tax), the net mining revenue is a better and much more reasonable basis for such computation, as it gives a truer picture of the profitability of the company.
To demonstrate that the three options or formulations will operate as intended, Messrs. Ramos and de Vera also performed some quantifications of the government share via a financial modeling of each of the three options discussed above. They found that the government would get the highest share from the option that is based on the net mining revenue, as compared with the other two options, considering only the basic and the additional shares; and that, even though production rate decreases, the government share will actually increase when the net mining revenue and the additional profit-based options are used.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the three options or formulae do not yet take into account the indirect taxes and other financial contributions of mining projects. These indirect taxes and other contributions are real and actual benefits enjoyed by the Filipino people and/or government. Now, if some of the quantifiable items are taken into account in the computations, the financial modeling would show that the total government share increases to 60 percent or higher -- in one instance, as much as 77 percent and even 89 percent -- of the net present value of total benefits from the project. As noted in the Ramos-DeVera paper, these results are not at all shabby, considering that the contractor puts in all the capital requirements and assumes all the risks, without the government having to contribute or risk anything.
Despite the foregoing explanation, Justice Carpio still insisted during the Courts deliberations that the phrase among other things refers only to taxes, duties and fees. We are bewildered by his position. On the one hand, he condemns the Mining Law for allegedly limiting the governments benefits only to taxes, duties and fees; and on the other, he refuses to allow the State to benefit from the correct and proper interpretation of the DENR/MGB. To remove all doubts then, we hold that the States share is not limited to taxes, duties and fees only and that the DENR/MGB interpretation of the phrase among other things is correct. Definitely, this DENR/MGB interpretation is not only legally sound, but also greatly advantageous to the government.
One last point on the subject. The legislature acted judiciously in not defining the terms among other things and, instead, leaving it to the agencies concerned to devise and develop the various modes of arriving at a reasonable and fair amount for the additional government share. As can be seen from DAO 99-56, the agencies concerned did an admirable job of conceiving and developing not just one formula, but three different formulae for arriving at the additional government share. Each of these options is quite fair and reasonable; and, as Messrs. Ramos and De Vera stated, other alternatives or schemes for a possible improvement of the fiscal regime for FTAAs are also being studied by the government.
Besides, not locking into a fixed definition of the term among other things will ultimately be more beneficial to the government, as it will have that innate flexibility to adjust to and cope with rapidly changing circumstances, particularly those in the international markets. Such flexibility is especially significant for the government in terms of helping our mining enterprises remain competitive in world markets despite challenging and shifting economic scenarios.
In conclusion, we stress that we do not share the view that in FTAAs with foreign contractors under RA 7942, the governments share is limited to taxes, fees and duties. Consequently, we find the attacks on the second paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 totally unwarranted.
Collections Not Made Uncertain
by the Third Paragraph of Section 81
The third or last paragraph of Section 81 provides that the government share in FTAAs shall be collected when the contractor shall have recovered its pre-operating expenses and exploration and development expenditures. The objection has been advanced that, on account of the proviso, the collection of the States share is not even certain, as there is no time limit in RA 7942 for this grace period or recovery period.
We believe that Congress did not set any time limit for the grace period, preferring to leave it to the concerned agencies, which are, on account of their technical expertise and training, in a better position to determine the appropriate durations for such recovery periods. After all, these recovery periods are determined, to a great extent, by technical and technological factors peculiar to the mining industry. Besides, with developments and advances in technology and in the geosciences, we cannot discount the possibility of shorter recovery periods. At any rate, the concerned agencies have not been remiss in this area. The 1995 and 1996 Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7942 specify that the period of recovery, reckoned from the date of commercial operation, shall be for a period not exceeding five years, or until the date of actual recovery, whichever comes earlier.
Approval of Pre-Operating
Expenses Required by RA 7942
Still, RA 7942 is criticized for allegedly not requiring government approval of pre-operating, exploration and development expenses of the foreign contractors, who are in effect given unfettered discretion to determine the amounts of such expenses. Supposedly, nothing prevents the contractors from recording such expenses in amounts equal to the mining revenues anticipated for the first 10 or 15 years of commercial production, with the result that the share of the State will be zero for the first 10 or 15 years. Moreover, under the circumstances, the government would be unable to say when it would start to receive its share under the FTAA.
We believe that the argument is based on incorrect information as well as speculation. Obviously, certain crucial provisions in the Mining Law were overlooked. Section 23, dealing with the rights and obligations of the exploration permit grantee, states: The permittee shall undertake exploration work on the area as specified by its permit based on an approved work program. The next proviso reads: Any expenditure in excess of the yearly budget of the approved work program may be carried forward and credited to the succeeding years covering the duration of the permit. x x x. (underscoring supplied)
Clearly, even at the stage of application for an exploration permit, the applicant is required to submit -- for approval by the government -- a proposed work program for exploration, containing a yearly budget of proposed expenditures. The State has the opportunity to pass upon (and approve or reject) such proposed expenditures, with the foreknowledge that -- if approved -- these will subsequently be recorded as pre-operating expenses that the contractor will have to recoup over the grace period. That is not all.
Under Section 24, an exploration permit holder who determines the commercial viability of a project covering a mining area may, within the term of the permit, file with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau a declaration of mining project feasibility. This declaration is to be accompanied by a work program for development for the Bureaus approval, the necessary prelude for entering into an FTAA, a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), or some other mineral agreement. At this stage, too, the government obviously has the opportunity to approve or reject the proposed work program and budgeted expenditures for development works on the project. Such expenditures will ultimately become the pre-operating and development costs that will have to be recovered by the contractor.
Naturally, with the submission of approved work programs and budgets for the exploration and the development/construction phases, the government will be able to scrutinize and approve or reject such expenditures. It will be well-informed as to the amounts of pre-operating and other expenses that the contractor may legitimately recover and the approximate period of time needed to effect such a recovery. There is therefore no way the contractor can just randomly post any amount of pre-operating expenses and expect to recover the same.
The aforecited provisions on approved work programs and budgets have counterparts in Section 35, which deals with the terms and conditions exclusively applicable to FTAAs. The said provision requires certain terms and conditions to be incorporated into FTAAs; among them, a firm commitment x x x of an amount corresponding to the expenditure obligation that will be invested in the contract area and representations and warranties x x x to timely deploy these [financing, managerial and technical expertise and technological] resources under its supervision pursuant to the periodic work programs and related budgets x x x, as well as work programs and minimum expenditures commitments. (underscoring supplied)
Unarguably, given the provisions of Section 35, the State has every opportunity to pass upon the proposed expenditures under an FTAA and approve or reject them. It has access to all the information it may need in order to determine in advance the amounts of pre-operating and developmental expenses that will have to be recovered by the contractor and the amount of time needed for such recovery.
In summary, we cannot agree that the third or last paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 is in any manner unconstitutional.
No Deprivation of
It is also claimed that aside from the second and the third paragraphs of Section 81 (discussed above), Sections 80, 84 and 112 of RA 7942 also operate to deprive the State of beneficial rights of ownership over mineral resources; and give them away for free to private business enterprises (including foreign owned corporations). Likewise, the said provisions have been construed as constituting, together with Section 81, an ingenious attempt to resurrect the old and discredited system of license, concession or lease.
Specifically, Section 80 is condemned for limiting the States share in a mineral production-sharing agreement (MPSA) to just the excise tax on the mineral product. Under Section 151(A) of the Tax Code, such tax is only 2 percent of the market value of the gross output of the minerals. The colatilla in Section 84, the portion considered offensive to the Constitution, reiterates the same limitation made in Section 80.
It should be pointed out that Section 80 and the colatilla in Section 84 pertain only to MPSAs and have no application to FTAAs. These particular statutory provisions do not come within the issues that were defined and delineated by this Court during the Oral Argument -- particularly the third issue, which pertained exclusively to FTAAs. Neither did the parties argue upon them in their pleadings. Hence, this Court cannot make any pronouncement in this case regarding the constitutionality of Sections 80 and 84 without violating the fundamental rules of due process. Indeed, the two provisos will have to await another case specifically placing them in issue.
On the other hand, Section 112 is disparaged for allegedly reverting FTAAs and all mineral agreements to the old and discredited license, concession or lease system. This Section states in relevant part that the provisions of Chapter XIV [which includes Sections 80 to 82] on government share in mineral production-sharing agreement x x x shall immediately govern and apply to a mining lessee or contractor. (underscoring supplied) This provision is construed as signifying that the 2 percent excise tax which, pursuant to Section 80, comprises the government share in MPSAs shall now also constitute the government share in FTAAs -- as well as in co-production agreements and joint venture agreements -- to the exclusion of revenues of any other nature or from any other source.
Apart from the fact that Section 112 likewise does not come within the issues delineated by this Court during the Oral Argument, and was never touched upon by the parties in their pleadings, it must also be noted that the criticism hurled against this Section is rooted in unwarranted conclusions made without considering other relevant provisions in the statute. Whether Section 112 may properly apply to co-production or joint venture agreements, the fact of the matter is that it cannot be made to apply to FTAAs.
First, Section 112 does not specifically mention or refer to FTAAs; the only reason it is being applied to them at all is the fact that it happens to use the word contractor. Hence, it is a bit of a stretch to insist that it covers FTAAs as well. Second, mineral agreements, of which there are three types -- MPSAs, co-production agreements, and joint venture agreements -- are covered by Chapter V of RA 7942. On the other hand, FTAAs are covered by and in fact are the subject of Chapter VI, an entirely different chapter altogether. The law obviously intends to treat them as a breed apart from mineral agreements, since Section 35 (found in Chapter VI) creates a long list of specific terms, conditions, commitments, representations and warranties -- which have not been made applicable to mineral agreements -- to be incorporated into FTAAs.
Third, under Section 39, the FTAA contractor is given the option to downgrade -- to convert the FTAA into a mineral agreement at any time during the term if the economic viability of the contract area is inadequate to sustain large-scale mining operations. Thus, there is no reason to think that the law through Section 112 intends to exact from FTAA contractors merely the same government share (a 2 percent excise tax) that it apparently demands from contractors under the three forms of mineral agreements. In brief, Section 112 does not apply to FTAAs.
Notwithstanding the foregoing explanation, Justices Carpio and Morales maintain that the Court must rule now on the constitutionality of Sections 80, 84 and 112, allegedly because the WMCP FTAA contains a provision which grants the contractor unbridled and automatic authority to convert the FTAA into an MPSA; and should such conversion happen, the State would be prejudiced since its share would be limited to the 2 percent excise tax. Justice Carpio adds that there are five MPSAs already signed just awaiting the judgment of this Court on respondents and intervenors Motions for Reconsideration. We hold however that, at this point, this argument is based on pure speculation. The Court cannot rule on mere surmises and hypothetical assumptions, without firm factual anchor. We repeat: basic due process requires that we hear the parties who have a real legal interest in the MPSAs (i.e. the parties who executed them) before these MPSAs can be reviewed, or worse, struck down by the Court. Anything less than that requirement would be arbitrary and capricious.
In any event, the conversion of the present FTAA into an MPSA is problematic. First, the contractor must comply with the law, particularly Section 39 of RA 7942; inter alia, it must convincingly show that the economic viability of the contract is found to be inadequate to justify large-scale mining operations; second, it must contend with the Presidents exercise of the power of State control over the EDU of natural resources; and third, it will have to risk a possible declaration of the unconstitutionality (in a proper case) of Sections 80, 84 and 112.
The first requirement is not as simple as it looks. Section 39 contemplates a situation in which an FTAA has already been executed and entered into, and is presumably being implemented, when the contractor discovers that the mineral ore reserves in the contract area are not sufficient to justify large-scale mining, and thus the contractor requests the conversion of the FTAA into an MPSA. The contractor in effect needs to explain why, despite its exploration activities, including the conduct of various geologic and other scientific tests and procedures in the contract area, it was unable to determine correctly the mineral ore reserves and the economic viability of the area. The contractor must explain why, after conducting such exploration activities, it decided to file a declaration of mining feasibility, and to apply for an FTAA, thereby leading the State to believe that the area could sustain large-scale mining. The contractor must justify fully why its earlier findings, based on scientific procedures, tests and data, turned out to be wrong, or were way off. It must likewise prove that its new findings, also based on scientific tests and procedures, are correct. Right away, this puts the contractors technical capabilities and expertise into serious doubt. We wonder if anyone would relish being in this situation. The State could even question and challenge the contractors qualification and competence to continue the activity under an MPSA.
All in all, while there may be cogent grounds to assail the aforecited Sections, this Court -- on considerations of due process -- cannot rule upon them here. Anyway, if later on these Sections are declared unconstitutional, such declaration will not affect the other portions since they are clearly separable from the rest.
Our Mineral Resources Not
Given Away for Free by RA 7942
Nevertheless, if only to disabuse our minds, we should address the contention that our mineral resources are effectively given away for free by the law (RA 7942) in general and by Sections 80, 81, 84 and 112 in particular.
Foreign contractors do not just waltz into town one day and leave the next, taking away mineral resources without paying anything. In order to get at the minerals, they have to invest huge sums of money (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars) in exploration works first. If the exploration proves unsuccessful, all the cash spent thereon will not be returned to the foreign investors; rather, those funds will have been infused into the local economy, to remain there permanently. The benefits therefrom cannot be simply ignored. And assuming that the foreign contractors are successful in finding ore bodies that are viable for commercial exploitation, they do not just pluck out the minerals and cart them off. They have first to build camp sites and roadways; dig mine shafts and connecting tunnels; prepare tailing ponds, storage areas and vehicle depots; install their machinery and equipment, generator sets, pumps, water tanks and sewer systems, and so on.
In short, they need to expend a great deal more of their funds for facilities, equipment and supplies, fuel, salaries of local labor and technical staff, and other operating expenses. In the meantime, they also have to pay taxes, duties, fees, and royalties. All told, the exploration, pre-feasibility, feasibility, development and construction phases together add up to as many as eleven years. The contractors have to continually shell out funds for the duration of over a decade, before they can commence commercial production from which they would eventually derive revenues. All that money translates into a lot of pump-priming for the local economy.
Granted that the contractors are allowed subsequently to recover their pre-operating expenses, still, that eventuality will happen only after they shall have first put out the cash and fueled the economy. Moreover, in the process of recouping their investments and costs, the foreign contractors do not actually pull out the money from the economy. Rather, they recover or recoup their investments out of actual commercial production by not paying a portion of the basic government share corresponding to national taxes, along with the additional government share, for a period of not more than five years counted from the commencement of commercial production.
It must be noted that there can be no recovery without commencing actual commercial production. In the meantime that the contractors are recouping costs, they need to continue operating; in order to do so, they have to disburse money to meet their various needs. In short, money is continually infused into the economy.
The foregoing discussion should serve to rid us of the mistaken belief that, since the foreign contractors are allowed to recover their investments and costs, the end result is that they practically get the minerals for free, which leaves the Filipino people none the better for it.
All Businesses Entitled
to Cost Recovery
Let it be put on record that not only foreign contractors, but all businessmen and all business entities in general, have to recoup their investments and costs. That is one of the first things a student learns in business school. Regardless of its nationality, and whether or not a business entity has a five-year cost recovery period, it will -- must -- have to recoup its investments, one way or another. This is just common business sense. Recovery of investments is absolutely indispensable for business survival; and business survival ensures soundness of the economy, which is critical and contributory to the general welfare of the people. Even government corporations must recoup their investments in order to survive and continue in operation. And, as the preceding discussion has shown, there is no business that gets ahead or earns profits without any cost to it.
It must also be stressed that, though the State owns vast mineral wealth, such wealth is not readily accessible or transformable into usable and negotiable currency without the intervention of the credible mining companies. Those untapped mineral resources, hidden beneath tons of earth and rock, may as well not be there for all the good they do us right now. They have first to be extracted and converted into marketable form, and the country needs the foreign contractors funds, technology and know-how for that.
After about eleven years of pre-operation and another five years for cost recovery, the foreign contractors will have just broken even. Is it likely that they would at that point stop their operations and leave? Certainly not. They have yet to make profits. Thus, for the remainder of the contract term, they must strive to maintain profitability. During this period, they pay the whole of the basic government share and the additional government share which, taken together with indirect taxes and other contributions, amount to approximately 60 percent or more of the entire financial benefits generated by the mining venture.
In sum, we can hardly talk about foreign contractors taking our mineral resources for free. It takes a lot of hard cash to even begin to do what they do. And what they do in this country ultimately benefits the local economy, grows businesses, generates employment, and creates infrastructure, as discussed above. Hence, we definitely disagree with the sweeping claim that no FTAA under Section 81 will ever make any real contribution to the growth of the economy or to the general welfare of the country. This is not a plea for foreign contractors. Rather, this is a question of focusing the judicial spotlight squarely on all the pertinent facts as they bear upon the issue at hand, in order to avoid leaping precipitately to ill-conceived conclusions not solidly grounded upon fact.
Another objection points to the alleged failure of the Mining Law to ensure real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country, as mandated by Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution. Pursuant to Section 81 of the law, the entire after-tax income arising from the exploitation of mineral resources owned by the State supposedly belongs to the foreign contractors, which will naturally repatriate the said after-tax income to their home countries, thereby resulting in no real contribution to the economic growth of this country. Clearly, this contention is premised on erroneous assumptions.
First, as already discussed in detail hereinabove, the concerned agencies have correctly interpreted the second paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 to mean that the government is entitled to an additional share, to be computed based on any one of the following factors: net mining revenues, the present value of the cash flows, or excess profits reckoned against a benchmark rate of return on investments. So it is not correct to say that all of the after-tax income will accrue to the foreign FTAA contractor, as the government effectively receives a significant portion thereof.
Second, the foreign contractors can hardly repatriate the entire after-tax income to their home countries. Even a bit of knowledge of corporate finance will show that it will be impossible to maintain a business as a going concern if the entire net profit earned in any particular year will be taken out and repatriated. The net income figure reflected in the bottom line is a mere accounting figure not necessarily corresponding to cash in the bank, or other quick assets. In order to produce and set aside cash in an amount equivalent to the bottom line figure, one may need to sell off assets or immediately collect receivables or liquidate short-term investments; but doing so may very likely disrupt normal business operations.
In terms of cash flows, the funds corresponding to the net income as of a particular point in time are actually in use in the normal course of business operations. Pulling out such net income disrupts the cash flows and cash position of the enterprise and, depending on the amount being taken out, could seriously cripple or endanger the normal operations and financial health of the business enterprise. In short, no sane business person, concerned with maintaining the mining enterprise as a going concern and keeping a foothold in its market, can afford to repatriate the entire after-tax income to the home country.
The States Receipt of Sixty
Percent of an FTAA Contractors
After-Tax Income Not Mandatory
We now come to the next objection which runs this way: In FTAAs with a foreign contractor, the State must receive at least 60 percent of the after-tax income from the exploitation of its mineral resources. This share is the equivalent of the constitutional requirement that at least 60 percent of the capital, and hence 60 percent of the income, of mining companies should remain in Filipino hands.
First, we fail to see how we can properly conclude that the Constitution mandates the State to extract at least 60 percent of the after-tax income from a mining company run by a foreign contractor. The argument is that the Charter requires the States partner in a co-production agreement, joint venture agreement or MPSA to be a Filipino corporation (at least 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens).
We question the logic of this reasoning, premised on a supposedly parallel or analogous situation. We are, after all, dealing with an essentially different equation, one that involves different elements. The Charter did not intend to fix an iron-clad rule on the 60 percent share, applicable to all situations at all times and in all circumstances. If ever such was the intention of the framers, they would have spelt it out in black and white. Verba legis will serve to dispel unwarranted and untenable conclusions.
Second, if we would bother to do the math, we might better
appreciate the impact (and reasonableness) of what we are demanding of the
foreign contractor. Let us use a simplified illustration. Let us base
it on gross revenues of, say,
P500. After deducting operating expenses,
but prior to income tax, suppose a mining firm makes a taxable income of
P100. A corporate income tax of 32 percent results in P32 of
taxable income going to the government, leaving the mining firm with P68.
Government then takes 60 percent thereof, equivalent to P40.80,
leaving only P27.20 for the mining firm.
At this point the government has pocketed
P32.00 plus P40.80,
or a total of P72.80 for every P100 of taxable income, leaving
the mining firm with only P27.20. But that is not all. The government
has also taken 2 percent excise tax off the top, equivalent to another P10.
Under the minimum 60 percent proposal, the government nets around P82.80
(not counting other taxes, duties, fees and charges) from a taxable income of P100
(assuming gross revenues of P500, for purposes of illustration). On the
other hand, the foreign contractor, which provided all the capital,
equipment and labor, and took all the entrepreneurial risks -- receives P27.20.
One cannot but wonder whether such a distribution is even remotely equitable
and reasonable, considering the nature of the mining business. The
amount of P82.80 out of P100.00 is really a lot it does not
matter that we call part of it excise tax or income tax, and
another portion thereof income from exploitation of mineral resources.
Some might think it wonderful to be able to take the lions share of the benefits.
But we have to ask ourselves if we are really serious in attracting the
investments that are the indispensable and key element in generating the
monetary benefits of which we wish to take the lions share. Fairness is a
credo not only in law, but also in business.
Third, the 60 percent rule in the petroleum industry cannot be insisted upon at all times in the mining business. The reason happens to be the fact that in petroleum operations, the bulk of expenditures is in exploration, but once the contractor has found and tapped into the deposit, subsequent investments and expenditures are relatively minimal. The crude (or gas) keeps gushing out, and the work entailed is just a matter of piping, transporting and storing. Not so in mineral mining. The ore body does not pop out on its own. Even after it has been located, the contractor must continually invest in machineries and expend funds to dig and build tunnels in order to access and extract the minerals from underneath hundreds of tons of earth and rock.
As already stated, the numerous intrinsic differences involved in their respective operations and requirements, cost structures and investment needs render it highly inappropriate to use petroleum operations FTAAs as benchmarks for mining FTAAs. Verily, we cannot just ignore the realities of the distinctly different situations and stubbornly insist on the minimum 60 percent.
The Mining and the Oil Industries
Different From Each Other
To stress, there is no independent showing that the taking of at least a 60 percent share in the after-tax income of a mining company operated by a foreign contractor is fair and reasonable under most if not all circumstances. The fact that some petroleum companies like Shell acceded to such percentage of sharing does not ipso facto mean that it is per se reasonable and applicable to non-petroleum situations (that is, mining companies) as well. We can take judicial notice of the fact that there are, after all, numerous intrinsic differences involved in their respective operations and equipment or technological requirements, costs structures and capital investment needs, and product pricing and markets.
There is no showing, for instance, that mining companies can readily cope with a 60 percent government share in the same way petroleum companies apparently can. What we have is a suggestion to enforce the 60 percent quota on the basis of a disjointed analogy. The only factor common to the two disparate situations is the extraction of natural resources.
Indeed, we should take note of the fact that Congress made a distinction between mining firms and petroleum companies. In Republic Act No. 7729 -- An Act Reducing the Excise Tax Rates on Metallic and Non-Metallic Minerals and Quarry Resources, Amending for the Purpose Section 151(a) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended -- the lawmakers fixed the excise tax rate on metallic and non-metallic minerals at two percent of the actual market value of the annual gross output at the time of removal. However, in the case of petroleum, the lawmakers set the excise tax rate for the first taxable sale at fifteen percent of the fair international market price thereof.
There must have been a very sound reason that impelled Congress to impose two very dissimilar excise tax rate. We cannot assume, without proof, that our honorable legislators acted arbitrarily, capriciously and whimsically in this instance. We cannot just ignore the reality of two distinctly different situations and stubbornly insist on going minimum 60 percent.
To repeat, the mere fact that gas and oil exploration contracts grant the State 60 percent of the net revenues does not necessarily imply that mining contracts should likewise yield a minimum of 60 percent for the State. Jumping to that erroneous conclusion is like comparing apples with oranges. The exploration, development and utilization of gas and oil are simply different from those of mineral resources.
To stress again, the main risk in gas and oil is in the exploration. But once oil in commercial quantities is struck and the wells are put in place, the risk is relatively over and black gold simply flows out continuously with comparatively less need for fresh investments and technology.
On the other hand, even if minerals are found in viable quantities, there is still need for continuous fresh capital and expertise to dig the mineral ores from the mines. Just because deposits of mineral ores are found in one area is no guarantee that an equal amount can be found in the adjacent areas. There are simply continuing risks and need for more capital, expertise and industry all the time.
Note, however, that the indirect benefits -- apart from the cash revenues -- are much more in the mineral industry. As mines are explored and extracted, vast employment is created, roads and other infrastructure are built, and other multiplier effects arise. On the other hand, once oil wells start producing, there is less need for employment. Roads and other public works need not be constructed continuously. In fine, there is no basis for saying that government revenues from the oil industry and from the mineral industries are to be identical all the time.
Fourth, to our mind, the proffered minimum 60 percent suggestion tends to limit the flexibility and tie the hands of government, ultimately hampering the countrys competitiveness in the international market, to the detriment of the Filipino people. This you-have-to-give-us-60-percent-of-after-tax-income-or-we-dont-do- business-with-you approach is quite perilous. True, this situation may not seem too unpalatable to the foreign contractor during good years, when international market prices are up and the mining firm manages to keep its costs in check. However, under unfavorable economic and business conditions, with costs spiraling skywards and minerals prices plummeting, a mining firm may consider itself lucky to make just minimal profits.
The inflexible, carved-in-granite demand for a 60 percent government share may spell the end of the mining venture, scare away potential investors, and thereby further worsen the already dismal economic scenario. Moreover, such an unbending or unyielding policy prevents the government from responding appropriately to changing economic conditions and shifting market forces. This inflexibility further renders our country less attractive as an investment option compared with other countries.
And fifth, for this Court to decree imperiously that the governments share should be not less than 60 percent of the after-tax income of FTAA contractors at all times is nothing short of dictating upon the government. The result, ironically, is that the State ends up losing control. To avoid compromising the States full control and supervision over the exploitation of mineral resources, this Court must back off from insisting upon a minimum 60 percent rule. It is sufficient that the State has the power and means, should it so decide, to get a 60 percent share (or more) in the contractors net mining revenues or after-tax income, or whatever other basis the government may decide to use in reckoning its share. It is not necessary for it to do so in every case, regardless of circumstances.
In fact, the government must be trusted, must be accorded the liberty and the utmost flexibility to deal, negotiate and transact with contractors and third parties as it sees fit; and upon terms that it ascertains to be most favorable or most acceptable under the circumstances, even if it means agreeing to less than 60 percent. Nothing must prevent the State from agreeing to a share less than that, should it be deemed fit; otherwise the State will be deprived of full control over mineral exploitation that the Charter has vested in it.
To stress again, there is simply no constitutional or legal provision fixing the minimum share of the government in an FTAA at 60 percent of the net profit. For this Court to decree such minimum is to wade into judicial legislation, and thereby inordinately impinge on the control power of the State. Let it be clear: the Court is not against the grant of more benefits to the State; in fact, the more the better. If during the FTAA negotiations, the President can secure 60 percent, or even 90 percent, then all the better for our people. But, if under the peculiar circumstances of a specific contract, the President could secure only 50 percent or 55 percent, so be it. Needless to say, the President will have to report (and be responsible for) the specific FTAA to Congress, and eventually to the people.
Finally, if it should later be found that the share agreed to is grossly disadvantageous to the government, the officials responsible for entering into such a contract on its behalf will have to answer to the courts for their malfeasance. And the contract provision voided. But this Court would abuse its own authority should it force the governments hand to adopt the 60 percent demand of some of our esteemed colleagues.
Capital and Expertise Provided,
Yet All Risks Assumed by Contractor
Here, we will repeat what has not been emphasized and appreciated enough: the fact that the contractor in an FTAA provides all the needed capital, technical and managerial expertise, and technology required to undertake the project.
In regard to the WMCP FTAA, the then foreign-owned WMCP as
contractor committed, at the very outset, to make capital investments of up to
US$50 million in that single mining project. WMCP claims to have already
poured in well over
P800 million into the country as of February 1998,
with more in the pipeline. These resources, valued in the tens or hundreds of
millions of dollars, are invested in a mining project that provides no
assurance whatsoever that any part of the investment will be ultimately
At the same time, the contractor must comply with legally imposed environmental standards and the social obligations, for which it also commits to make significant expenditures of funds. Throughout, the contractor assumes all the risks of the business, as mentioned earlier. These risks are indeed very high, considering that the rate of success in exploration is extremely low. The probability of finding any mineral or petroleum in commercially viable quantities is estimated to be about 1:1,000 only. On that slim chance rides the contractors hope of recouping investments and generating profits. And when the contractor has recouped its initial investments in the project, the government share increases to sixty percent of net benefits -- without the State ever being in peril of incurring costs, expenses and losses.
And even in the worst possible scenario -- an absence of
commercial quantities of minerals to justify development -- the contractor
would already have spent several million pesos for exploration works, before
arriving at the point in which it can make that determination and decide to cut
its losses. In fact, during the first year alone of the exploration
period, the contractor was already committed to spend not less than
million. The FTAA therefore clearly ensures benefits for the local economy,
courtesy of the contractor.
All in all, this setup cannot be regarded as disadvantageous to the State or the Filipino people; it certainly cannot be said to convey beneficial ownership of our mineral resources to foreign contractors.
Deductions Allowed by the
WMCP FTAA Reasonable
Petitioners question whether the States weak control might render the sharing arrangements ineffective. They cite the so-called suspicious deductions allowed by the WMCP FTAA in arriving at the net mining revenue, which is the basis for computing the government share. The WMCP FTAA, for instance, allows expenditures for development within and outside the Contract Area relating to the Mining Operations, consulting fees incurred both inside and outside the Philippines for work related directly to the Mining Operations, and the establishment and administration of field offices including administrative overheads incurred within and outside the Philippines which are properly allocatable to the Mining Operations and reasonably related to the performance of the Contractors obligations and exercise of its rights under this Agreement.
It is quite well known, however, that mining companies do perform some marketing activities abroad in respect of selling their mineral products and by-products. Hence, it would not be improper to allow the deduction of reasonable consulting fees incurred abroad, as well as administrative expenses and overheads related to marketing offices also located abroad -- provided that these deductions are directly related or properly allocatable to the mining operations and reasonably related to the performance of the contractors obligations and exercise of its rights. In any event, more facts are needed. Until we see how these provisions actually operate, mere suspicions will not suffice to propel this Court into taking action.
Section 7.9 of the WMCP FTAA
Invalid and Disadvantageous
Having defended the WMCP FTAA, we shall now turn to two defective provisos. Let us start with Section 7.9 of the WMCP FTAA. While Section 7.7 gives the government a 60 percent share in the net mining revenues of WMCP from the commencement of commercial production, Section 7.9 deprives the government of part or all of the said 60 percent. Under the latter provision, should WMCPs foreign shareholders -- who originally owned 100 percent of the equity -- sell 60 percent or more of its outstanding capital stock to a Filipino citizen or corporation, the State loses its right to receive its 60 percent share in net mining revenues under Section 7.7.
Section 7.9 provides:
The percentage of Net Mining Revenues payable to the Government pursuant to Clause 7.7 shall be reduced by 1percent of Net Mining Revenues for every 1percent ownership interest in the Contractor (i.e., WMCP) held by a Qualified Entity.
Evidently, what Section 7.7 grants to the State is taken away in the next breath by Section 7.9 without any offsetting compensation to the State. Thus, in reality, the State has no vested right to receive any income from the FTAA for the exploitation of its mineral resources. Worse, it would seem that what is given to the State in Section 7.7 is by mere tolerance of WMCPs foreign stockholders, who can at any time cut off the governments entire 60 percent share. They can do so by simply selling 60 percent of WMCPs outstanding capital stock to a Philippine citizen or corporation. Moreover, the proceeds of such sale will of course accrue to the foreign stockholders of WMCP, not to the State.
The sale of 60 percent of WMCPs outstanding equity to a corporation that is 60 percent Filipino-owned and 40 percent foreign-owned will still trigger the operation of Section 7.9. Effectively, the State will lose its right to receive all 60 percent of the net mining revenues of WMCP; and foreign stockholders will own beneficially up to 64 percent of WMCP, consisting of the remaining 40 percent foreign equity therein, plus the 24 percent pro-rata share in the buyer-corporation.
In fact, the January 23, 2001 sale by WMCPs foreign stockholder of the entire outstanding equity in WMCP to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. -- a domestic corporation at least 60 percent Filipino owned -- may be deemed to have automatically triggered the operation of Section 7.9, without need of further action by any party, and removed the States right to receive the 60 percent share in net mining revenues.
At bottom, Section 7.9 has the effect of depriving the State of its 60 percent share in the net mining revenues of WMCP without any offset or compensation whatsoever. It is possible that the inclusion of the offending provision was initially prompted by the desire to provide some form of incentive for the principal foreign stockholder in WMCP to eventually reduce its equity position and ultimately divest in favor of Filipino citizens and corporations. However, as finally structured, Section 7.9 has the deleterious effect of depriving government of the entire 60 percent share in WMCPs net mining revenues, without any form of compensation whatsoever. Such an outcome is completely unacceptable.
The whole point of developing the nations natural resources is to benefit the Filipino people, future generations included. And the State as sovereign and custodian of the nations natural wealth is mandated to protect, conserve, preserve and develop that part of the national patrimony for their benefit. Hence, the Charter lays great emphasis on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country as essential guiding principles to be kept in mind when negotiating the terms and conditions of FTAAs.
Earlier, we held (1) that the State must be accorded the liberty and the utmost flexibility to deal, negotiate and transact with contractors and third parties as it sees fit, and upon terms that it ascertains to be most favorable or most acceptable under the circumstances, even if that should mean agreeing to less than 60 percent; (2) that it is not necessary for the State to extract a 60 percent share in every case and regardless of circumstances; and (3) that should the State be prevented from agreeing to a share less than 60 percent as it deems fit, it will be deprived of the full control over mineral exploitation that the Charter has vested in it.
That full control is obviously not an end in itself; it exists and subsists precisely because of the need to serve and protect the national interest. In this instance, national interest finds particular application in the protection of the national patrimony and the development and exploitation of the countrys mineral resources for the benefit of the Filipino people and the enhancement of economic growth and the general welfare of the country. Undoubtedly, such full control can be misused and abused, as we now witness.
Section 7.9 of the WMCP FTAA effectively gives away the States share of net mining revenues (provided for in Section 7.7) without anything in exchange. Moreover, this outcome constitutes unjust enrichment on the part of the local and foreign stockholders of WMCP. By their mere divestment of up to 60 percent equity in WMCP in favor of Filipino citizens and/or corporations, the local and foreign stockholders get a windfall. Their share in the net mining revenues of WMCP is automatically increased, without their having to pay the government anything for it. In short, the provision in question is without a doubt grossly disadvantageous to the government, detrimental to the interests of the Filipino people, and violative of public policy.
Moreover, it has been reiterated in numerous decisions that the parties to a contract may establish any agreements, terms and conditions that they deem convenient; but these should not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy. Being precisely violative of anti-graft provisions and contrary to public policy, Section 7.9 must therefore be stricken off as invalid.
Whether the government officials concerned acceded to that provision by sheer mistake or with full awareness of the ill consequences, is of no moment. It is hornbook doctrine that the principle of estoppel does not operate against the government for the act of its agents, and that it is never estopped by any mistake or error on their part. It is therefore possible and proper to rectify the situation at this time. Moreover, we may also say that the FTAA in question does not involve mere contractual rights; being impressed as it is with public interest, the contractual provisions and stipulations must yield to the common good and the national interest.
Since the offending provision is very much separable from Section 7.7 and the rest of the FTAA, the deletion of Section 7.9 can be done without affecting or requiring the invalidation of the WMCP FTAA itself. Such a deletion will preserve for the government its due share of the benefits. This way, the mandates of the Constitution are complied with and the interests of the government fully protected, while the business operations of the contractor are not needlessly disrupted.
Section 7.8(e) of the WMCP FTAA
Also Invalid and Disadvantageous
Section 7.8(e) of the WMCP FTAA is likewise invalid. It provides thus:
7.8 The Government Share shall be deemed to include all of the following sums:
(a) all Government taxes, fees, levies, costs, imposts, duties and royalties including excise tax, corporate income tax, customs duty, sales tax, value added tax, occupation and regulatory fees, Government controlled price stabilization schemes, any other form of Government backed schemes, any tax on dividend payments by the Contractor or its Affiliates in respect of revenues from the Mining Operations and any tax on interest on domestic and foreign loans or other financial arrangements or accommodations, including loans extended to the Contractor by its stockholders;
(b) any payments to local and regional government, including taxes, fees, levies, costs, imposts, duties, royalties, occupation and regulatory fees and infrastructure contributions;
(c) any payments to landowners, surface rights holders, occupiers, indigenous people or Claimowners;
(d) costs and expenses of fulfilling the Contractors obligations to contribute to national development in accordance with Clause 10.1(i) (1) and 10.1(i) (2);
(e) an amount equivalent to whatever benefits that may be extended in the future by the Government to the Contractor or to financial or technical assistance agreement contractors in general;
(f) all of the foregoing items which have not previously been offset against the Government Share in an earlier Fiscal Year, adjusted for inflation. (underscoring supplied)
Section 7.8(e) is out of place in the FTAA. It makes no sense why, for instance, money spent by the government for the benefit of the contractor in building roads leading to the mine site should still be deductible from the States share in net mining revenues. Allowing this deduction results in benefiting the contractor twice over. It constitutes unjust enrichment on the part of the contractor at the expense of the government, since the latter is effectively being made to pay twice for the same item. For being grossly disadvantageous and prejudicial to the government and contrary to public policy, Section 7.8(e) is undoubtedly invalid and must be declared to be without effect. Fortunately, this provision can also easily be stricken off without affecting the rest of the FTAA.
Nothing Left Over
In connection with Section 7.8, an objection has been raised: Specified in Section 7.8 are numerous items of deduction from the States 60 percent share. After taking these into account, will the State ever receive anything for its ownership of the mineral resources?
We are confident that under normal circumstances, the answer will be yes. If we examine the various items of deduction listed in Section 7.8 of the WMCP FTAA, we will find that they correspond closely to the components or elements of the basic government share established in DAO 99-56, as discussed in the earlier part of this Opinion.
Likewise, the balance of the governments 60 percent share -- after netting out the items of deduction listed in Section 7.8 --corresponds closely to the additional government share provided for in DAO 99-56 which, we once again stress, has nothing at all to do with indirect taxes. The Ramos-DeVera paper concisely presents the fiscal contribution of an FTAA under DAO 99-56 in this equation:
Receipts from an FTAA = basic govt share + addl govt share
Transposed into a similar equation, the fiscal payments system from the WMCP FTAA assumes the following formulation:
Governments 60 percent share in net mining revenues of WMCP = items listed in Sec. 7.8 of the FTAA + balance of Govt share, payable 4 months from the end of the fiscal year
It should become apparent that the fiscal arrangement under the WMCP FTAA is very similar to that under DAO 99-56, with the balance of government share payable 4 months from end of fiscal year being the equivalent of the additional government share computed in accordance with the net-mining-revenue-based option under DAO 99-56, as discussed above. As we have emphasized earlier, we find each of the three options for computing the additional government share -- as presented in DAO 99-56 -- to be sound and reasonable.
We therefore conclude that there is nothing inherently wrong in the fiscal regime of the WMCP FTAA, and certainly nothing to warrant the invalidation of the FTAA in its entirety.
Section 3.3 of the WMCP
Section 3.3 of the WMCP FTAA is assailed for violating supposed constitutional restrictions on the term of FTAAs. The provision in question reads:
3.3 This Agreement shall be renewed by the Government for a further period of twenty-five (25) years under the same terms and conditions provided that the Contractor lodges a request for renewal with the Government not less than sixty (60) days prior to the expiry of the initial term of this Agreement and provided that the Contractor is not in breach of any of the requirements of this Agreement.
Allegedly, the above provision runs afoul of Section 2 of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which states:
Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.
The State shall protect the nations marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fish-workers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons.
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall promote the development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this provision, within thirty days from its execution.
We hold that the term limitation of twenty-five years does not apply to FTAAs. The reason is that the above provision is found within paragraph 1 of Section 2 of Article XII, which refers to mineral agreements -- co-production agreements, joint venture agreements and mineral production-sharing agreements -- which the government may enter into with Filipino citizens and corporations, at least 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens. The word such clearly refers to these three mineral agreements -- CPAs, JVAs and MPSAs -- not to FTAAs.
Specifically, FTAAs are covered by paragraphs 4 and 5 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution. It will be noted that there are no term limitations provided for in the said paragraphs dealing with FTAAs. This shows that FTAAs are sui generis, in a class of their own. This omission was obviously a deliberate move on the part of the framers. They probably realized that FTAAs would be different in many ways from MPSAs, JVAs and CPAs. The reason the framers did not fix term limitations applicable to FTAAs is that they preferred to leave the matter to the discretion of the legislature and/or the agencies involved in implementing the laws pertaining to FTAAs, in order to give the latter enough flexibility and elbow room to meet changing circumstances.
Note also that, as previously stated, the exploratory phrases of an FTAA lasts up to eleven years. Thereafter, a few more years would be gobbled up in start-up operations. It may take fifteen years before an FTAA contractor can start earning profits. And thus, the period of 25 years may really be short for an FTAA. Consider too that in this kind of agreement, the contractor assumes all entrepreneurial risks. If no commercial quantities of minerals are found, the contractor bears all financial losses. To compensate for this long gestation period and extra business risks, it would not be totally unreasonable to allow it to continue EDU activities for another twenty five years.
In any event, the complaint is that, in essence, Section 3.3 gives the contractor the power to compel the government to renew the WMCP FTAA for another 25 years and deprives the State of any say on whether to renew the contract.
While we agree that Section 3.3 could have been worded so as to prevent it from favoring the contractor, this provision does not violate any constitutional limits, since the said term limitation does not apply at all to FTAAs. Neither can the provision be deemed in any manner to be illegal, as no law is being violated thereby. It is certainly not illegal for the government to waive its option to refuse the renewal of a commercial contract.
Verily, the government did not have to agree to Section 3.3. It could have said No to the stipulation, but it did not. It appears that, in the process of negotiations, the other contracting party was able to convince the government to agree to the renewal terms. Under the circumstances, it does not seem proper for this Court to intervene and step in to undo what might have perhaps been a possible miscalculation on the part of the State. If government believes that it is or will be aggrieved by the effects of Section 3.3, the remedy is the renegotiation of the provision in order to provide the State the option to not renew the FTAA.
Financial Benefits for Foreigners
Not Forbidden by the Constitution
Before leaving this subject matter, we find it necessary for us to rid ourselves of the false belief that the Constitution somehow forbids foreign-owned corporations from deriving financial benefits from the development of our natural or mineral resources.
The Constitution has never prohibited foreign corporations from acquiring and enjoying beneficial interest in the development of Philippine natural resources. The State itself need not directly undertake exploration, development, and utilization activities. Alternatively, the Constitution authorizes the government to enter into joint venture agreements (JVAs), co-production agreements (CPAs) and mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) with contractors who are Filipino citizens or corporations that are at least 60 percent Filipino-owned. They may do the actual dirty work -- the mining operations.
In the case of a 60 percent Filipino-owned corporation, the 40 percent individual and/or corporate non-Filipino stakeholders obviously participate in the beneficial interest derived from the development and utilization of our natural resources. They may receive by way of dividends, up to 40 percent of the contractors earnings from the mining project. Likewise, they may have a say in the decisions of the board of directors, since they are entitled to representation therein to the extent of their equity participation, which the Constitution permits to be up to 40 percent of the contractors equity. Hence, the non-Filipino stakeholders may in that manner also participate in the management of the contractors natural resource development work. All of this is permitted by our Constitution, for any natural resource, and without limitation even in regard to the magnitude of the mining project or operations (see paragraph 1 of Section 2 of Article XII).
It is clear, then, that there is nothing inherently wrong with or constitutionally objectionable about the idea of foreign individuals and entities having or enjoying beneficial interest in -- and participating in the management of operations relative to -- the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources.
FTAA More Advantageous
Than Other Schemes
Like CPA, JVA and MPSA
A final point on the subject of beneficial interest. We believe the FTAA is a more advantageous proposition for the government as compared with other agreements permitted by the Constitution. In a CPA that the government enters into with one or more contractors, the government shall provide inputs to the mining operations other than the mineral resource itself.
In a JVA, a JV company is organized by the government and the contractor, with both parties having equity shares (investments); and the contractor is granted the exclusive right to conduct mining operations and to extract minerals found in the area. On the other hand, in an MPSA, the government grants the contractor the exclusive right to conduct mining operations within the contract area and shares in the gross output; and the contractor provides the necessary financing, technology, management and manpower.
The point being made here is that, in two of the three types of agreements under consideration, the government has to ante up some risk capital for the enterprise. In other words, government funds (public moneys) are withdrawn from other possible uses, put to work in the venture and placed at risk in case the venture fails. This notwithstanding, management and control of the operations of the enterprise are -- in all three arrangements -- in the hands of the contractor, with the government being mainly a silent partner. The three types of agreement mentioned above apply to any natural resource, without limitation and regardless of the size or magnitude of the project or operations.
In contrast to the foregoing arrangements, and pursuant to paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII, the FTAA is limited to large-scale projects and only for minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. Here, the Constitution removes the 40 percent cap on foreign ownership and allows the foreign corporation to own up to 100 percent of the equity. Filipino capital may not be sufficient on account of the size of the project, so the foreign entity may have to ante up all the risk capital.
Correlatively, the foreign stakeholder bears up to 100 percent of the risk of loss if the project fails. In respect of the particular FTAA granted to it, WMCP (then 100 percent foreign owned) was responsible, as contractor, for providing the entire equity, including all the inputs for the project. It was to bear 100 percent of the risk of loss if the project failed, but its maximum potential beneficial interest consisted only of 40 percent of the net beneficial interest, because the other 60 percent is the share of the government, which will never be exposed to any risk of loss whatsoever.
In consonance with the degree of risk assumed, the FTAA vested in WMCP the day-to-day management of the mining operations. Still such management is subject to the overall control and supervision of the State in terms of regular reporting, approvals of work programs and budgets, and so on.
So, one needs to consider in relative terms, the costs of inputs for, degree of risk attendant to, and benefits derived or to be derived from a CPA, a JVA or an MPSA vis--vis those pertaining to an FTAA. It may not be realistically asserted that the foreign grantee of an FTAA is being unduly favored or benefited as compared with a foreign stakeholder in a corporation holding a CPA, a JVA or an MPSA. Seen the other way around, the government is definitely better off with an FTAA than a CPA, a JVA or an MPSA.
on the Mining Industry
During the Oral Argument and in their Final Memorandum, petitioners repeatedly urged the Court to consider whether mining as an industry and economic activity deserved to be accorded priority, preference and government support as against, say, agriculture and other activities in which Filipinos and the Philippines may have an economic advantage. For instance, a recent US study reportedly examined the economic performance of all local US counties that were dependent on mining and 20 percent of whose labor earnings between 1970 and 2000 came from mining enterprises.
The study -- covering 100 US counties in 25 states dependent on mining -- showed that per capita income grew about 30 percent less in mining-dependent communities in the 1980s and 25 percent less for the entire period 1980 to 2000; the level of per capita income was also lower. Therefore, given the slower rate of growth, the gap between these and other local counties increased.
Petitioners invite attention to the OXFAM America Reports warning to developing nations that mining brings with it serious economic problems, including increased regional inequality, unemployment and poverty. They also cite the final report of the Extractive Industries Review project commissioned by the World Bank (the WB-EIR Report), which warns of environmental degradation, social disruption, conflict, and uneven sharing of benefits with local communities that bear the negative social and environmental impact. The Report suggests that countries need to decide on the best way to exploit their natural resources, in order to maximize the value added from the development of their resources and ensure that they are on the path to sustainable development once the resources run out.
Whatever priority or preference may be given to mining vis--vis other economic or non-economic activities is a question of policy that the President and Congress will have to address; it is not for this Court to decide. This Court declares what the Constitution and the laws say, interprets only when necessary, and refrains from delving into matters of policy.
Suffice it to say that the State control accorded by the Constitution over mining activities assures a proper balancing of interests. More pointedly, such control will enable the President to demand the best mining practices and the use of the best available technologies to protect the environment and to rehabilitate mined-out areas. Indeed, under the Mining Law, the government can ensure the protection of the environment during and after mining. It can likewise provide for the mechanisms to protect the rights of indigenous communities, and thereby mold a more socially-responsive, culturally-sensitive and sustainable mining industry.
Early on during the launching of the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Awards on February 6, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos captured the essence of balanced and sustainable mining in these words:
Long term, high profit mining translates into higher revenues for government, more decent jobs for the population, more raw materials to feed the engines of downstream and allied industries, and improved chances of human resource and countryside development by creating self-reliant communities away from urban centers.
x x x x x x x x x
Against a fragile and finite environment, it is sustainability that holds the key. In sustainable mining, we take a middle ground where both production and protection goals are balanced, and where parties-in-interest come to terms.
Neither has the present leadership been remiss in addressing the concerns of sustainable mining operations. Recently, on January 16, 2004 and April 20, 2004, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Orders Nos. 270 and 270-A, respectively, to promote responsible mineral resources exploration, development and utilization, in order to enhance economic growth, in a manner that adheres to the principles of sustainable development and with due regard for justice and equity, sensitivity to the culture of the Filipino people and respect for Philippine sovereignty.
REFUTATION OF DISSENTS
The Court will now take up a number of other specific points raised in the dissents of Justices Carpio and Morales.
1. Justice Morales introduced us to Hugh Morgan, former president and chief executive officer of Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and former president of the Australian Mining Industry Council, who spearheaded the vociferous opposition to the filing by aboriginal peoples of native title claims against mining companies in Australia in the aftermath of the landmark Mabo decision by the Australian High Court. According to sources quoted by our esteemed colleague, Morgan was also a racist and a bigot. In the course of protesting Mabo, Morgan allegedly uttered derogatory remarks belittling the aboriginal culture and race.
An unwritten caveat of this introduction is that this Court should be careful not to permit the entry of the likes of Hugh Morgan and his hordes of alleged racist-bigots at WMC. With all due respect, such scare tactics should have no place in the discussion of this case. We are deliberating on the constitutionality of RA 7942, DAO 96-40 and the FTAA originally granted to WMCP, which had been transferred to Sagittarius Mining, a Filipino corporation. We are not discussing the apparition of white Anglo-Saxon racists/bigots massing at our gates.
2. On the proper interpretation of the phrase agreements involving either technical or financial assistance, Justice Morales points out that at times we conveniently omitted the use of the disjunctive eitheror, which according to her denotes restriction; hence the phrase must be deemed to connote restriction and limitation.
But, as Justice Carpio himself pointed out during the Oral Argument, the disjunctive phrase either technical or financial assistance would, strictly speaking, literally mean that a foreign contractor may provide only one or the other, but not both. And if both technical and financial assistance were required for a project, the State would have to deal with at least two different foreign contractors -- one for financial and the other for technical assistance. And following on that, a foreign contractor, though very much qualified to provide both kinds of assistance, would nevertheless be prohibited from providing one kind as soon as it shall have agreed to provide the other.
But if the Court should follow this restrictive and literal construction, can we really find two (or more) contractors who are willing to participate in one single project -- one to provide the financial assistance only and the other the technical assistance exclusively; it would be excellent if these two or more contractors happen to be willing and are able to cooperate and work closely together on the same project (even if they are otherwise competitors). And it would be superb if no conflicts would arise between or among them in the entire course of the contract. But what are the chances things will turn out this way in the real world? To think that the framers deliberately imposed this kind of restriction is to say that they were either exceedingly optimistic, or incredibly nave. This begs the question -- What laudable objective or purpose could possibly be served by such strict and restrictive literal interpretation?
3. Citing Oposa v. Factoran Jr., Justice Morales claims that a service contract is not a contract or property right which merits protection by the due process clause of the Constitution, but merely a license or privilege which may be validly revoked, rescinded or withdrawn by executive action whenever dictated by public interest or public welfare.
Oposa cites Tan v. Director of Forestry and Ysmael v. Deputy Executive Secretary as authority. The latter cases dealt specifically with timber licenses only. Oposa allegedly reiterated that a license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise would be unlawful, and is not a contract between the authority, federal, state or municipal, granting it and the person to whom it is granted; neither is it property or a property right, nor does it create a vested right; nor is it taxation. Thus this Court held that the granting of license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights.
Should Oposa be deemed applicable to the case at bar, on the argument that natural resources are also involved in this situation? We do not think so. A grantee of a timber license, permit or license agreement gets to cut the timber already growing on the surface; it need not dig up tons of earth to get at the logs. In a logging concession, the investment of the licensee is not as substantial as the investment of a large-scale mining contractor. If a timber license were revoked, the licensee packs up its gear and moves to a new area applied for, and starts over; what it leaves behind are mainly the trails leading to the logging site.
In contrast, the mining contractor will have sunk a great deal of money (tens of millions of dollars) into the ground, so to speak, for exploration activities, for development of the mine site and infrastructure, and for the actual excavation and extraction of minerals, including the extensive tunneling work to reach the ore body. The cancellation of the mining contract will utterly deprive the contractor of its investments (i.e., prevent recovery of investments), most of which cannot be pulled out.
To say that an FTAA is just like a mere timber license or permit and does not involve contract or property rights which merit protection by the due process clause of the Constitution, and may therefore be revoked or cancelled in the blink of an eye, is to adopt a well-nigh confiscatory stance; at the very least, it is downright dismissive of the property rights of businesspersons and corporate entities that have investments in the mining industry, whose investments, operations and expenditures do contribute to the general welfare of the people, the coffers of government, and the strength of the economy. Such a pronouncement will surely discourage investments (local and foreign) which are critically needed to fuel the engine of economic growth and move this country out of the rut of poverty. In sum, Oposa is not applicable.
4. Justice Morales adverts to the supposedly clear intention of the framers of the Constitution to reserve our natural resources exclusively for the Filipino people. She then quoted from the records of the ConCom deliberations a passage in which then Commissioner Davide explained his vote, arguing in the process that aliens ought not be allowed to participate in the enjoyment of our natural resources. One passage does not suffice to capture the tenor or substance of the entire extensive deliberations of the commissioners, or to reveal the clear intention of the framers as a group. A re-reading of the entire deliberations (quoted here earlier) is necessary if we are to understand the true intent of the framers.
5. Since 1935, the Filipino people, through their Constitution, have decided that the retardation or delay in the exploration, development or utilization of the nations natural resources is merely secondary to the protection and preservation of their ownership of the natural resources, so says Justice Morales, citing Aruego. If it is true that the framers of the 1987 Constitution did not care much about alleviating the retardation or delay in the development and utilization of our natural resources, why did they bother to write paragraph 4 at all? Were they merely paying lip service to large-scale exploration, development and utilization? They could have just completely ignored the subject matter and left it to be dealt with through a future constitutional amendment. But we have to harmonize every part of the Constitution and to interpret each provision in a manner that would give life and meaning to it and to the rest of the provisions. It is obvious that a literal interpretation of paragraph 4 will render it utterly inutile and inoperative.
6. According to Justice Morales, the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission do not support our contention that the framers, by specifying such agreements involving financial or technical assistance, necessarily gave implied assent to everything that these agreements implicitly entailed, or that could reasonably be deemed necessary to make them tenable and effective, including management authority in the day-to-day operations. As proof thereof, she quotes one single passage from the ConCom deliberations, consisting of an exchange among Commissioners Tingson, Garcia and Monsod.
However, the quoted exchange does not serve to contradict our argument; it even bolsters it. Comm. Christian Monsod was quoted as saying: xxx I think we have to make a distinction that it is not really realistic to say that we will borrow on our own terms. Maybe we can say that we inherited unjust loans, and we would like to repay these on terms that are not prejudicial to our own growth. But the general statement that we should only borrow on our own terms is a bit unrealistic. Comm. Monsod is one who knew whereof he spoke.
7. Justice Morales also declares that the optimal time for the conversion of an FTAA into an MPSA is after completion of the exploration phase and just before undertaking the development and construction phase, on account of the fact that the requirement for a minimum investment of $50 million is applicable only during the development, construction and utilization phase, but not during the exploration phase, when the foreign contractor need merely comply with minimum ground expenditures. Thus by converting, the foreign contractor maximizes its profits by avoiding its obligation to make the minimum investment of $50 million.
This argument forgets that the foreign contractor is in the game precisely to make money. In order to come anywhere near profitability, the contractor must first extract and sell the mineral ore. In order to do that, it must also develop and construct the mining facilities, set up its machineries and equipment and dig the tunnels to get to the deposit. The contractor is thus compelled to expend funds in order to make profits. If it decides to cut back on investments and expenditures, it will necessarily sacrifice the pace of development and utilization; it will necessarily sacrifice the amount of profits it can make from the mining operations. In fact, at certain less-than-optimal levels of operation, the stream of revenues generated may not even be enough to cover variable expenses, let alone overhead expenses; this is a dismal situation anyone would want to avoid. In order to make money, one has to spend money. This truism applies to the mining industry as well.
8. Mortgaging the minerals to secure a foreign FTAA contractors obligations is anomalous, according to Justice Morales since the contractor was from the beginning obliged to provide all financing needed for the mining operations. However, the mortgaging of minerals by the contractor does not necessarily signify that the contractor is unable to provide all financing required for the project, or that it does not have the financial capability to undertake large-scale operations. Mortgaging of mineral products, just like the assignment (by way of security) of manufactured goods and goods in inventory, and the assignment of receivables, is an ordinary requirement of banks, even in the case of clients with more than sufficient financial resources. And nowadays, even the richest and best managed corporations make use of bank credit facilities -- it does not necessarily signify that they do not have the financial resources or are unable to provide the financing on their own; it is just a manner of maximizing the use of their funds.
9. Does the contractor in reality acquire the surface rights for free, by virtue of the fact that it is entitled to reimbursement for the costs of acquisition and maintenance, adjusted for inflation? We think not. The reimbursement is possible only at the end of the term of the contract, when the surface rights will no longer be needed, and the land previously acquired will have to be disposed of, in which case the contractor gets reimbursement from the sales proceeds. The contractor has to pay out the acquisition price for the land. That money will belong to the seller of the land. Only if and when the land is finally sold off will the contractor get any reimbursement. In other words, the contractor will have been cash-out for the entire duration of the term of the contract -- 25 or 50 years, depending. If we calculate the cost of money at say 12 percent per annum, that is the cost or opportunity loss to the contractor, in addition to the amount of the acquisition price. 12 percent per annum for 50 years is 600 percent; this, without any compounding yet. The cost of money is therefore at least 600 percent of the original acquisition cost; it is in addition to the acquisition cost. For free? Not by a long shot.
10. The contractor will acquire and hold up to 5,000 hectares? We doubt it. The acquisition by the State of land for the contractor is just to enable the contractor to establish its mine site, build its facilities, establish a tailings pond, set up its machinery and equipment, and dig mine shafts and tunnels, etc. It is impossible that the surface requirement will aggregate 5,000 hectares. Much of the operations will consist of the tunneling and digging underground, which will not require possessing or using any land surface. 5,000 hectares is way too much for the needs of a mining operator. It simply will not spend its cash to acquire property that it will not need; the cash may be better employed for the actual mining operations, to yield a profit.
11. Justice Carpio claims that the phrase among other things (found in the second paragraph of Section 81 of the Mining Act) is being incorrectly treated as a delegation of legislative power to the DENR secretary to issue DAO 99-56 and prescribe the formulae therein on the States share from mining operations. He adds that the phrase among other things was not intended as a delegation of legislative power to the DENR secretary, much less could it be deemed a valid delegation of legislative power, since there is nothing in the second paragraph of Section 81 which can be said to grant any delegated legislative power to the DENR secretary. And even if there were, such delegation would be void, for lack of any standards by which the delegated power shall be exercised.
While there is nothing in the second paragraph of Section 81 which can directly be construed as a delegation of legislative power to the DENR secretary, it does not mean that DAO 99-56 is invalid per se, or that the secretary acted without any authority or jurisdiction in issuing DAO 99-56. As we stated earlier in our Prologue, Who or what organ of government actually exercises this power of control on behalf of the State? The Constitution is crystal clear: the President. Indeed, the Chief Executive is the official constitutionally mandated to enter into agreements with foreign owned corporations. On the other hand, Congress may review the action of the President once it is notified of every contract entered into in accordance with this [constitutional] provision within thirty days from its execution. It is the President who is constitutionally mandated to enter into FTAAs with foreign corporations, and in doing so, it is within the Presidents prerogative to specify certain terms and conditions of the FTAAs, for example, the fiscal regime of FTAAs -- i.e., the sharing of the net mining revenues between the contractor and the State.
Being the Presidents alter ego with respect to the control and supervision of the mining industry, the DENR secretary, acting for the President, is necessarily clothed with the requisite authority and power to draw up guidelines delineating certain terms and conditions, and specifying therein the terms of sharing of benefits from mining, to be applicable to FTAAs in general. It is important to remember that DAO 99-56 has been in existence for almost six years, and has not been amended or revoked by the President.
The issuance of DAO 99-56 did not involve the exercise of delegated legislative power. The legislature did not delegate the power to determine the nature, extent and composition of the items that would come under the phrase among other things. The legislatures power pertains to the imposition of taxes, duties and fees. This power was not delegated to the DENR secretary. But the power to negotiate and enter into FTAAs was withheld from Congress, and reserved for the President. In determining the sharing of mining benefits, i.e., in specifying what the phrase among other things include, the President (through the secretary acting in his/her behalf) was not determining the amount or rate of taxes, duties and fees, but rather the amount of INCOME to be derived from minerals to be extracted and sold, income which belongs to the State as owner of the mineral resources. We may say that, in the second paragraph of Section 81, the legislature in a sense intruded partially into the Presidents sphere of authority when the former provided that
The Government share in financial or technical assistance agreement shall consist of, among other things, the contractors corporate income tax, excise tax, special allowance, withholding tax due from the contractors foreign stockholders arising from dividend or interest payments to the said foreign stockholder in case of a foreign national and all such other taxes, duties and fees as provided for under existing laws. (Italics supplied)
But it did not usurp the Presidents authority since the provision merely included the enumerated items as part of the government share, without foreclosing or in any way preventing (as in fact Congress could not validly prevent) the President from determining what constitutes the States compensation derived from FTAAs. In this case, the President in effect directed the inclusion or addition of other things, viz., INCOME for the owner of the resources, in the governments share, while adopting the items enumerated by Congress as part of the government share also.
12. Justice Carpios insistence on applying the ejusdem generis rule of statutory construction to the phrase among other things is therefore useless, and must fall by the wayside. There is no point trying to construe that phrase in relation to the enumeration of taxes, duties and fees found in paragraph 2 of Section 81, precisely because the constitutional power to prescribe the sharing of mining income between the State and mining companies, to quote Justice Carpio pursuant to an FTAA is constitutionally lodged with the President, not with Congress. It thus makes no sense to persist in giving the phrase among other things a restricted meaning referring only to taxes, duties and fees.
13. Strangely, Justice Carpio claims that the DENR secretary can change the formulae in DAO 99-56 any time even without the approval of the President, and the secretary is the sole authority to determine the amount of consideration that the State shall receive in an FTAA, because Section 5 of the DAO states that xxx any amendment of an FTAA other than the provision on fiscal regime shall require the negotiation with the Negotiation Panel and the recommendation of the Secretary for approval of the President xxx. Allegedly, because of that provision, if an amendment in the FTAA involves non-fiscal matters, the amendment requires approval of the President, but if the amendment involves a change in the fiscal regime, the DENR secretary has the final authority, and approval of the President may be dispensed with; hence the secretary is more powerful than the President.
We believe there is some distortion resulting from the quoted provision being taken out of context. Section 5 of DAO 99-56 reads as follows:
Section 5. Status of Existing FTAAs. All FTAAs approved prior to the effectivity of this Administrative Order shall remain valid and be recognized by the Government: Provided, That should a Contractor desire to amend its FTAA, it shall do so by filing a Letter of Intent (LOI) to the Secretary thru the Director. Provided, further, That if the Contractor desires to amend the fiscal regime of its FTAA, it may do so by seeking for the amendment of its FTAAs whole fiscal regime by adopting the fiscal regime provided hereof: Provided, finally, That any amendment of an FTAA other than the provision on fiscal regime shall require the negotiation with the Negotiating Panel and the recommendation of the Secretary for approval of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. (underscoring supplied)
It looks like another case of misapprehension. The proviso being objected to by Justice Carpio is actually preceded by a phrase that requires a contractor desiring to amend the fiscal regime of its FTAA, to amend the same by adopting the fiscal regime prescribed in DAO 99-56 -- i.e., solely in that manner, and in no other. Obviously, since DAO 99-56 was issued by the secretary under the authority and with the presumed approval of the President, the amendment of an FTAA by merely adopting the fiscal regime prescribed in said DAO 99-56 (and nothing more) need not have the express clearance of the President anymore. It is as if the same had been pre-approved. We cannot fathom the complaint that that makes the secretary more powerful than the President, or that the former is trying to hide things from the President or Congress.
14. Based on the first sentence of Section 5 of DAO 99-56, which states [A]ll FTAAs approved prior to the effectivity of this Administrative Order shall remain valid and be recognized by the Government, Justice Carpio concludes that said Administrative Order allegedly exempts FTAAs approved prior to its effectivity -- like the WMCP FTAA -- from having to pay the State any share from their mining income, apart from taxes, duties and fees.
We disagree. What we see in black and white is the statement that the FTAAs approved before the DAO came into effect are to continue to be valid and will be recognized by the State. Nothing is said about their fiscal regimes. Certainly, there is no basis to claim that the contractors under said FTAAs were being exempted from paying the government a share in their mining incomes.
For the record, the WMCP FTAA is NOT and has never been exempt from paying the government share. The WMCP FTAA has its own fiscal regime -- Section 7.7 -- which gives the government a 60 percent share in the net mining revenues of WMCP from the commencement of commercial production.
For that very reason, we have never said that DAO 99-56 is the basis for claiming that the WMCP FTAA has a consideration. Hence, we find quite out of place Justice Carpios statement that ironically, DAO 99-56, the very authority cited to support the claim that the WMCP FTAA has a consideration, does not apply to the WMCP FTAA. By its own express terms, DAO 99-56 does not apply to FTAAs executed before the issuance of DAO 99-56, like the WMCP FTAA. The majoritys position has allegedly no leg to stand on since even DAO 99-56, assuming it is valid, cannot save the WMCP FTAA from want of consideration. Even assuming arguendo that DAO 99-56 does not apply to the WMCP FTAA, nevertheless, the WMCP FTAA has its own fiscal regime, found in Section 7.7 thereof. Hence, there is no such thing as want of consideration here.
Still more startling is this claim: The majority supposedly agrees that the provisions of the WMCP FTAA, which grant a sham consideration to the State, are void. Since the majority agrees that the WMCP FTAA has a sham consideration, the WMCP FTAA thus lacks the third element of a valid contract. The Decision should declare the WMCP FTAA void for want of consideration unless it treats the contract as an MPSA under Section 80. Indeed the only recourse of WMCP to save the validity of its contract is to convert it into an MPSA.
To clarify, we said that Sections 7.9 and 7.8(e) of the WMCP FTAA are provisions grossly disadvantageous to government and detrimental to the interests of the Filipino people, as well as violative of public policy, and must therefore be stricken off as invalid. Since the offending provisions are very much separable from Section 7.7 and the rest of the FTAA, the deletion of Sections 7.9 and 7.8(e) can be done without affecting or requiring the invalidation of the WMCP FTAA itself, and such deletion will preserve for government its due share of the 60 percent benefits. Therefore, the WMCP FTAA is NOT bereft of a valid consideration (assuming for the nonce that indeed this is the consideration of the FTAA).
To conclude, a summary of the key points discussed above is now in order.
The Meaning of Agreements Involving
Either Technical or Financial Assistance
Applying familiar principles of constitutional construction to the phrase agreements involving either technical or financial assistance, the framers choice of words does not indicate the intent to exclude other modes of assistance, but rather implies that there are other things being included or possibly being made part of the agreement, apart from financial or technical assistance. The drafters avoided the use of restrictive and stringent phraseology; a verba legis scrutiny of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution discloses not even a hint of a desire to prohibit foreign involvement in the management or operation of mining activities, or to eradicate service contracts. Such moves would necessarily imply an underlying drastic shift in fundamental economic and developmental policies of the State. That change requires a much more definite and irrefutable basis than mere omission of the words service contract from the new Constitution.
Furthermore, a literal and restrictive interpretation of this paragraph leads to logical inconsistencies. A constitutional provision specifically allowing foreign-owned corporations to render financial or technical assistance in respect of mining or any other commercial activity was clearly unnecessary; the provision was meant to refer to more than mere financial or technical assistance.
Also, if paragraph 4 permits only agreements for financial or technical assistance, there would be no point in requiring that they be based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country. And considering that there were various long-term service contracts still in force and effect at the time the new Charter was being drafted, the absence of any transitory provisions to govern the termination and closing-out of the then existing service contracts strongly militates against the theory that the mere omission of service contracts signaled their prohibition by the new Constitution.
Resort to the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission is therefore unavoidable, and a careful scrutiny thereof conclusively shows that the ConCom members discussed agreements involving either technical or financial assistance in the same sense as service contracts and used the terms interchangeably. The drafters in fact knew that the agreements with foreign corporations were going to entail not mere technical or financial assistance but, rather, foreign investment in and management of an enterprise for large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals.
The framers spoke about service contracts as the concept was understood in the 1973 Constitution. It is obvious from their discussions that they did not intend to ban or eradicate service contracts. Instead, they were intent on crafting provisions to put in place safeguards that would eliminate or minimize the abuses prevalent during the martial law regime. In brief, they were going to permit service contracts with foreign corporations as contractors, but with safety measures to prevent abuses, as an exception to the general norm established in the first paragraph of Section 2 of Article XII, which reserves or limits to Filipino citizens and corporations at least 60 percent owned by such citizens the exploration, development and utilization of mineral or petroleum resources. This was prompted by the perceived insufficiency of Filipino capital and the felt need for foreign expertise in the EDU of mineral resources.
Despite strong opposition from some ConCom members during the final voting, the Article on the National Economy and Patrimony -- including paragraph 4 allowing service contracts with foreign corporations as an exception to the general norm in paragraph 1 of Section 2 of the same Article -- was resoundingly and overwhelmingly approved.
The drafters, many of whom were economists, academicians, lawyers, businesspersons and politicians knew that foreign entities will not enter into agreements involving assistance without requiring measures of protection to ensure the success of the venture and repayment of their investments, loans and other financial assistance, and ultimately to protect the business reputation of the foreign corporations. The drafters, by specifying such agreements involving assistance, necessarily gave implied assent to everything that these agreements entailed or that could reasonably be deemed necessary to make them tenable and effective -- including management authority with respect to the day-to-day operations of the enterprise, and measures for the protection of the interests of the foreign corporation, at least to the extent that they are consistent with Philippine sovereignty over natural resources, the constitutional requirement of State control, and beneficial ownership of natural resources remaining vested in the State.
From the foregoing, it is clear that agreements involving either technical or financial assistance referred to in paragraph 4 are in fact service contracts, but such new service contracts are between foreign corporations acting as contractors on the one hand, and on the other hand government as principal or owner (of the works), whereby the foreign contractor provides the capital, technology and technical know-how, and managerial expertise in the creation and operation of the large-scale mining/extractive enterprise, and government through its agencies (DENR, MGB) actively exercises full control and supervision over the entire enterprise.
Such service contracts may be entered into only with respect to minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils. The grant of such service contracts is subject to several safeguards, among them: (1) that the service contract be crafted in accordance with a general law setting standard or uniform terms, conditions and requirements; (2) the President be the signatory for the government; and (3) the President report the executed agreement to Congress within thirty days.
Full State Control
To repeat, the primacy of the principle of the States sovereign ownership of all mineral resources, and its full control and supervision over all aspects of exploration, development and utilization of natural resources must be upheld. But full control and supervision cannot be taken literally to mean that the State controls and supervises everything down to the minutest details and makes all required actions, as this would render impossible the legitimate exercise by the contractor of a reasonable degree of management prerogative and authority, indispensable to the proper functioning of the mining enterprise. Also, government need not micro-manage mining operations and day-to-day affairs of the enterprise in order to be considered as exercising full control and supervision.
Control, as utilized in Section 2 of Article XII, must be taken to mean a degree of control sufficient to enable the State to direct, restrain, regulate and govern the affairs of the extractive enterprises. Control by the State may be on a macro level, through the establishment of policies, guidelines, regulations, industry standards and similar measures that would enable government to regulate the conduct of affairs in various enterprises, and restrain activities deemed not desirable or beneficial, with the end in view of ensuring that these enterprises contribute to the economic development and general welfare of the country, conserve the environment, and uplift the well-being of the local affected communities. Such a degree of control would be compatible with permitting the foreign contractor sufficient and reasonable management authority over the enterprise it has invested in, to ensure efficient and profitable operation.
Government Granted Full Control
by RA 7942 and DAO 96-40
Baseless are petitioners sweeping claims that RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations make it possible for FTAA contracts to cede full control and management of mining enterprises over to fully foreign owned corporations. Equally wobbly is the assertion that the State is reduced to a passive regulator dependent on submitted plans and reports, with weak review and audit powers and little say in the decision-making of the enterprise, for which reasons beneficial ownership of the mineral resources is allegedly ceded to the foreign contractor.
As discussed hereinabove, the States full control and supervision over mining operations are ensured through the following provisions in RA 7942: Sections 8, 9, 16, 19, 24, 35[(b), (e), (f), (g), (h), (k), (l), (m) and (o)], 40, 57, 66, 69, 70, and Chapters XI and XVII; as well as the following provisions of DAO 96-40: Sections7[(d) and (f)], 35(a-2), 53[(a-4) and (d)], 54, 56[(g), (h), (l), (m) and (n)], 56(2), 60, 66, 144, 168, 171 and 270, and also Chapters XV, XVI and XXIV.
Through the foregoing provisions, the government agencies concerned are empowered to approve or disapprove -- hence, in a position to influence, direct, and change -- the various work programs and the corresponding minimum expenditure commitments for each of the exploration, development and utilization phases of the enterprise. Once they have been approved, the contractors compliance with its commitments therein will be monitored. Figures for mineral production and sales are regularly monitored and subjected to government review, to ensure that the products and by-products are disposed of at the best prices; copies of sales agreements have to be submitted to and registered with MGB.
The contractor is mandated to open its books of accounts and records for scrutiny, to enable the State to determine that the government share has been fully paid. The State may likewise compel compliance by the contractor with mandatory requirements on mine safety, health and environmental protection, and the use of anti-pollution technology and facilities. The contractor is also obligated to assist the development of the mining community, and pay royalties to the indigenous peoples concerned. And violation of any of the FTAAs terms and conditions, and/or non-compliance with statutes or regulations, may be penalized by cancellation of the FTAA. Such sanction is significant to a contractor who may have yet to recover the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into a mining project.
Overall, the State definitely has a pivotal say in the operation of the individual enterprises, and can set directions and objectives, detect deviations and non-compliances by the contractor, and enforce compliance and impose sanctions should the occasion arise. Hence, RA 7942 and DAO 96-40 vest in government more than a sufficient degree of control and supervision over the conduct of mining operations.
Section 3(aq) of RA 7942 was objected to as being unconstitutional for allowing a foreign contractor to apply for and hold an exploration permit. During the exploration phase, the permit grantee (and prospective contractor) is spending and investing heavily in exploration activities without yet being able to extract minerals and generate revenues. The exploration permit issued under Sections 3(aq), 20 and 23 of RA 7942, which allows exploration but not extraction, serves to protect the interests and rights of the exploration permit grantee (and would-be contractor), foreign or local. Otherwise, the exploration works already conducted, and expenditures already made, may end up only benefiting claim-jumpers. Thus, Section 3(aq) of RA 7942 is not unconstitutional.
WMCP FTAA Likewise Gives the
State Full Control and Supervision
The WMCP FTAA obligates the contractor to account for the value of production and sale of minerals (Clause 1.4); requires that the contractors work program, activities and budgets be approved by the State (Clause 2.1); gives the DENR secretary power to extend the exploration period (Clause 3.2-a); requires approval by the State for incorporation of lands into the contract area (Clause 4.3-c); requires Bureau of Forest Development approval for inclusion of forest reserves as part of the FTAA contract area (Clause 4.5); obligates the contractor to periodically relinquish parts of the contract area not needed for exploration and development (Clause 4.6); requires submission of a declaration of mining feasibility for approval by the State (Clause 4.6-b); obligates the contractor to report to the State the results of its exploration activities (Clause 4.9); requires the contractor to obtain State approval for its work programs for the succeeding two year periods, containing the proposed work activities and expenditures budget related to exploration (Clause 5.1); requires the contractor to obtain State approval for its proposed expenditures for exploration activities (Clause 5.2); requires the contractor to submit an annual report on geological, geophysical, geochemical and other information relating to its explorations within the FTAA area (Clause 5.3-a); requires the contractor to submit within six months after expiration of exploration period a final report on all its findings in the contract area (Clause 5.3-b); requires the contractor after conducting feasibility studies to submit a declaration of mining feasibility, along with a description of the area to be developed and mined, a description of the proposed mining operations and the technology to be employed, and the proposed work program for the development phase, for approval by the DENR secretary (Clause 5.4); obligates the contractor to complete the development of the mine, including construction of the production facilities, within the period stated in the approved work program (Clause 6.1); requires the contractor to submit for approval a work program covering each period of three fiscal years (Clause 6.2); requires the contractor to submit reports to the secretary on the production, ore reserves, work accomplished and work in progress, profile of its work force and management staff, and other technical information (Clause 6.3); subjects any expansions, modifications, improvements and replacements of mining facilities to the approval of the secretary (Clause 6.4); subjects to State control the amount of funds that the contractor may borrow within the Philippines (Clause 7.2); subjects to State supervisory power any technical, financial and marketing issues (Clause 10.1-a); obligates the contractor to ensure 60 percent Filipino equity in the contractor within ten years of recovering specified expenditures unless not so required by subsequent legislation (Clause 10.1); gives the State the right to terminate the FTAA for unremedied substantial breach thereof by the contractor (Clause 13.2); requires State approval for any assignment of the FTAA by the contractor to an entity other than an affiliate (Clause 14.1).
In short, the aforementioned provisions of the WMCP FTAA, far from constituting a surrender of control and a grant of beneficial ownership of mineral resources to the contractor in question, vest the State with control and supervision over practically all aspects of the operations of the FTAA contractor, including the charging of pre-operating and operating expenses, and the disposition of mineral products.
There is likewise no relinquishment of control on account of specific provisions of the WMCP FTAA. Clause 8.2 provides a mechanism to prevent the mining operations from grinding to a complete halt as a result of possible delays of more than 60 days in the governments processing and approval of submitted work programs and budgets. Clause 8.3 seeks to provide a temporary, stop-gap solution in case a disagreement between the State and the contractor (over the proposed work program or budget submitted by the contractor) should result in a deadlock or impasse, to avoid unreasonably long delays in the performance of the works.
The State, despite Clause 8.3, still has control over the contract area, and it may, as sovereign authority, prohibit work thereon until the dispute is resolved, or it may terminate the FTAA, citing substantial breach thereof. Hence, the State clearly retains full and effective control.
Clause 8.5, which allows the contractor to make changes to approved work programs and budgets without the prior approval of the DENR secretary, subject to certain limitations with respect to the variance/s, merely provides the contractor a certain amount of flexibility to meet unexpected situations, while still guaranteeing that the approved work programs and budgets are not abandoned altogether. And if the secretary disagrees with the actions taken by the contractor in this instance, he may also resort to cancellation/termination of the FTAA as the ultimate sanction.
Clause 4.6 of the WMCP FTAA gives the contractor discretion to select parts of the contract area to be relinquished. The State is not in a position to substitute its judgment for that of the contractor, who knows exactly which portions of the contract area do not contain minerals in commercial quantities and should be relinquished. Also, since the annual occupation fees paid to government are based on the total hectarage of the contract area, net of the areas relinquished, the contractors self-interest will assure proper and efficient relinquishment.
Clause 10.2(e) of the WMCP FTAA does not mean that the contractor can compel government to use its power of eminent domain. It contemplates a situation in which the contractor is a foreign-owned corporation, hence, not qualified to own land. The contractor identifies the surface areas needed for it to construct the infrastructure for mining operations, and the State then acquires the surface rights on behalf of the former. The provision does not call for the exercise of the power of eminent domain (or determination of just compensation); it seeks to avoid a violation of the anti-dummy law.
Clause 10.2(l) of the WMCP FTAA giving the contractor the right to mortgage and encumber the mineral products extracted may have been a result of conditions imposed by creditor-banks to secure the loan obligations of WMCP. Banks lend also upon the security of encumbrances on goods produced, which can be easily sold and converted into cash and applied to the repayment of loans. Thus, Clause 10.2(l) is not something out of the ordinary. Neither is it objectionable, because even though the contractor is allowed to mortgage or encumber the mineral end-products themselves, the contractor is not thereby relieved of its obligation to pay the government its basic and additional shares in the net mining revenue. The contractors ability to mortgage the minerals does not negate the States right to receive its share of net mining revenues.
Clause 10.2(k) which gives the contractor authority to change its equity structure at any time, means that WMCP, which was then 100 percent foreign owned, could permit Filipino equity ownership. Moreover, what is important is that the contractor, regardless of its ownership, is always in a position to render the services required under the FTAA, under the direction and control of the government.
Clauses 10.4(e) and (i) bind government to allow amendments to the FTAA if required by banks and other financial institutions as part of the conditions of new lendings. There is nothing objectionable here, since Clause 10.4(e) also provides that such financing arrangements should in no event reduce the contractors obligations or the governments rights under the FTAA. Clause 10.4(i) provides that government shall favourably consider any request for amendments of this agreement necessary for the contractor to successfully obtain financing. There is no renunciation of control, as the proviso does not say that government shall automatically grant any such request. Also, it is up to the contractor to prove the need for the requested changes. The government always has the final say on whether to approve or disapprove such requests.
In fine, the FTAA provisions do not reduce or abdicate State control.
No Surrender of
The second paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 has been denounced for allegedly limiting the States share in FTAAs with foreign contractors to just taxes, fees and duties, and depriving the State of a share in the after-tax income of the enterprise. However, the inclusion of the phrase among other things in the second paragraph of Section 81 clearly and unmistakably reveals the legislative intent to have the State collect more than just the usual taxes, duties and fees.
Thus, DAO 99-56, the Guidelines Establishing the Fiscal Regime of Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements, spells out the financial benefits government will receive from an FTAA, as consisting of not only a basic government share, comprised of all direct taxes, fees and royalties, as well as other payments made by the contractor during the term of the FTAA, but also an additional government share, being a share in the earnings or cash flows of the mining enterprise, so as to achieve a fifty-fifty sharing of net benefits from mining between the government and the contractor.
The additional government share is computed using one of three (3) options or schemes detailed in DAO 99-56, viz., (1) the fifty-fifty sharing of cumulative present value of cash flows; (2) the excess profit-related additional government share; and (3) the additional sharing based on the cumulative net mining revenue. Whichever option or computation is used, the additional government share has nothing to do with taxes, duties, fees or charges. The portion of revenues remaining after the deduction of the basic and additional government shares is what goes to the contractor.
The basic government share and the additional government share do not yet take into account the indirect taxes and other financial contributions of mining projects, which are real and actual benefits enjoyed by the Filipino people; if these are taken into account, total government share increases to 60 percent or higher (as much as 77 percent, and 89 percent in one instance) of the net present value of total benefits from the project.
The third or last paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 is slammed for deferring the payment of the government share in FTAAs until after the contractor shall have recovered its pre-operating expenses, exploration and development expenditures. Allegedly, the collection of the States share is rendered uncertain, as there is no time limit in RA 7942 for this grace period or recovery period. But although RA 7942 did not limit the grace period, the concerned agencies (DENR and MGB) in formulating the 1995 and 1996 Implementing Rules and Regulations provided that the period of recovery, reckoned from the date of commercial operation, shall be for a period not exceeding five years, or until the date of actual recovery, whichever comes earlier.
And since RA 7942 allegedly does not require government approval for the pre-operating, exploration and development expenses of the foreign contractors, it is feared that such expenses could be bloated to wipe out mining revenues anticipated for 10 years, with the result that the States share is zero for the first 10 years. However, the argument is based on incorrect information.
Under Section 23 of RA 7942, the applicant for exploration permit is required to submit a proposed work program for exploration, containing a yearly budget of proposed expenditures, which the State passes upon and either approves or rejects; if approved, the same will subsequently be recorded as pre-operating expenses that the contractor will have to recoup over the grace period.
Under Section 24, when an exploration permittee files with the MGB a declaration of mining project feasibility, it must submit a work program for development, with corresponding budget, for approval by the Bureau, before government may grant an FTAA or MPSA or other mineral agreements; again, government has the opportunity to approve or reject the proposed work program and budgeted expenditures for development works, which will become the pre-operating and development costs that will have to be recovered. Government is able to know ahead of time the amounts of pre-operating and other expenses to be recovered, and the approximate period of time needed therefor. The aforecited provisions have counterparts in Section 35, which deals with the terms and conditions exclusively applicable to FTAAs. In sum, the third or last paragraph of Section 81 of RA 7942 cannot be deemed defective.
Section 80 of RA 7942 allegedly limits the States share in a mineral production-sharing agreement (MPSA) to just the excise tax on the mineral product, i.e., only 2 percent of market value of the minerals. The colatilla in Section 84 reiterates the same limitation in Section 80. However, these two provisions pertain only to MPSAs, and have no application to FTAAs. These particular provisions do not come within the issues defined by this Court. Hence, on due process grounds, no pronouncement can be made in this case in respect of the constitutionality of Sections 80 and 84.
Section 112 is disparaged for reverting FTAAs and all mineral agreements to the old license, concession or lease system, because it allegedly effectively reduces the government share in FTAAs to just the 2 percent excise tax which pursuant to Section 80 comprises the government share in MPSAs. However, Section 112 likewise does not come within the issues delineated by this Court, and was never touched upon by the parties in their pleadings. Moreover, Section 112 may not properly apply to FTAAs. The mining law obviously meant to treat FTAAs as a breed apart from mineral agreements. There is absolutely no basis to believe that the law intends to exact from FTAA contractors merely the same government share (i.e., the 2 percent excise tax) that it apparently demands from contractors under the three forms of mineral agreements.
While there is ground to believe that Sections 80, 84 and 112 are indeed unconstitutional, they cannot be ruled upon here. In any event, they are separable; thus, a later finding of nullity will not affect the rest of RA 7942.
In fine, the challenged provisions of RA 7942 cannot be said to surrender financial benefits from an FTAA to the foreign contractors.
Moreover, there is no concrete basis for the view that, in FTAAs with a foreign contractor, the State must receive at least 60 percent of the after-tax income from the exploitation of its mineral resources, and that such share is the equivalent of the constitutional requirement that at least 60 percent of the capital, and hence 60 percent of the income, of mining companies should remain in Filipino hands. Even if the State is entitled to a 60 percent share from other mineral agreements (CPA, JVA and MPSA), that would not create a parallel or analogous situation for FTAAs. We are dealing with an essentially different equation. Here we have the old apples and oranges syndrome.
The Charter did not intend to fix an iron-clad rule of 60 percent share, applicable to all situations, regardless of circumstances. There is no indication of such an intention on the part of the framers. Moreover, the terms and conditions of petroleum FTAAs cannot serve as standards for mineral mining FTAAs, because the technical and operational requirements, cost structures and investment needs of off-shore petroleum exploration and drilling companies do not have the remotest resemblance to those of on-shore mining companies.
To take the position that governments share must be not less than 60 percent of after-tax income of FTAA contractors is nothing short of this Court dictating upon the government. The State resultantly ends up losing control. To avoid compromising the States full control and supervision over the exploitation of mineral resources, there must be no attempt to impose a minimum 60 percent rule. It is sufficient that the State has the power and means, should it so decide, to get a 60 percent share (or greater); and it is not necessary that the State does so in every case.
Invalid Provisions of
the WMCP FTAA
Section 7.9 of the WMCP FTAA clearly renders illusory the States 60 percent share of WMCPs revenues. Under Section 7.9, should WMCPs foreign stockholders (who originally owned 100 percent of the equity) sell 60 percent or more of their equity to a Filipino citizen or corporation, the State loses its right to receive its share in net mining revenues under Section 7.7, without any offsetting compensation to the State. And what is given to the State in Section 7.7 is by mere tolerance of WMCPs foreign stockholders, who can at any time cut off the governments entire share by simply selling 60 percent of WMCPs equity to a Philippine citizen or corporation.
In fact, the sale by WMCPs foreign stockholder on January 23, 2001 of the entire outstanding equity in WMCP to Sagittarius Mines, Inc., a domestic corporation at least 60 percent Filipino owned, can be deemed to have automatically triggered the operation of Section 7.9 and removed the States right to receive its 60 percent share. Section 7.9 of the WMCP FTAA has effectively given away the States share without anything in exchange.
Moreover, it constitutes unjust enrichment on the part of the local and foreign stockholders in WMCP, because by the mere act of divestment, the local and foreign stockholders get a windfall, as their share in the net mining revenues of WMCP is automatically increased, without having to pay anything for it.
Being grossly disadvantageous to government and detrimental to the Filipino people, as well as violative of public policy, Section 7.9 must therefore be stricken off as invalid. The FTAA in question does not involve mere contractual rights but, being impressed as it is with public interest, the contractual provisions and stipulations must yield to the common good and the national interest. Since the offending provision is very much separable from the rest of the FTAA, the deletion of Section 7.9 can be done without affecting or requiring the invalidation of the entire WMCP FTAA itself.
Section 7.8(e) of the WMCP FTAA likewise is invalid, since by allowing the sums spent by government for the benefit of the contractor to be deductible from the States share in net mining revenues, it results in benefiting the contractor twice over. This constitutes unjust enrichment on the part of the contractor, at the expense of government. For being grossly disadvantageous and prejudicial to government and contrary to public policy, Section 7.8(e) must also be declared without effect. It may likewise be stricken off without affecting the rest of the FTAA.
AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE, it is clear that there is unanimous agreement in the Court upon the key principle that the State must exercise full control and supervision over the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources.
The crux of the controversy is the amount of discretion to be accorded the Executive Department, particularly the President of the Republic, in respect of negotiations over the terms of FTAAs, particularly when it comes to the government share of financial benefits from FTAAs. The Court believes that it is not unconstitutional to allow a wide degree of discretion to the Chief Executive, given the nature and complexity of such agreements, the humongous amounts of capital and financing required for large-scale mining operations, the complicated technology needed, and the intricacies of international trade, coupled with the States need to maintain flexibility in its dealings, in order to preserve and enhance our countrys competitiveness in world markets.
We are all, in one way or another, sorely affected by the recently reported scandals involving corruption in high places, duplicity in the negotiation of multi-billion peso government contracts, huge payoffs to government officials, and other malfeasances; and perhaps, there is the desire to see some measures put in place to prevent further abuse. However, dictating upon the President what minimum share to get from an FTAA is not the solution. It sets a bad precedent since such a move institutionalizes the very reduction if not deprivation of the States control. The remedy may be worse than the problem it was meant to address. In any event, provisions in such future agreements which may be suspected to be grossly disadvantageous or detrimental to government may be challenged in court, and the culprits haled before the bar of justice.
Verily, under the doctrine of separation of powers and due respect for co-equal and coordinate branches of government, this Court must restrain itself from intruding into policy matters and must allow the President and Congress maximum discretion in using the resources of our country and in securing the assistance of foreign groups to eradicate the grinding poverty of our people and answer their cry for viable employment opportunities in the country.
The judiciary is loath to interfere with the due exercise by coequal branches of government of their official functions. As aptly spelled out seven decades ago by Justice George Malcolm, Just as the Supreme Court, as the guardian of constitutional rights, should not sanction usurpations by any other department of government, so should it as strictly confine its own sphere of influence to the powers expressly or by implication conferred on it by the Organic Act. Let the development of the mining industry be the responsibility of the political branches of government. And let not this Court interfere inordinately and unnecessarily.
The Constitution of the Philippines is the supreme law of the land. It is the repository of all the aspirations and hopes of all the people. We fully sympathize with the plight of Petitioner La Bugal Blaan and other tribal groups, and commend their efforts to uplift their communities. However, we cannot justify the invalidation of an otherwise constitutional statute along with its implementing rules, or the nullification of an otherwise legal and binding FTAA contract.
We must never forget that it is not only our less privileged brethren in tribal and cultural communities who deserve the attention of this Court; rather, all parties concerned -- including the State itself, the contractor (whether Filipino or foreign), and the vast majority of our citizens -- equally deserve the protection of the law and of this Court. To stress, the benefits to be derived by the State from mining activities must ultimately serve the great majority of our fellow citizens. They have as much right and interest in the proper and well-ordered development and utilization of the countrys mineral resources as the petitioners.
Whether we consider the near term or take the longer view, we cannot overemphasize the need for an appropriate balancing of interests and needs -- the need to develop our stagnating mining industry and extract what NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri estimates is some US$840 billion (approx. PhP47.04 trillion) worth of mineral wealth lying hidden in the ground, in order to jumpstart our floundering economy on the one hand, and on the other, the need to enhance our nationalistic aspirations, protect our indigenous communities, and prevent irreversible ecological damage.
This Court cannot but be mindful that any decision rendered in this case will ultimately impact not only the cultural communities which lodged the instant Petition, and not only the larger community of the Filipino people now struggling to survive amidst a fiscal/budgetary deficit, ever increasing prices of fuel, food, and essential commodities and services, the shrinking value of the local currency, and a government hamstrung in its delivery of basic services by a severe lack of resources, but also countless future generations of Filipinos.
For this latter group of Filipinos yet to be born, their eventual access to education, health care and basic services, their overall level of well-being, the very shape of their lives are even now being determined and affected partly by the policies and directions being adopted and implemented by government today. And in part by the this Resolution rendered by this Court today.
Verily, the mineral wealth and natural resources of this country are meant to benefit not merely a select group of people living in the areas locally affected by mining activities, but the entire Filipino nation, present and future, to whom the mineral wealth really belong. This Court has therefore weighed carefully the rights and interests of all concerned, and decided for the greater good of the greatest number. JUSTICE FOR ALL, not just for some; JUSTICE FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE, not just for the here and now.
WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to GRANT the respondents and the intervenors Motions for Reconsideration; to REVERSE and SET ASIDE this Courts January 27, 2004 Decision; to DISMISS the Petition; and to issue this new judgment declaring CONSTITUTIONAL (1) Republic Act No. 7942 (the Philippine Mining Law), (2) its Implementing Rules and Regulations contained in DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 9640 -- insofar as they relate to financial and technical assistance agreements referred to in paragraph 4 of Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution; and (3) the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) dated March 30, 1995 executed by the government and Western Mining Corporation Philippines Inc. (WMCP), except Sections 7.8 and 7.9 of the subject FTAA which are hereby INVALIDATED for being contrary to public policy and for being grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Davide Jr., C.J., Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., in the result and votes to invalidate sections 3.3; 7.8 and 7.9 of the WMC FTAA.
Quisumbing, J., in the result.
Ynares-Santiago, J., joins dissenting opinion of J. Antonio Carpio & J. Conchita C. Morales.
Carpio, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., see dissenting opinion.
Corona, J., certifies he voted affirmatively with the majority and he was allowed to do so although he is on leave.
Callejo, Sr., J., concurs to the dissenting opinion of J. Carpio.
Azcuna, J., took no part-same reason.
Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur with a separate opinion.
 Spelled as Nequito in the caption of the Petition, but Nequinto in the body. Rollo, p. 12.
 As spelled in the body of the Petition. Id., p. 13. The caption of the Petition does not include Louel A. Peria as one of the petitioners; only the name of his father, Elpidio V. Peria, appears therein.
 Stated as Kaisahan Tungo sa Kaunlaran at Repormang Pansakahan (KAISAHAN) in the caption of the Petition, but Philippine Kaisahan Tungo sa Kaunlaran at Repormang Pansakahan (KAISAHAN) in the body. Id., p. 14.
 Erroneously designated in the Petition as Western Mining Philippines Corporation. Id., p. 212.
 This is dependent upon the discussion, infra, of the invalidity of Sections 7.8(e) and 7.9 of the subject FTAA, for violation of the Civil Code and the Anti-Graft Law -- these provisions being contrary to public policy and grossly disadvantageous to the government.
 The FTAA is for the exploration, development and commercial exploitation of mineral deposits in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato, covering an area of 99,387 hectares.
 At the time of execution of the subject FTAA in 1995, WMCP was owned by WMC Resources International Pty., Ltd. (WMC) -- a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings Limited, a publicly listed major Australian mining and exploration company. See WMCP FTAA, p. 2.
On Jan. 23, 2001, WMC sold all its shares in WMCP to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (Sagittarius), a corporation organized under Philippine laws, 60% the equity of which is owned by Filipino citizens or Filipino-owned corporations and 40% by Indophil Resources, NL, an Australian company. WMCP was then renamed Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation, and now it claims that by virtue of the sale and transfer of shares, it has ceased to be connected in any way with WMC. On account of such sale and transfer of shares, the then DENR Secretary approved by Order dated Dec. 18, 2001 the transfer and registration of the subject FTAA from WMCP to Sagittarius (Tampakan). Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., which was interested in acquiring the shares in WMCP, appealed this Order of the DENR Secretary, but the Office of the President, and subsequently, the Court of Appeals (CA), upheld said Order.
 Penned by the esteemed Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Decision was promulgated on a vote of 8-5-1. Chief Justice Davide and Justices Puno, Quisumbing, Carpio, Corona, Callejo, and Tinga concurred. Justices Santiago, Gutierrez, and Martinez joined the Dissent of Justice Panganiban, while Justice Vitug wrote a separate Dissent. Justice Azcuna took no part.
 Promulgated on Dec. 31, 1972, Presidential Decree No. 87 (PD 87, otherwise known as The Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972 in 1 thereof) permitted the government to explore for and produce indigenous petroleum through service contracts. A service contract has been defined as a contractual arrangement for engaging in the exploitation and development of petroleum, mineral, energy, land and other natural resources, whereby a government or an agency thereof, or a private person granted a right or privilege by said government, authorizes the other party -- the service contractor -- to engage or participate in the exercise of such right or the enjoyment of the privilege, by providing financial or technical resources, undertaking the exploitation or production of a given resource, or directly managing the productive enterprise, operations of the exploration and exploitation of the resources, or the disposition or marketing of said resources. See Prof. M. Magallona, Service Contracts in Philippine Natural Resources, 9 World Bulletin 1, 4 (1993).
Under PD 87, the service contractor undertook and managed the petroleum operations subject to government oversight. The service contractor was required to be technically competent and financially capable to undertake the necessary operations, as it provided all needed services, technology and financing; performed the exploration work obligations; and assumed all related risks. It could not recover any of its expenditures, if no petroleum was produced. In the event petroleum is discovered in commercial quantity, the contractor operated the field for the government. Proceeds of sale of the petroleum produced under the contract were then applied to pay the service fee due the contractor and reimburse it for its operating expenses incurred.
 Sec. 9 of Art. XIV (National Economy and Patrimony) of the 1973 Constitution allowed Filipino citizens, with the approval of the Batasang Pambansa, to enter into service contracts with any person or entity for the exploration and utilization of natural resources.
Sec. 9. The disposition, exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources of the Philippines shall be limited to citizens, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of which is owned by such citizens. The Batasang Pambansa, in the national interest, may allow such citizens, corporations or associations to enter into service contracts for financial, technical, management or other forms of assistance with any person or entity for the exploration or utilization of any of the natural resources. Existing valid and binding service contracts for financial, technical, management or other forms of assistance are hereby recognized as such.
The intention behind the provision, according to a delegate, was to promote proper development of the natural resources, given the lack of Filipino capital and technical skills needed therefor. The original proposal was to authorize government to enter into such service contracts with foreign entities, but as finally approved, the provision permitted the Batasang Pambansa to authorize a citizen or private entity to be party to such contract. Following the ratification of the 1973 Charter, PD Nos. 151, 463, 704, 705, 1442 were promulgated, authorizing service contracts for exploration, development, exploitation or utilization of lands of the public domain; exploration, development, etc. of a lessees mining claims and the processing and marketing of the products thereof; production, storage, marketing and processing of fish and fishery/aquatic products; exploration, development, and utilization of forest resources; and exploration, development, and exploitation of geothermal resources, respectively.
 Renamed Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation.
 That is, the Court of Appeals resolution of the petition for review -- docketed as CA-GR No. 74161 and lodged by Lepanto Consolidated Mining -- of the decision of the Office of the President which upheld the order of the DENR Secretary approving the transfer and registration of the FTAA to Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
 At p. 68.
 433 Phil. 506, July 9, 2002; 403 SCRA 1, May 6, 2003; and 415 SCRA 403, November 11, 2003.
 300 Phil. 906, March 12, 1998.
 The pendency of a motion for reconsideration shall stay the final resolution sought to be reconsidered. 4 of Rule 52, and 4 of Rule 56B of the Rules of Court.
 See Enrile v. Senate Electoral Tribunal, GR No. 132986, May 19, 2004.
 Per the List of Financial/Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA applications) as of June 30, 2002 prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureaus (MGB) Mining Tenements Management Division, cited in petitioners Final Memorandum.
 Instead of allowing Sec. Gen. Neri to speak during the Oral Argument, the Court in its Resolution of June 29, 2004 required him to submit his Position Paper through the Office of the Solicitor General. Said paper was made part of the Memorandum of the public respondents.
 27 SCRA 853, April 18, 1969.
 Gonzales v. COMELEC, 137 Phil. 471, 489, April 18, 1969, per Fernando, J. (later CJ.), citing People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56, 94, November 16, 1937, per Laurel, J.
 433 Phil. 62, 68, July 2, 2002, citing Alunan III v. Mirasol, 342 Phil. 467, 477, July 31, 1997 and Viola v. Alunan III, 343 Phil. 184, 191, August 15, 1997.
 Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 US 498, 31 S.Ct. 279, 283, February 20, 1911, per McKenna, J.
 134 SCRA 438, 463-464, February 18, 1985, per Gutierrez Jr., J.
 1 of Rule 63 of the Rules of Court:
Section 1. Who may file petition. Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or any other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder.
 2 of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court:
Section 2. Petition for prohibition. When the proceedings of any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions, are without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered commanding the respondent to desist from further proceedings in the action or matter specified therein, or otherwise granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.
 Pimentel Jr. v. Aguirre, 391 Phil. 84, 107, July 19, 2000, per Panganiban, J.
 338 Phil. 546, May 2, 1997.
 Taada v. Angara, pp. 47-49, per Panganiban, J. Italics supplied.
 Emphasis supplied.
 Ang Bagong Bayani v. COMELEC, 412 Phil. 308, 338-339, June 26, 2001, per Panganiban, J., citing JM Tuason & Co., Inc. v. LTA, 31 SCRA 413, 422-423, February 18, 1970, as cited in Agpalo, Statutory Construction (1990), pp. 311 and 313.
 GR Nos. 160261, 160262, 160263, 160277, 160292, 160295, 160310, 160318, 160342, 160343, 160360, 160365, 160370, 160376, 160392, 160397, 160403, and 160405, November 10, 2003, per Carpio Morales, J.
 During the Oral Argument, petitioners counsel, Atty. Marvic Leonen conceded that the foreign contractor may exercise limited management prerogatives to the extent of the financial or technical assistance given. TSN, pp. 181-186. How such limited management can be operationalized was not explained.
 In the January 27, 2004 Decision, this Court held that the fourth paragraph of Section 2 of Art. XII limits foreign involvement in the local mining industry to agreements strictly for financial and/or technical assistance only, and precludes agreements which grant to foreign corporations the management of local mining operations, since the latter agreements are purportedly in the nature of service contracts, as this concept was understood under the 1973 Constitution. Such contracts were supposedly deconstitutionalized and proscribed by the omission of the phrase service contracts from the 1987 Constitution. Since the WMCP FTAA contains provisions that permit the contractors management of the concern, the Decision struck down the FTAA for being a prohibited service contract. Provisions of RA 7942 which granted managerial authority to the foreign contractor were also declared unconstitutional.
 Intervenors Memorandum, pp. 7, 11 and 12.
1. To contain as a part; include.
2. To have as a necessary feature or consequence; entail: was told that the job would involve travel.
3. To engage as a participant; embroil: involved the bystanders in his dispute with the police.
4. a. To connect closely and often incriminatingly; implicate: evidence that involved the governor in the scandal.
b. To influence or affect: The matter is serious because it involves your reputation.
5. To occupy or engage the interest of: a story that completely involved me for the rest of the evening.
6. To make complex or intricate; complicate.
7. To wrap; envelop: a castle that was involved in mist.
8. Archaic. To wind or coil about.
 It reads as follows: Section 20. The President may contract or guarantee foreign loans on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines with the prior concurrence of the Monetary Board, and subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. The Monetary Board shall, within thirty days from the end of every quarter of the calendar year, submit to the Congress a complete report of its decision on applications for loans to be contracted or guaranteed by the Government or government-owned and controlled corporations which would have the effect of increasing the foreign debt, and containing other matters as may be provided by law.
 According to estimates by the MGB, the success-to-failure ratio of large-scale mining or hydrocarbon projects is about 1:1,000. It goes without saying that such a miniscule success ratio hardly encourages the investment of tremendous amounts of risk capital and modern technology required for the discovery, extraction and treatment of mineral ores, and oil and gas deposits.
 The Constitutional Commission (ConCom) began its work in 1986, three short years after the assassination in August 21, 1983 of former Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino, Jr. During the early part of this three-year period, the country underwent a wracking economic crisis characterized by scarcity of funds, capital flight, stringent import controls, grave lack of foreign exchange needed to fund critical importations of raw materials, panic-buying, hoarding of commodities, and grave lack of foreign exchange needed to fund critical importations of raw materials. Many businesses were on the verge of failure and collapse, and many in fact did. The members of the ConCom were unlikely to forget the critical condition of the Philippine economy and the penury of its government.
 The management of every business has two primary objectives. The first is to earn profit. The second is to stay solvent, that is, to have on hand sufficient cash to pay debts as they fall due. Other objectives may be targeted, but a business cannot hope to accomplish them, unless it meets these two basic tests of survival -- operating profitably and staying solvent. Meigs and Meigs, Accounting: The Basis for Business Decisions (5th ed., 1982), p. 11.
 Art. XVIII, Transitory Provisions, of the 1987 Constitution.
 III Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 348. Emphasis supplied.
 Id., pp. 349-352. Emphasis supplied.
 Id., p. 354. Emphasis supplied.
 Id., pp. 355-356. Emphasis supplied.
 Id., p. 361. Emphasis supplied.
 V Records of the Constitutional Commission, p. 845.
 Id., p. 841.
 Id., p. 844.
 Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, 194 SCRA 317, 337-338, February 22, 1991, per Fernan, CJ.
 The transitive verb control has the following meanings -- to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to regulate; to have power over; to rule; to govern. The noun control refers to an act or instance of controlling; the power or authority to guide or manage; and the regulation of economic activity especially by government directive (as in price controls). From Merriam-Webster Online, Online Dictionary, www.m-w.com.
 On p. 2 of the Final Memorandum for Petitioners.
 Sec. 3(aq) of RA 7942 reads as follows: aq. Qualified person means any citizen of the Philippines with capacity to contract, or a corporation, partnership, association, or cooperative organized or authorized for the purpose of engaging in miring, with technical and financial capability to undertake mineral resources development and duly registered in accordance with law at least sixty per centum (60 percent) of the capital of which is owned by citizens of the Philippines: Provided, That a legally organized foreign-owned corporation shall be deemed a qualified person for purposes of granting an exploration permit, financial or technical assistance agreement or mineral processing permit. Underscoring supplied.
 Per Clause 4.6 of the WMCP FTAA, the contractor is required to relinquish each year during the exploration period at least ten percent (10%) of the original contract area, by identifying and dropping from the FTAA coverage those areas which do not have mineral potentials, in order that by the time actual mining operations commence, the FTAA contract area shall have been reduced to only 5,000 hectares.
 Memorandum (in support of WMCPs Motion and Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration), p. 61.
 Id., pp. 63-64.
 Accounts receivable may be converted to cash in one of three ways: (1) assignment of receivables, which is a borrowing arrangement with receivables pledged as security on the loan; (2) factoring receivables, which is a sale of receivables without recourse for cash to a third party, usually a bank or other financial institution; and (3) the transfer of receivables with recourse, which is a hybrid of the other two forms of receivable financing. Smith and Skousen, Intermediate Accounting, (1992, 11th ed.), pp. 317-321.
Banks usually prefer lending against the security of accounts receivable backed up by postdated checks. They refer to these facilities as bills discounting lines.
 Decision, p. 83; bold types supplied.
 Beneficial interest has been defined as the profit, benefit, or advantage resulting from a contract, or the ownership of an estate as distinct from the legal ownership or control. Christiansen v. Department of Social Security, 131 P. 2d 189, 191, 15 Wash. 2d 465, 467, November 25, 1942, per Driver, J.
Beneficial use, ownership or interest in property means such a right to its enjoyment as exists where the legal title is in one person and the right to such beneficial use or interest is in another x x x. Montana Catholic Missions v. Missoula County, 26 S Ct. 197, 200, 200 U.S. 118, 127-128, January 2, 1906, per Peckham, J.
 See p. 1138 thereof.
 Ramos and De Vera, The Fiscal Regime of Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements, p. 2. A photocopy of their paper is attached as Annex 2 to the Motion for Reconsideration of public respondents.
 These incentives consist principally of the waiver of national taxes during the cost recovery period of the FTAA. During such period, the contractor pays only part of the basic governments share in taxes consisting of local government taxes and fees. These are the local business tax, real property tax, community tax, occupation fees, regulatory fees, all other local taxes and fees in force, and royalty payments to indigenous cultural communities, if any.
These national taxes, however, are not to be paid by the contractor: (i) excise tax on minerals; (ii) contractors income tax; (iii) customs duties and fees on imported capital equipment; (iv) value added tax on purchases of imported equipment, goods and services; (v) withholding tax on interest payments on foreign loans; (vi) withholding tax on dividends to foreign stockholders; and (vii) royalties due the government on mineral reservations.
Other incentives to the contractor include those under the Omnibus Investment Code of 1997; those for the use of pollution control devices and facilities; income tax carry-forward of losses (five-year net loss carry forward); and income tax accelerated depreciation.
 See 3(g), DAO 99-56. According to the paper by Messrs. Ramos and De Vera, supra, who are, respectively, the director of the MGB and chief of the Mineral Economics, Information and Publication Division of the MGB, majority of the payments listed under Sec. 3(g) are relatively small in value. The most significant payments in terms of amount are the excise tax, royalties to mineral reservations and indigenous cultural communities, income tax and real property tax.
 Per Messrs. Ramos and De Vera, supra, (t)he term of a successful FTAA may be divided into a pre-operating period, a cost recovery period and a post recovery period. The pre-operating period consists of the exploration, pre-feasibility, feasibility, development and construction phases. The aggregate of this period is a maximum of eleven (11) years. The cost recovery period, on the other hand, consists of the initial years of commercial operation where the contractor is allowed to recover its pre-operating expenses. The end of this period is when the aggregate of the net cash flow from the mining operation becomes equal to the total pre-operating expenses or a maximum of five (5) years from commencement of commercial production, whichever comes first. The post recovery period is the remaining term of the FTAA immediately following the cost recovery period. The additional government share from an FTAA is collected after the cost recovery period.
 Ramos and De Vera, supra, pp. 3-4.
 The discussion on pp. 4-7 of the Ramos-DeVera report, focusing on the modes of computation of the additional government share as spelled out in DAO 99-56, is significant:
The phrase among other things demands that Government is entitled to additional share aside from the normal taxes and fees paid during operation. Simple as it was formulated, the phrase is another challenging task to operationalize. In 1997, the Philippine government conducted several consultative meetings with various investor groups, national government agencies concerned with taxation and incentives and other stakeholders of the mining industry to formulate the possible modes of determining the additional government share for FTAA. The negotiation took into consideration the following:
Capital investment in the project;
Contribution of the project to the economy;
Contribution of the project to community and local government;
Technical complexity of the project; and
Other factors that will provide for a fair and equitable sharing between the government and the contractor.
During these consultations, some investor groups have repeatedly expressed their objections to the imposition of an additional government share. However, since Government is firmly committed to adhere to its interpretation of Section 81 of the mining law on government share in an FTAA, it decided to push through with the collection of this additional government share by formally making part of the mining regulation through the issuance by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Administrative Order No. 99-56 providing for the guidelines in establishing the fiscal regime of Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements.
There were three schemes for computing the additional government share presented in the administrative order.
5.1 Net Mining Revenue-Based Option
Net mining revenue means the gross output from mining operations during a calendar year less deductible expenses. These deductible expenses consist of expenses incurred by the Contractor directly, reasonably and necessarily related to mining operations in the contract area during a calendar year, namely:
Mining, milling, transport and handling expenses together with smelting and refining costs other than smelting and refining costs paid to third parties;
General and administrative expenses actually incurred by the Contractor in the Philippines;
Consulting fees incurred for work related to the project; provided that those expenses incurred outside of the Philippines are justifiable and allowable subject to the approval of the Director of Mines and Geosciences Bureau;
Environmental expenses of the Contractor including such expenses necessary to fully comply with its environmental obligations;
Expenses for the development of host and neighboring communities and for the development of geoscience and mining technology together with training costs and expenses;
Royalty payments to claim owners or surface land owners relating to the Contract Area during the Operating Phase;
Continuing exploration and mine development expenses within the Contract Area after the pre-operating period; and
Interest expenses charged on loans or such other financing-related expenses incurred by the Contractor subject to limitations in debt/equity ratio as given in the contract and which shall not be more than the prevailing international rates charged for similar types of transactions at the time the financing was arranged, and where such loans are necessary for the operations; and
Government taxes, duties and fees.
The additional government share from this option for any year i is the difference between 50% of the cumulative annual net mining revenues CNi and the cumulative total government share CGi (basic and additional). The intention is to distribute the cumulative net mining revenue equally between the Government and the contractor. It can be expressed through the following formula:
If 50% of CNi < CGi
Additional Government Share = 0
Else, if 50% of CNi > CGi
Additional Govt Share = (50% x CNi) - CGi
5.2 Cash Flow-Based Option
Project cash flow before financing and tax (CFi) is calculated as follows:
CFi = GO - DE + I - PE - OC
In this formula, GO is the gross output; DE are the deductible expenses; I is the interest expense; PE is unrecovered pre-operating expense; and OC is on-going capital expenditures. This option provides that Government gets an additional share from the project cash flow if the cumulative present value of the previous total government share collected (basic and additional) is less than 50% of the cumulative present value of the project cash flows. The additional government share AGS is therefore the difference between 50% and the percentage of the cumulative present value of total government shares CGA over the cumulative present value of the project cash flows CP. The cumulative present value of project cash flow for any year i is given by the following formula:
CPi = CPi-1 x (1.10) + CFi
The factor 1.10 is a future value factor based on the cost of borrowed money with allowance for inflation of the US dollar. The cumulative present value of the total government share before additional government share CGB for year i is:
CGBi = CGAi-1 x (1 + Cost of Capital) + BGSi
where CGAi is the cumulative present value of total government share inclusive of the additional government share during the year is CGAi = CGBi + AGSi.
If CGBi > 50% of CPi :
Additional Government Share = 0
Else, if CGBi < 50% of CPi :
Additional Government Share = (50% x CPi) CGBi
5.3 Profit-Based Option
This third option provides that Government shall receive an additional share of twenty-five percent (25%) of the additional or excess profits during a taxable year when the two-year average ratio of the net income after tax (NIAT) to gross output (GO) is 0.40 or better. The trigger level of 0.40 ratio is approximately equivalent to a 20% return on investment when computed based on the life of the project. Investors have indicated that their minimum return on investment before they would invest on a mining project in the Philippine is 15%. It was agreed upon that a return on investment below 20% but not lower than 15% is normal profit. If the project reaches 20% or better, there is then an additional or excess profits. The computation of the 0.40 trigger shall be based on a 2-year moving average which is the average of the previous years ratio and the current years ratio. The additional or excess profit is computed using the following formula:
Additional Profits = [NIAT - (0.40 x GO)] / (1 - ITR)
In the above formula, ITR refers to the prevailing income tax rate applied by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in computing the income tax of the contractor during a taxable year.
If the two-year average ratio is less than 0.40:
Additional Government Share = 0
Else, if the two-year average ratio is 0.40 or better:
Additional Government Share = 25% x Excess Profits
The government shares 25% of any marginal profit derived by the contractor at 20% or higher return on investment.
In all of these three options, the basis of computation are all in US dollars based on prevailing foreign exchange rate at the time the expenses were incurred. Alternatives or options aside from these three schemes are studied by Government for possible improvement of the current fiscal system. The basic guideline, however, is that the total government share should not be less than fifty percent of the sharing.
6. Collection of the Additional Government Share
The term of a successful FTAA may be divided into a pre-operating period, a cost recovery period and a post recovery period. The pre-operating period consists of the exploration, pre-feasibility, feasibility, development and construction phases. The aggregate of this period is a maximum of eleven (11) years. The cost recovery period, on the other hand, consists of the initial years of commercial operation where the contractor is allowed to recover its pre-operating expenses. The end of this period is when the aggregate of the net cash flow from the mining operation becomes equal to the total pre-operating expenses or a maximum of five (5) years from commencement of commercial production, whichever comes first. The post recovery period is the remaining term of the FTAA immediately following the cost recovery period. The additional government share from an FTAA is collected after the cost recovery period. (underscoring supplied)
 The cash flows of a business concern tend to be more accurate and realistic indicia of the financial capacity of the enterprise, rather than net income or taxable income, which are arrived at after netting out non-cash items like depreciation, doubtful accounts expense for probable losses, and write-offs of bad debts.
Cash flows provide relevant information about the cash effects of an entitys operations, and its investing and financing transactions. Smith and Skousen, supra, p. 184.
 Some of these indirect taxes are: fuel taxes; withholding tax on payrolls, on royalty payments to claim owners and surface owners and on royalty payments for technology transfer; value added tad on local equipment, supplies and services.
 Other contributions of mining projects include: infrastructure (hospitals, roads, schools, public markets, churches, and the like) and social development projects; payroll and fringe benefits (direct and indirect employment); expenditures by the contractor for development of host and neighboring communities; expenditures for the development of geosciences/mining technology; expenditures for social infrastructures; and the resulting multiplier effects of mining operations.
 The third paragraph of 81, RA 7942 states: The collection of Government share in financial or technical assistance agreement shall commence after the financial or technical assistance agreement contractor has fully recovered its pre-operating expenses, exploration, and development expenditures, inclusive.
 80 and 84 of RA 7942 are reproduced below:
Sec. 80. Government Share in Mineral Production Sharing Agreement. The total government share in a mineral production sharing agreement shall be the excise tax on mineral products as provided in Republic Act No. 7729, amending Section 151(a) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
Sec. 84. Excise Tax on Mineral Products. The contractor shall be liable to pay the excise tax on mineral products as provided for under Section 151 of the National Internal Revenue Code: Provided, however, That with respect to a mineral production sharing agreement, the excise tax on mineral products shall be the government share under said agreement. (Underscoring supplied)
 112 of RA 7942 is reproduced below:
Sec. 112. Non-impairment of Existing Mining/Quarrying Rights. All valid and existing mining lease contracts, permits/licenses, leases pending renewal, mineral production-sharing agreements granted under Exec. Order No. 279, at the date of effectivity of this Act, shall remain valid, shall not be impaired, and shall be recognized by the Government: Provided, That the provisions of Chapter XIV on government share in mineral production sharing agreement and of Chapter XVI on incentives of this Act shall immediately govern and apply to a mining lessee or contractor unless the mining lessee or contractor indicates his intention to the Secretary, in writing, not to avail of such provisions: Provided, further, That no renewal of mining lease contracts shall be made after the expiration of its term: Provided, finally, That such leases, production-sharing agreements, financial or technical assistance agreements shall comply with the applicable provisions of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations. (Underscoring supplied)
 Even during the cost recovery period, the contractor will still have to pay a portion of the basic government share consisting of local government taxes and fees, such as local business taxes, real property taxes, community taxes, occupation fees, regulatory fees, and all other local taxes and fees, plus royalty payments to indigenous cultural communities, if any.
 Ramos and DeVera, supra, p. 7.
 Ibid., p. 11. See also 3e of DAO 99-56.
 Justice Carpio argues thus: The WMCP FTAA grants the State 60 percent of net profit; CMP likewise agrees to 60 percent; the Malampaya-Shell FTAA provides for 60 percent also; so the Court should decree a minimum of 60 percent. Our answer: no law authorizes this Court to issue such a decree. It is up to the State to negotiate the most advantageous percentage. This Court cannot be stampeded into the realm of legislation.
 Clause 1.2 thereof states: All financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the Mining Operations shall be provided by the Contractor in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement. If no Minerals in commercial quantity are developed and produced, the Contractor acknowledges that it will not be entitled to reimbursement of its expenses incurred in conducting the Mining Operations.
 WMCP FTAA Clause 2.1 (iv), p. 6.
 Id., Clause 2.1 (v), p. 6.
 Id., Clause 2.1 (vii), p. 6.
 Qualified Entity is defined as an entity that at the relevant time is qualified to enter into a mineral production sharing agreement with the Government under the laws restricting foreign ownership and equity in natural resource projects. 2 -- Definitions, WMCP FTAA, p. 10. (Underscoring supplied.)
Pursuant to 26a in relation to 3g and 3aq of RA 7942, a contractor in an MPSA should be a citizen of the Philippines or a corporation at least 60 percent of the capital of which is owned by citizens of the Philippines.
 Since we assume that the buyer-corporation, which buys up 60% equity in WMCP, is 60% Filipino-owned and 40% foreign-owned, therefore, the foreign stockholders in such buyer-corporation hold 24% beneficial interest in WMCP.
 Fourth paragraph of Sec. 2, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution.
 Art. 1306 of the Civil Code provides: The contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy..
 Republic v. CA, 354 SCRA 148, March 9, 2001, per Ynares-Santiago, J.
 Philippine Basketball Association v. CA, 337 SCRA 358, 369, August 8, 2000. Likewise, 11 of Book I of Chapter 3 of Exec. Order No. 292, otherwise known as The Administrative Code of 1987, states: Sec. 11. The States Responsibility for Acts of Agents. (1) The State shall be legally bound and responsible only through the acts performed in accordance with the Constitution and the laws by its duly authorized representatives. (2) The State shall not be bound by the mistakes or errors of its officers or agents in the exercise of their functions.
 Art. 1420 of the Civil Code provides: In case of a divisible contract, if the illegal terms can be separated from the legal ones, the latter may be enforced.
 Sarmiento v. CA, 353 Phil. 834, 853, July 2, 1998.
 Ramos-DeVera, supra, p. 2.
 Bold types supplied.
 3[h] in relation to 26[b] of RA 7942.
 26[c] of RA 7942.
 OXFAM America Research Report, September 2002.
 Dated December 2003.
 1 of EO 270.
 Manila Electric Company v. Pasay Transportation, 57 Phil. 600, 605, November 25, 1932, per Malcolm, J.