G. R. No. 127882 - January 27, 2004
LA BUGAL-B'LAAN TRIBAL ASSOCIATION, INC., represented by its Chairman F'LONG MIGUEL M. LUMAYONG, WIGBERTO E. TAÑADA, PONCIANO BENNAGEN, JAIME TADEO, RENATO R. CONSTANTINO, JR., F'LONG 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, 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,1 ROSE LILIA S. ROMANO, ROBERTO S. VERZOLA, EDUARDO AURELIO C. REYES, LEAN LOUEL A. PERIA, represented by his father ELPIDIO V. PERIA,2 GREEN FORUM PHILIPPINES, GREEN FORUM WESTERN VISAYAS, (GF-WV), ENVIRONMETAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE CENTER (ELAC), PHILIPPINE KAISAHAN TUNGO SA KAUNLARAN NG KANAYUNAN AT REPORMANG PANSAKAHAN (KAISAHAN),3 KAISAHAN TUNGO SA KAUNLARAN NG KANAYUNAN AT REPORMANG PANSAKAHAN (KAISAHAN), PARTNERSHIP FOR AGRARIAN REFORM and RURAL DEVELOPMENT SERVICES, INC. (PARRDS), PHILIPPINE PART`NERSHIP FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES IN THE RURAL AREAS, INC. (PHILDHRRA), WOMEN'S LEGAL BUREAU (WLB), CENTER FOR ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES, INC. (CADI), UPLAND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE (UDI), KINAIYAHAN FOUNDATION, INC., SENTRO NG ALTERNATIBONG LINGAP PANLIGAL (SALIGAN), 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.4 respondents.
D E C I S I O N
The present petition for mandamus and prohibition assails the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7942,5 otherwise known as the PHILIPPINE MINING ACT OF 1995, along with the Implementing Rules and Regulations issued pursuant thereto, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 96-40, and of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) entered into on March 30, 1995 by the Republic of the Philippines and WMC (Philippines), Inc. (WMCP), a corporation organized under Philippine laws.
On July 25, 1987, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order (E.O.) No. 2796 authorizing the DENR Secretary to accept, consider and evaluate proposals from foreign-owned corporations or foreign investors for contracts or agreements involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, which, upon appropriate recommendation of the Secretary, the President may execute with the foreign proponent. In entering into such proposals, the President shall consider the real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of the country that will be realized, as well as the development and use of local scientific and technical resources that will be promoted by the proposed contract or agreement. Until Congress shall determine otherwise, large-scale mining, for purpose of this Section, shall mean those proposals for contracts or agreements for mineral resources exploration, development, and utilization involving a committed capital investment in a single mining unit project of at least Fifty Million Dollars in United States Currency (US $50,000,000.00).7
On March 3, 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos approved R.A. No. 7942 to "govern the exploration, development, utilization and processing of all mineral resources."8 R.A. No. 7942 defines the modes of mineral agreements for mining operations,9 outlines the procedure for their filing and approval,10 assignment/transfer11 and withdrawal,12 and fixes their terms.13 Similar provisions govern financial or technical assistance agreements.14
The law prescribes the qualifications of contractors15 and grants them certain rights, including timber,16 water17 and easement18 rights, and the right to possess explosives.19 Surface owners, occupants, or concessionaires are forbidden from preventing holders of mining rights from entering private lands and concession areas.20 A procedure for the settlement of conflicts is likewise provided for.21
The Act restricts the conditions for exploration,22 quarry23 and other24 permits. It regulates the transport, sale and processing of minerals,25 and promotes the development of mining communities, science and mining technology,26 and safety and environmental protection.27
The government's share in the agreements is spelled out and allocated,28 taxes and fees are imposed,29 incentives granted.30 Aside from penalizing certain acts,31 the law likewise specifies grounds for the cancellation, revocation and termination of agreements and permits.32
On April 9, 1995, 30 days following its publication on March 10, 1995 in Malaya and Manila Times, two newspapers of general circulation, R.A. No. 7942 took effect.33 Shortly before the effectivity of R.A. No. 7942, however, or on March 30, 1995, the President entered into an FTAA with WMCP covering 99,387 hectares of land in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.34
On August 15, 1995, then DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos issued DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 95-23, s. 1995, otherwise known as the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7942. This was later repealed by DAO No. 96-40, s. 1996 which was adopted on December 20, 1996.
On January 10, 1997, counsels for petitioners sent a letter to the DENR Secretary demanding that the DENR stop the implementation of R.A. No. 7942 and DAO No. 96-40,35 giving the DENR fifteen days from receipt36 to act thereon. The DENR, however, has yet to respond or act on petitioners' letter.37
Petitioners thus filed the present petition for prohibition and mandamus, with a prayer for a temporary restraining order. They allege that at the time of the filing of the petition, 100 FTAA applications had already been filed, covering an area of 8.4 million hectares,38 64 of which applications are by fully foreign-owned corporations covering a total of 5.8 million hectares, and at least one by a fully foreign-owned mining company over offshore areas.39
Petitioners claim that the DENR Secretary acted without or in excess of jurisdiction:
They pray that the Court issue an order:
Impleaded as public respondents are Ruben Torres, the then Executive Secretary, Victor O. Ramos, the then DENR Secretary, and Horacio Ramos, Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR. Also impleaded is private respondent WMCP, which entered into the assailed FTAA with the Philippine Government. WMCP is 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."42 By WMCP's information, "it is a 100% owned subsidiary of WMC LIMITED."43
Respondents, aside from meeting petitioners' contentions, argue that the requisites for judicial inquiry have not been met and that the petition does not comply with the criteria for prohibition and mandamus. Additionally, respondent WMCP argues that there has been a violation of the rule on hierarchy of courts.
After petitioners filed their reply, this Court granted due course to the petition. The parties have since filed their respective memoranda.
WMCP subsequently filed a Manifestation dated September 25, 2002 alleging that on January 23, 2001, WMC sold all its shares in WMCP to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (Sagittarius), a corporation organized under Philippine laws.44 WMCP was subsequently renamed "Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation."45 WMCP claims that at least 60% of the equity of Sagittarius is owned by Filipinos and/or Filipino-owned corporations while about 40% is owned by Indophil Resources NL, an Australian company.46 It further claims that by such sale and transfer of shares, "WMCP has ceased to be connected in any way with WMC."47
By virtue of such sale and transfer, the DENR Secretary, by Order of December 18, 2001,48 approved the transfer and registration of the subject FTAA from WMCP to Sagittarius. Said Order, however, was appealed by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. (Lepanto) to the Office of the President which upheld it by Decision of July 23, 2002.49 Its motion for reconsideration having been denied by the Office of the President by Resolution of November 12, 2002,50 Lepanto filed a petition for review51 before the Court of Appeals. Incidentally, two other petitions for review related to the approval of the transfer and registration of the FTAA to Sagittarius were recently resolved by this Court.52
It bears stressing that this case has not been rendered moot either by the transfer and registration of the FTAA to a Filipino-owned corporation or by the non-issuance of a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to stay the above-said July 23, 2002 decision of the Office of the President.53 The validity of the transfer remains in dispute and awaits final judicial determination. This assumes, of course, that such transfer cures the FTAA's alleged unconstitutionality, on which question judgment is reserved.
WMCP also points out that the original claimowners of the major mineralized areas included in the WMCP FTAA, namely, Sagittarius, Tampakan Mining Corporation, and Southcot Mining Corporation, are all Filipino-owned corporations,54 each of which was a holder of an approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement awarded in 1994, albeit their respective mineral claims were subsumed in the WMCP FTAA;55 and that these three companies are the same companies that consolidated their interests in Sagittarius to whom WMC sold its 100% equity in WMCP.56 WMCP concludes that in the event that the FTAA is invalidated, the MPSAs of the three corporations would be revived and the mineral claims would revert to their original claimants.57
These circumstances, while informative, are hardly significant in the resolution of this case, it involving the validity of the FTAA, not the possible consequences of its invalidation.
Of the above-enumerated seven grounds cited by petitioners, as will be shown later, only the first and the last need be delved into; in the latter, the discussion shall dwell only insofar as it questions the effectivity of E. O. No. 279 by virtue of which order the questioned FTAA was forged.
Before going into the substantive issues, the procedural questions posed by respondents shall first be tackled.
REQUISITES FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW
When an issue of constitutionality is raised, this Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are present:
Respondents claim that the first three requisites are not present.
Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution states that "(j)udicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable." The power of judicial review, therefore, is limited to the determination of actual cases and controversies.59
An actual case or controversy means an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or ripe for determination, not conjectural or anticipatory,60 lest the decision of the court would amount to an advisory opinion.61 The power does not extend to hypothetical questions62 since any attempt at abstraction could only lead to dialectics and barren legal questions and to sterile conclusions unrelated to actualities.63
"Legal standing" or locus standi has been defined as a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged,64 alleging more than a generalized grievance.65 The gist of the question of standing is whether a party alleges "such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."66 Unless a person is injuriously affected in any of his constitutional rights by the operation of statute or ordinance, he has no standing.67
Petitioners traverse a wide range of sectors. Among them are La Bugal B'laan Tribal Association, Inc., a farmers and indigenous people's cooperative organized under Philippine laws representing a community actually affected by the mining activities of WMCP, members of said cooperative,68 as well as other residents of areas also affected by the mining activities of WMCP.69 These petitioners have standing to raise the constitutionality of the questioned FTAA as they allege a personal and substantial injury. They claim that they would suffer "irremediable displacement"70 as a result of the implementation of the FTAA allowing WMCP to conduct mining activities in their area of residence. They thus meet the appropriate case requirement as they assert an interest adverse to that of respondents who, on the other hand, insist on the FTAA's validity.
In view of the alleged impending injury, petitioners also have standing to assail the validity of E.O. No. 279, by authority of which the FTAA was executed.
Public respondents maintain that petitioners, being strangers to the FTAA, cannot sue either or both contracting parties to annul it.71 In other words, they contend that petitioners are not real parties in interest in an action for the annulment of contract.
Public respondents' contention fails. The present action is not merely one for annulment of contract but for prohibition and mandamus. Petitioners allege that public respondents acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in implementing the FTAA, which they submit is unconstitutional. As the case involves constitutional questions, this Court is not concerned with whether petitioners are real parties in interest, but with whether they have legal standing. As held in Kilosbayan v. Morato:72
x x x. "It is important to note . . . that standing because of its constitutional and public policy underpinnings, is very different from questions relating to whether a particular plaintiff is the real party in interest or has capacity to sue. Although all three requirements are directed towards ensuring that only certain parties can maintain an action, standing restrictions require a partial consideration of the merits, as well as broader policy concerns relating to the proper role of the judiciary in certain areas.["] (FRIEDENTHAL, KANE AND MILLER, CIVIL PROCEDURE 328 )
Standing is a special concern in constitutional law because in some cases suits are brought not by parties who have been personally injured by the operation of a law or by official action taken, but by concerned citizens, taxpayers or voters who actually sue in the public interest. Hence, the question in standing is whether such parties have "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions." (Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 7 L.Ed.2d 633 .)
As earlier stated, petitioners meet this requirement.
The challenge against the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7942 and DAO No. 96-40 likewise fulfills the requisites of justiciability. Although these laws were not in force when the subject FTAA was entered into, the question as to their validity is ripe for adjudication.
The WMCP FTAA provides:
14.3 Future Legislation
Any term and condition more favourable to Financial &Technical Assistance Agreement contractors resulting from repeal or amendment of any existing law or regulation or from the enactment of a law, regulation or administrative order shall be considered a part of this Agreement.
It is undisputed that R.A. No. 7942 and DAO No. 96-40 contain provisions that are more favorable to WMCP, hence, these laws, to the extent that they are favorable to WMCP, govern the FTAA.
In addition, R.A. No. 7942 explicitly makes certain provisions apply to pre-existing agreements.
SEC. 112. Non-impairment of Existing Mining/Quarrying Rights. x x x 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 said provisions x x x 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.
As there is no suggestion that WMCP has indicated its intention not to avail of the provisions of Chapter XVI of R.A. No. 7942, it can safely be presumed that they apply to the WMCP FTAA.
Misconstruing the application of the third requisite for judicial review that the exercise of the review is pleaded at the earliest opportunity WMCP points out that the petition was filed only almost two years after the execution of the FTAA, hence, not raised at the earliest opportunity.
The third requisite should not be taken to mean that the question of constitutionality must be raised immediately after the execution of the state action complained of. That the question of constitutionality has not been raised before is not a valid reason for refusing to allow it to be raised later.73 A contrary rule would mean that a law, otherwise unconstitutional, would lapse into constitutionality by the mere failure of the proper party to promptly file a case to challenge the same.
PROPRIETY OF PROHIBITION AND MANDAMUS
Before the effectivity in July 1997 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 2 of Rule 65 read:
SEC. 2. Petition for prohibition. When the proceedings of any tribunal, corporation, board, or person, whether exercising functions judicial or ministerial, are without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion, 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 defendant to desist from further proceeding in the action or matter specified therein.
Prohibition is a preventive remedy.74 It seeks a judgment ordering the defendant to desist from continuing with the commission of an act perceived to be illegal.75
The petition for prohibition at bar is thus an appropriate remedy. While the execution of the contract itself may be fait accompli, its implementation is not. Public respondents, in behalf of the Government, have obligations to fulfill under said contract. Petitioners seek to prevent them from fulfilling such obligations on the theory that the contract is unconstitutional and, therefore, void.
The propriety of a petition for prohibition being upheld, discussion of the propriety of the mandamus aspect of the petition is rendered unnecessary.
HIERARCHY OF COURTS
The contention that the filing of this petition violated the rule on hierarchy of courts does not likewise lie. The rule has been explained thus:
Between two courts of concurrent original jurisdiction, it is the lower court that should initially pass upon the issues of a case. That way, as a particular case goes through the hierarchy of courts, it is shorn of all but the important legal issues or those of first impression, which are the proper subject of attention of the appellate court. This is a procedural rule borne of experience and adopted to improve the administration of justice.
This Court has consistently enjoined litigants to respect the hierarchy of courts. Although this Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence does not give a party unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. The resort to this Court's primary jurisdiction to issue said writs shall be allowed only where the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify such invocation. We held in People v. Cuaresma that:
A becoming regard for judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only where there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court's docket x x x.76 [Emphasis supplied.]
The repercussions of the issues in this case on the Philippine mining industry, if not the national economy, as well as the novelty thereof, constitute exceptional and compelling circumstances to justify resort to this Court in the first instance.
In all events, this Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirements of an actual case or legal standing when paramount public interest is involved.77 When the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public, this Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure.78
Petitioners contend that E.O. No. 279 did not take effect because its supposed date of effectivity came after President Aquino had already lost her legislative powers under the Provisional Constitution.
And they likewise claim that the WMC FTAA, which was entered into pursuant to E.O. No. 279, violates Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution because, among other reasons:
To appreciate the import of these issues, a visit to the history of the pertinent constitutional provision, the concepts contained therein, and the laws enacted pursuant thereto, is in order.
Section 2, Article XII reads 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 nation's 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.
THE SPANISH REGIME AND THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE
The first sentence of Section 2 embodies the Regalian doctrine or jura regalia. Introduced by Spain into these Islands, this feudal concept is based on the State's power of dominium, which is the capacity of the State to own or acquire property.79
In its broad sense, the term "jura regalia" refers to royal rights, or those rights which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives. In Spanish law, it refers to a right which the sovereign has over anything in which a subject has a right of property or propriedad. These were rights enjoyed during feudal times by the king as the sovereign.
The theory of the feudal system was that title to all lands was originally held by the King, and while the use of lands was granted out to others who were permitted to hold them under certain conditions, the King theoretically retained the title. By fiction of law, the King was regarded as the original proprietor of all lands, and the true and only source of title, and from him all lands were held. The theory of jura regalia was therefore nothing more than a natural fruit of conquest.80
The Philippines having passed to Spain by virtue of discovery and conquest,81 earlier Spanish decrees declared that "all lands were held from the Crown."82
The Regalian doctrine extends not only to land but also to "all natural wealth that may be found in the bowels of the earth."83 Spain, in particular, recognized the unique value of natural resources, viewing them, especially minerals, as an abundant source of revenue to finance its wars against other nations.84 Mining laws during the Spanish regime reflected this perspective.85
THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION AND THE CONCESSION REGIME
By the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded "the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands" to the United States. The Philippines was hence governed by means of organic acts that were in the nature of charters serving as a Constitution of the occupied territory from 1900 to 1935.86 Among the principal organic acts of the Philippines was the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, more commonly known as the Philippine Bill of 1902, through which the United States Congress assumed the administration of the Philippine Islands.87 Section 20 of said Bill reserved the disposition of mineral lands of the public domain from sale. Section 21 thereof allowed the free and open exploration, occupation and purchase of mineral deposits not only to citizens of the Philippine Islands but to those of the United States as well:
Sec. 21. That all valuable mineral deposits in public lands in the Philippine Islands, both surveyed and unsurveyed, are hereby declared to be free and open to exploration, occupation and purchase, and the land in which they are found, to occupation and purchase, by citizens of the United States or of said Islands: Provided, That when on any lands in said Islands entered and occupied as agricultural lands under the provisions of this Act, but not patented, mineral deposits have been found, the working of such mineral deposits is forbidden until the person, association, or corporation who or which has entered and is occupying such lands shall have paid to the Government of said Islands such additional sum or sums as will make the total amount paid for the mineral claim or claims in which said deposits are located equal to the amount charged by the Government for the same as mineral claims.
Unlike Spain, the United States considered natural resources as a source of wealth for its nationals and saw fit to allow both Filipino and American citizens to explore and exploit minerals in public lands, and to grant patents to private mineral lands.88 A person who acquired ownership over a parcel of private mineral land pursuant to the laws then prevailing could exclude other persons, even the State, from exploiting minerals within his property.89 Thus, earlier jurisprudence90 held that:
A valid and subsisting location of mineral land, made and kept up in accordance with the provisions of the statutes of the United States, has the effect of a grant by the United States of the present and exclusive possession of the lands located, and this exclusive right of possession and enjoyment continues during the entire life of the location. x x x.
x x x.
The discovery of minerals in the ground by one who has a valid mineral location perfects his claim and his location not only against third persons, but also against the Government. x x x. [Italics in the original.]
The Regalian doctrine and the American system, therefore, differ in one essential respect. Under the Regalian theory, mineral rights are not included in a grant of land by the state; under the American doctrine, mineral rights are included in a grant of land by the government.91
Section 21 also made possible the concession (frequently styled "permit", license" or "lease")92 system.93 This was the traditional regime imposed by the colonial administrators for the exploitation of natural resources in the extractive sector (petroleum, hard minerals, timber, etc.).94
Under the concession system, the concessionaire makes a direct equity investment for the purpose of exploiting a particular natural resource within a given area.95 Thus, the concession amounts to complete control by the concessionaire over the country's natural resource, for it is given exclusive and plenary rights to exploit a particular resource at the point of extraction.96 In consideration for the right to exploit a natural resource, the concessionaire either pays rent or royalty, which is a fixed percentage of the gross proceeds.97
Later statutory enactments by the legislative bodies set up in the Philippines adopted the contractual framework of the concession.98 For instance, Act No. 2932,99 approved on August 31, 1920, which provided for the exploration, location, and lease of lands containing petroleum and other mineral oils and gas in the Philippines, and Act No. 2719,100 approved on May 14, 1917, which provided for the leasing and development of coal lands in the Philippines, both utilized the concession system.101
THE 1935 CONSTITUTION AND THE NATIONALIZATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES
By the Act of United States Congress of March 24, 1934, popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Law, the People of the Philippine Islands were authorized to adopt a constitution.102 On July 30, 1934, the Constitutional Convention met for the purpose of drafting a constitution, and the Constitution subsequently drafted was approved by the Convention on February 8, 1935.103 The Constitution was submitted to the President of the United States on March 18, 1935.104 On March 23, 1935, the President of the United States certified that the Constitution conformed substantially with the provisions of the Act of Congress approved on March 24, 1934.105 On May 14, 1935, the Constitution was ratified by the Filipino people.106
The 1935 Constitution adopted the Regalian doctrine, declaring all natural resources of the Philippines, including mineral lands and minerals, to be property belonging to the State.107 As adopted in a republican system, the medieval concept of jura regalia is stripped of royal overtones and ownership of the land is vested in the State.108
Section 1, Article XIII, on Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources, of the 1935 Constitution provided:
The nationalization and conservation of the natural resources of the country was one of the fixed and dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional Convention.109 One delegate relates:
There was an overwhelming sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of state ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine. State ownership of natural resources was seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the state's power to control their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization. The delegates of the Constitutional Convention very well knew that the concept of State ownership of land and natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards, however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by the Americans. To remove all doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine.
The adoption of the principle of state ownership of the natural resources and of the Regalian doctrine was considered to be a necessary starting point for the plan of nationalizing and conserving the natural resources of the country. For with the establishment of the principle of state ownership of the natural resources, it would not be hard to secure the recognition of the power of the State to control their disposition, exploitation, development or utilization.110
The nationalization of the natural resources was intended (1) to insure their conservation for Filipino posterity; (2) to serve as an instrument of national defense, helping prevent the extension to the country of foreign control through peaceful economic penetration; and (3) to avoid making the Philippines a source of international conflicts with the consequent danger to its internal security and independence.111
The same Section 1, Article XIII also adopted the concession system, expressly permitting the State to grant licenses, concessions, or leases for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural resources. Grants, however, were limited to Filipinos or entities at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos.
The swell of nationalism that suffused the 1935 Constitution was radically diluted when on November 1946, the Parity Amendment, which came in the form of an "Ordinance Appended to the Constitution," was ratified in a plebiscite.112 The Amendment extended, from July 4, 1946 to July 3, 1974, the right to utilize and exploit our natural resources to citizens of the United States and business enterprises owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States:113
Notwithstanding the provision of section one, Article Thirteen, and section eight, Article Fourteen, of the foregoing Constitution, during the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into by the President of the Philippines with the President of the United States on the fourth of July, nineteen hundred and forty-six, pursuant to the provisions of Commonwealth Act Numbered Seven hundred and thirty-three, but in no case to extend beyond the third of July, nineteen hundred and seventy-four, the disposition, exploitation, development, and utilization of all agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces and sources of potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and the operation of public utilities, shall, if open to any person, be open to citizens of the United States and to all forms of business enterprise owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by citizens of the United States in the same manner as to, and under the same conditions imposed upon, citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the Philippines.
The Parity Amendment was subsequently modified by the 1954 Revised Trade Agreement, also known as the Laurel-Langley Agreement, embodied in Republic Act No. 1355.114
THE PETROLEUM ACT OF 1949 AND THE CONCESSION SYSTEM
In the meantime, Republic Act No. 387,115 also known as the Petroleum Act of 1949, was approved on June 18, 1949.
The Petroleum Act of 1949 employed the concession system for the exploitation of the nation's petroleum resources. Among the kinds of concessions it sanctioned were exploration and exploitation concessions, which respectively granted to the concessionaire the exclusive right to explore for116 or develop117 petroleum within specified areas.
Concessions may be granted only to duly qualified persons118 who have sufficient finances, organization, resources, technical competence, and skills necessary to conduct the operations to be undertaken.119
Nevertheless, the Government reserved the right to undertake such work itself.120 This proceeded from the theory that all natural deposits or occurrences of petroleum or natural gas in public and/or private lands in the Philippines belong to the State.121 Exploration and exploitation concessions did not confer upon the concessionaire ownership over the petroleum lands and petroleum deposits.122 However, they did grant concessionaires the right to explore, develop, exploit, and utilize them for the period and under the conditions determined by the law.123
Concessions were granted at the complete risk of the concessionaire; the Government did not guarantee the existence of petroleum or undertake, in any case, title warranty.124
Concessionaires were required to submit information as maybe required by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, including reports of geological and geophysical examinations, as well as production reports.125 Exploration126 and exploitation127 concessionaires were also required to submit work programs.
Exploitation concessionaires, in particular, were obliged to pay an annual exploitation tax,128 the object of which is to induce the concessionaire to actually produce petroleum, and not simply to sit on the concession without developing or exploiting it.129 These concessionaires were also bound to pay the Government royalty, which was not less than 12% of the petroleum produced and saved, less that consumed in the operations of the concessionaire.130 Under Article 66, R.A. No. 387, the exploitation tax may be credited against the royalties so that if the concessionaire shall be actually producing enough oil, it would not actually be paying the exploitation tax.131
Failure to pay the annual exploitation tax for two consecutive years,132 or the royalty due to the Government within one year from the date it becomes due,133 constituted grounds for the cancellation of the concession. In case of delay in the payment of the taxes or royalty imposed by the law or by the concession, a surcharge of 1% per month is exacted until the same are paid.134
As a rule, title rights to all equipment and structures that the concessionaire placed on the land belong to the exploration or exploitation concessionaire.135 Upon termination of such concession, the concessionaire had a right to remove the same.136
The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources was tasked with carrying out the provisions of the law, through the Director of Mines, who acted under the Secretary's immediate supervision and control.137 The Act granted the Secretary the authority to inspect any operation of the concessionaire and to examine all the books and accounts pertaining to operations or conditions related to payment of taxes and royalties.138
The same law authorized the Secretary to create an Administration Unit and a Technical Board.139 The Administration Unit was charged, inter alia, with the enforcement of the provisions of the law.140 The Technical Board had, among other functions, the duty to check on the performance of concessionaires and to determine whether the obligations imposed by the Act and its implementing regulations were being complied with.141
Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, Chief Legal Officer of the Bureau of Energy Development, analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of the concession system insofar as it applied to the petroleum industry:
Advantages of Concession. Whether it emphasizes income tax or royalty, the most positive aspect of the concession system is that the State's financial involvement is virtually risk free and administration is simple and comparatively low in cost. Furthermore, if there is a competitive allocation of the resource leading to substantial bonuses and/or greater royalty coupled with a relatively high level of taxation, revenue accruing to the State under the concession system may compare favorably with other financial arrangements.
Disadvantages of Concession. There are, however, major negative aspects to this system. Because the Government's role in the traditional concession is passive, it is at a distinct disadvantage in managing and developing policy for the nation's petroleum resource. This is true for several reasons. First, even though most concession agreements contain covenants requiring diligence in operations and production, this establishes only an indirect and passive control of the host country in resource development. Second, and more importantly, the fact that the host country does not directly participate in resource management decisions inhibits its ability to train and employ its nationals in petroleum development. This factor could delay or prevent the country from effectively engaging in the development of its resources. Lastly, a direct role in management is usually necessary in order to obtain a knowledge of the international petroleum industry which is important to an appreciation of the host country's resources in relation to those of other countries.142
Other liabilities of the system have also been noted:
x x x there are functional implications which give the concessionaire great economic power arising from its exclusive equity holding. This includes, first, appropriation of the returns of the undertaking, subject to a modest royalty; second, exclusive management of the project; third, control of production of the natural resource, such as volume of production, expansion, research and development; and fourth, exclusive responsibility for downstream operations, like processing, marketing, and distribution. In short, even if nominally, the state is the sovereign and owner of the natural resource being exploited, it has been shorn of all elements of control over such natural resource because of the exclusive nature of the contractual regime of the concession. The concession system, investing as it does ownership of natural resources, constitutes a consistent inconsistency with the principle embodied in our Constitution that natural resources belong to the state and shall not be alienated, not to mention the fact that the concession was the bedrock of the colonial system in the exploitation of natural resources.143
Eventually, the concession system failed for reasons explained by Dimagiba:
Notwithstanding the good intentions of the Petroleum Act of 1949, the concession system could not have properly spurred sustained oil exploration activities in the country, since it assumed that such a capital-intensive, high risk venture could be successfully undertaken by a single individual or a small company. In effect, concessionaires' funds were easily exhausted. Moreover, since the concession system practically closed its doors to interested foreign investors, local capital was stretched to the limits. The old system also failed to consider the highly sophisticated technology and expertise required, which would be available only to multinational companies.144
A shift to a new regime for the development of natural resources thus seemed imminent.
PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 87, THE 1973 CONSTITUTION AND THE SERVICE CONTRACT SYSTEM
The promulgation on December 31, 1972 of Presidential Decree No. 87,145 otherwise known as The Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972 signaled such a transformation. P.D. No. 87 permitted the government to explore for and produce indigenous petroleum through "service contracts."146
"Service contracts" is a term that assumes varying meanings to different people, and it has carried many names in different countries, like "work contracts" in Indonesia, "concession agreements" in Africa, "production-sharing agreements" in the Middle East, and "participation agreements" in Latin America.147 A functional definition of "service contracts" in the Philippines is provided as follows:
A service contract is a contractual arrangement for engaging in the exploitation and development of petroleum, mineral, energy, land and other natural resources by which a government or its agency, or a private person granted a right or privilege by the government authorizes the other party (service contractor) to engage or participate in the exercise of such right or the enjoyment of the privilege, in that the latter provides financial or technical resources, undertakes the exploitation or production of a given resource, or directly manages the productive enterprise, operations of the exploration and exploitation of the resources or the disposition of marketing or resources.148
In a service contract under P.D. No. 87, service and technology are furnished by the service contractor for which it shall be entitled to the stipulated service fee.149 The contractor must be technically competent and financially capable to undertake the operations required in the contract.150
Financing is supposed to be provided by the Government to which all petroleum produced belongs.151 In case the Government is unable to finance petroleum exploration operations, the contractor may furnish services, technology and financing, and the proceeds of sale of the petroleum produced under the contract shall be the source of funds for payment of the service fee and the operating expenses due the contractor.152 The contractor shall undertake, manage and execute petroleum operations, subject to the government overseeing the management of the operations.153 The contractor provides all necessary services and technology and the requisite financing, performs the exploration work obligations, and assumes all exploration risks such that if no petroleum is produced, it will not be entitled to reimbursement.154 Once petroleum in commercial quantity is discovered, the contractor shall operate the field on behalf of the government.155
P.D. No. 87 prescribed minimum terms and conditions for every service contract.156 It also granted the contractor certain privileges, including exemption from taxes and payment of tariff duties,157 and permitted the repatriation of capital and retention of profits abroad.158
Ostensibly, the service contract system had certain advantages over the concession regime.159 It has been opined, though, that, in the Philippines, our concept of a service contract, at least in the petroleum industry, was basically a concession regime with a production-sharing element.160
On January 17, 1973, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos proclaimed the ratification of a new Constitution.161 Article XIV on the National Economy and Patrimony contained provisions similar to the 1935 Constitution with regard to Filipino participation in the nation's natural resources. Section 8, Article XIV thereof provides:
Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant.
While Section 9 of the same Article maintained the Filipino-only policy in the enjoyment of natural resources, it also allowed Filipinos, upon authority of the Batasang Pambansa, to enter into service contracts with any person or entity for the exploration or 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. [Emphasis supplied.]
The concept of service contracts, according to one delegate, was borrowed from the methods followed by India, Pakistan and especially Indonesia in the exploration of petroleum and mineral oils.162 The provision allowing such contracts, according to another, was intended to "enhance the proper development of our natural resources since Filipino citizens lack the needed capital and technical know-how which are essential in the proper exploration, development and exploitation of the natural resources of the country."163
The original idea was to authorize the government, not private entities, to enter into service contracts with foreign entities.164 As finally approved, however, a citizen or private entity could be allowed by the National Assembly to enter into such service contract.165 The prior approval of the National Assembly was deemed sufficient to protect the national interest.166 Notably, none of the laws allowing service contracts were passed by the Batasang Pambansa. Indeed, all of them were enacted by presidential decree.
On March 13, 1973, shortly after the ratification of the new Constitution, the President promulgated Presidential Decree No. 151.167 The law allowed Filipino citizens or entities which have acquired lands of the public domain or which own, hold or control such lands to enter into service contracts for financial, technical, management or other forms of assistance with any foreign persons or entity for the exploration, development, exploitation or utilization of said lands.168
Presidential Decree No. 463,169 also known as The Mineral Resources Development Decree of 1974, was enacted on May 17, 1974. Section 44 of the decree, as amended, provided that a lessee of a mining claim may enter into a service contract with a qualified domestic or foreign contractor for the exploration, development and exploitation of his claims and the processing and marketing of the product thereof.
Presidential Decree No. 704170 (The Fisheries Decree of 1975), approved on May 16, 1975, allowed Filipinos engaged in commercial fishing to enter into contracts for financial, technical or other forms of assistance with any foreign person, corporation or entity for the production, storage, marketing and processing of fish and fishery/aquatic products.171
Presidential Decree No. 705172 (The Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines), approved on May 19, 1975, allowed "forest products licensees, lessees, or permitees to enter into service contracts for financial, technical, management, or other forms of assistance . . . with any foreign person or entity for the exploration, development, exploitation or utilization of the forest resources."173
Yet another law allowing service contracts, this time for geothermal resources, was Presidential Decree No. 1442,174 which was signed into law on June 11, 1978. Section 1 thereof authorized the Government to enter into service contracts for the exploration, exploitation and development of geothermal resources with a foreign contractor who must be technically and financially capable of undertaking the operations required in the service contract.
Thus, virtually the entire range of the country's natural resources from petroleum and minerals to geothermal energy, from public lands and forest resources to fishery products was well covered by apparent legal authority to engage in the direct participation or involvement of foreign persons or corporations (otherwise disqualified) in the exploration and utilization of natural resources through service contracts.175
THE 1987 CONSTITUTION AND TECHNICAL OR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AGREEMENTS
After the February 1986 Edsa Revolution, Corazon C. Aquino took the reins of power under a revolutionary government. On March 25, 1986, President Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3,176 promulgating the Provisional Constitution, more popularly referred to as the Freedom Constitution. By authority of the same Proclamation, the President created a Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) to draft a new constitution, which took effect on the date of its ratification on February 2, 1987.177
The 1987 Constitution retained the Regalian doctrine. The first sentence of Section 2, Article XII states: "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."
Like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it, the 1987 Constitution, in the second sentence of the same provision, prohibits the alienation of natural resources, except agricultural lands.
The third sentence of the same paragraph is new: "The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State." The constitutional policy of the State's "full control and supervision" over natural resources proceeds from the concept of jura regalia, as well as the recognition of the importance of the country's natural resources, not only for national economic development, but also for its security and national defense.178 Under this provision, the State assumes "a more dynamic role" in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources.179
Conspicuously absent in Section 2 is the provision in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions authorizing the State to grant licenses, concessions, or leases for the exploration, exploitation, development, or utilization of natural resources. By such omission, the utilization of inalienable lands of public domain through "license, concession or lease" is no longer allowed under the 1987 Constitution.180
Having omitted the provision on the concession system, Section 2 proceeded to introduce "unfamiliar language":181
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.
Consonant with the State's "full supervision and control" over natural resources, Section 2 offers the State two "options."182 One, the State may directly undertake these activities itself; or two, it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or entities at least 60% of whose capital is owned by such citizens.
A third option is found in the third paragraph of the same section:
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.
While the second and third options are limited only to Filipino citizens or, in the case of the former, to corporations or associations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos, a fourth allows the participation of foreign-owned corporations. The fourth and fifth paragraphs of Section 2 provide:
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.
Although Section 2 sanctions the participation of foreign-owned corporations in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources, it imposes certain limitations or conditions to agreements with such corporations.
By virtue of her legislative powers under the Provisional Constitution,185 President Aquino, on July 10, 1987, signed into law E.O. No. 211 prescribing the interim procedures in the processing and approval of applications for the exploration, development and utilization of minerals. The omission in the 1987 Constitution of the term "service contracts" notwithstanding, the said E.O. still referred to them in Section 2 thereof:
Sec. 2. Applications for the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources, including renewal applications and applications for approval of operating agreements and mining service contracts, shall be accepted and processed and may be approved x x x. [Emphasis supplied.]
The same law provided in its Section 3 that the "processing, evaluation and approval of all mining applications . . . operating agreements and service contracts . . . shall be governed by Presidential Decree No. 463, as amended, other existing mining laws, and their implementing rules and regulations. . . ."
As earlier stated, on the 25th also of July 1987, the President issued E.O. No. 279 by authority of which the subject WMCP FTAA was executed on March 30, 1995.
On March 3, 1995, President Ramos signed into law R.A. No. 7942. Section 15 thereof declares that the Act "shall govern the exploration, development, utilization, and processing of all mineral resources." Such declaration notwithstanding, R.A. No. 7942 does not actually cover all the modes through which the State may undertake the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources.
The State, being the owner of the natural resources, is accorded the primary power and responsibility in the exploration, development and utilization thereof. As such, it may undertake these activities through four modes:
The State may directly undertake such activities.
Except to charge the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR with performing researches and surveys,187 and a passing mention of government-owned or controlled corporations,188 R.A. No. 7942 does not specify how the State should go about the first mode. The third mode, on the other hand, is governed by Republic Act No. 7076189 (the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991) and other pertinent laws.190 R.A. No. 7942 primarily concerns itself with the second and fourth modes.
Mineral production sharing, co-production and joint venture agreements are collectively classified by R.A. No. 7942 as "mineral agreements."191 The Government participates the least in a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA). In an MPSA, the Government grants the contractor192 the exclusive right to conduct mining operations within a contract area193 and shares in the gross output.194 The MPSA contractor provides the financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the agreement's implementation.195 The total government share in an MPSA is the excise tax on mineral products under Republic Act No. 7729,196 amending Section 151(a) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended.197
In a co-production agreement (CA),198 the Government provides inputs to the mining operations other than the mineral resource,199 while in a joint venture agreement (JVA), where the Government enjoys the greatest participation, the Government and the JVA contractor organize a company with both parties having equity shares.200 Aside from earnings in equity, the Government in a JVA is also entitled to a share in the gross output.201 The Government may enter into a CA202 or JVA203 with one or more contractors. The Government's share in a CA or JVA is set out in Section 81 of the law:
The share of the Government in co-production and joint venture agreements shall be negotiated by the Government and the contractor taking into consideration the: (a) capital investment of the project, (b) the risks involved, (c) contribution of the project to the economy, and (d) other factors that will provide for a fair and equitable sharing between the Government and the contractor. The Government shall also be entitled to compensations for its other contributions which shall be agreed upon by the parties, and shall consist, among other things, the contractor's income tax, excise tax, special allowance, withholding tax due from the contractor's foreign stockholders arising from dividend or interest payments to the said foreign stockholders, in case of a foreign national and all such other taxes, duties and fees as provided for under existing laws.
All mineral agreements grant the respective contractors the exclusive right to conduct mining operations and to extract all mineral resources found in the contract area.204 A "qualified person" may enter into any of the mineral agreements with the Government.205 A "qualified person" is
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 mining, with technical and financial capability to undertake mineral resources development and duly registered in accordance with law at least sixty per centum (60%) of the capital of which is owned by citizens of the Philippines x x x.206
The fourth mode involves "financial or technical assistance agreements." An FTAA is defined as "a contract involving financial or technical assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources."207 Any qualified person with technical and financial capability to undertake large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources in the Philippines may enter into such agreement directly with the Government through the DENR.208 For the purpose of granting an FTAA, a legally organized foreign-owned corporation (any corporation, partnership, association, or cooperative duly registered in accordance with law in which less than 50% of the capital is owned by Filipino citizens)209 is deemed a "qualified person."210
Other than the difference in contractors' qualifications, the principal distinction between mineral agreements and FTAAs is the maximum contract area to which a qualified person may hold or be granted.211 "Large-scale" under R.A. No. 7942 is determined by the size of the contract area, as opposed to the amount invested (US $50,000,000.00), which was the standard under E.O. 279.
Like a CA or a JVA, an FTAA is subject to negotiation.212 The Government's contributions, in the form of taxes, in an FTAA is identical to its contributions in the two mineral agreements, save that in an FTAA:
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.213
Having examined the history of the constitutional provision and statutes enacted pursuant thereto, a consideration of the substantive issues presented by the petition is now in order.
THE EFFECTIVITY OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 279
Petitioners argue that E.O. No. 279, the law in force when the WMC FTAA was executed, did not come into effect.
E.O. No. 279 was signed into law by then President Aquino on July 25, 1987, two days before the opening of Congress on July 27, 1987.214 Section 8 of the E.O. states that the same "shall take effect immediately." This provision, according to petitioners, runs counter to Section 1 of E.O. No. 200,215 which provides:
SECTION 1. Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, unless it is otherwise provided.216 [Emphasis supplied.]
On that premise, petitioners contend that E.O. No. 279 could have only taken effect fifteen days after its publication at which time Congress had already convened and the President's power to legislate had ceased.
Respondents, on the other hand, counter that the validity of E.O. No. 279 was settled in Miners Association of the Philippines v. Factoran, supra. This is of course incorrect for the issue in Miners Association was not the validity of E.O. No. 279 but that of DAO Nos. 57 and 82 which were issued pursuant thereto.
Nevertheless, petitioners' contentions have no merit.
It bears noting that there is nothing in E.O. No. 200 that prevents a law from taking effect on a date other than even before the 15-day period after its publication. Where a law provides for its own date of effectivity, such date prevails over that prescribed by E.O. No. 200. Indeed, this is the very essence of the phrase "unless it is otherwise provided" in Section 1 thereof. Section 1, E.O. No. 200, therefore, applies only when a statute does not provide for its own date of effectivity.
What is mandatory under E.O. No. 200, and what due process requires, as this Court held in Tañada v. Tuvera,217 is the publication of the law for without such notice and publication, there would be no basis for the application of the maxim "ignorantia legis n[eminem] excusat." It would be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the transgression of a law of which he had no notice whatsoever, not even a constructive one.
While the effectivity clause of E.O. No. 279 does not require its publication, it is not a ground for its invalidation since the Constitution, being "the fundamental, paramount and supreme law of the nation," is deemed written in the law.218 Hence, the due process clause,219 which, so Tañada held, mandates the publication of statutes, is read into Section 8 of E.O. No. 279. Additionally, Section 1 of E.O. No. 200 which provides for publication "either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines," finds suppletory application. It is significant to note that E.O. No. 279 was actually published in the Official Gazette220 on August 3, 1987.
From a reading then of Section 8 of E.O. No. 279, Section 1 of E.O. No. 200, and Tañada v. Tuvera, this Court holds that E.O. No. 279 became effective immediately upon its publication in the Official Gazette on August 3, 1987.
That such effectivity took place after the convening of the first Congress is irrelevant. At the time President Aquino issued E.O. No. 279 on July 25, 1987, she was still validly exercising legislative powers under the Provisional Constitution.221 Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions) of the 1987 Constitution explicitly states:
Sec. 6. The incumbent President shall continue to exercise legislative powers until the first Congress is convened.
The convening of the first Congress merely precluded the exercise of legislative powers by President Aquino; it did not prevent the effectivity of laws she had previously enacted.
There can be no question, therefore, that E.O. No. 279 is an effective, and a validly enacted, statute.
THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE WMCP FTAA
Petitioners submit that, in accordance with the text of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, FTAAs should be limited to "technical or financial assistance" only. They observe, however, that, contrary to the language of the Constitution, the WMCP FTAA allows WMCP, a fully foreign-owned mining corporation, to extend more than mere financial or technical assistance to the State, for it permits WMCP to manage and operate every aspect of the mining activity. 222
Petitioners' submission is well-taken. It is a cardinal rule in the interpretation of constitutions that the instrument must be so construed as to give effect to the intention of the people who adopted it.223 This intention is to be sought in the constitution itself, and the apparent meaning of the words is to be taken as expressing it, except in cases where that assumption would lead to absurdity, ambiguity, or contradiction.224 What the Constitution says according to the text of the provision, therefore, compels acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the postulate that the framers and the people mean what they say.225 Accordingly, following the literal text of the Constitution, assistance accorded by foreign-owned corporations in the large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of petroleum, minerals and mineral oils should be limited to "technical" or "financial" assistance only.
WMCP nevertheless submits that the word "technical" in the fourth paragraph of Section 2 of E.O. No. 279 encompasses a "broad number of possible services," perhaps, "scientific and/or technological in basis."226 It thus posits that it may also well include "the area of management or operations . . . so long as such assistance requires specialized knowledge or skills, and are related to the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources."227
This Court is not persuaded. As priorly pointed out, the phrase "management or other forms of assistance" in the 1973 Constitution was deleted in the 1987 Constitution, which allows only "technical or financial assistance." Casus omisus pro omisso habendus est. A person, object or thing omitted from an enumeration must be held to have been omitted intentionally.228 As will be shown later, 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.
Respondents insist that "agreements involving technical or financial assistance" is just another term for service contracts. They contend that the proceedings of the CONCOM indicate "that although the terminology 'service contract' was avoided [by the Constitution], the concept it represented was not." They add that "[t]he concept is embodied in the phrase 'agreements involving financial or technical assistance.'"229 And point out how members of the CONCOM referred to these agreements as "service contracts." For instance:
As earlier noted, the phrase "service contracts" has been deleted in the 1987 Constitution's Article on National Economy and Patrimony. If the CONCOM intended to retain the concept of service contracts under the 1973 Constitution, it could have simply adopted the old terminology ("service contracts") instead of employing new and unfamiliar terms ("agreements . . . involving either technical or financial assistance"). Such a difference between the language of a provision in a revised constitution and that of a similar provision in the preceding constitution is viewed as indicative of a difference in purpose.235 If, as respondents suggest, the concept of "technical or financial assistance" agreements is identical to that of "service contracts," the CONCOM would not have bothered to fit the same dog with a new collar. To uphold respondents' theory would reduce the first to a mere euphemism for the second and render the change in phraseology meaningless.
An examination of the reason behind the change confirms that technical or financial assistance agreements are not synonymous to service contracts.
[T]he Court in construing a Constitution should bear in mind the object sought to be accomplished by its adoption, and the evils, if any, sought to be prevented or remedied. A doubtful provision will be examined in light of the history of the times, and the condition and circumstances under which the Constitution was framed. The object is to ascertain the reason which induced the framers of the Constitution to enact the particular provision and the purpose sought to be accomplished thereby, in order to construe the whole as to make the words consonant to that reason and calculated to effect that purpose.236
As the following question of Commissioner Quesada and Commissioner Villegas' answer shows the drafters intended to do away with service contracts which were used to circumvent the capitalization (60%-40%) requirement:
Such activities may be directly undertaken by the State, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens.
So we are still limiting it only to Filipino citizens.
The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources may be directly undertaken by the State, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing agreement with . . . corporations or associations at least sixty per cent of whose voting stock or controlling interest is owned by such citizens.
Lines 25 to 30, on the other hand, suggest that in the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of natural resources, the President with the concurrence of Congress may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations even for technical or financial assistance.
I wonder if this part of Section 3 contradicts the second part. I am raising this point for fear that foreign investors will use their enormous capital resources to facilitate the actual exploitation or exploration, development and effective disposition of our natural resources to the detriment of Filipino investors. I am not saying that we should not consider borrowing money from foreign sources. What I refer to is that foreign interest should be allowed to participate only to the extent that they lend us money and give us technical assistance with the appropriate government permit. In this way, we can insure the enjoyment of our natural resources by our own people.
MR. VILLEGAS. Actually, the second provision about the President does not permit foreign investors to participate. It is only technical or financial assistance they do not own anything but on conditions that have to be determined by law with the concurrence of Congress. So, it is very restrictive.
If the Commissioner will remember, this removes the possibility for service contracts which we said yesterday were avenues used in the previous regime to go around the 60-40 requirement.238 [Emphasis supplied.]
The present Chief Justice, then a member of the CONCOM, also referred to this limitation in scope in proposing an amendment to the 60-40 requirement:
The Commission had just approved the Preamble. In the Preamble we clearly stated that the Filipino people are sovereign and that one of the objectives for the creation or establishment of a government is to conserve and develop the national patrimony. The implication is that the national patrimony or our natural resources are exclusively reserved for the Filipino people. No alien must be allowed to enjoy, exploit and develop our natural resources. As a matter of fact, that principle proceeds from the fact that our natural resources are gifts from God to the Filipino people and it would be a breach of that special blessing from God if we will allow aliens to exploit our natural resources.
I voted in favor of the Jamir proposal because it is not really exploitation that we granted to the alien corporations but only for them to render financial or technical assistance. It is not for them to enjoy our natural resources. Madam President, our natural resources are depleting; our population is increasing by leaps and bounds. Fifty years from now, if we will allow these aliens to exploit our natural resources, there will be no more natural resources for the next generations of Filipinos. It may last long if we will begin now. Since 1935 the aliens have been allowed to enjoy to a certain extent the exploitation of our natural resources, and we became victims of foreign dominance and control. The aliens are interested in coming to the Philippines because they would like to enjoy the bounty of nature exclusively intended for Filipinos by God.
And so I appeal to all, for the sake of the future generations, that if we have to pray in the Preamble "to preserve and develop the national patrimony for the sovereign Filipino people and for the generations to come," we must at this time decide once and for all that our natural resources must be reserved only to Filipino citizens.
Thank you.239 [Emphasis supplied.]
The opinion of another member of the CONCOM is persuasive240 and leaves no doubt as to the intention of the framers to eliminate service contracts altogether. He writes:
Paragraph 4 of Section 2 specifies large-scale, capital-intensive, highly technological undertakings for which the President may enter into contracts with foreign-owned corporations, and enunciates strict conditions that should govern such contracts. x x x.
This provision balances the need for foreign capital and technology with the need to maintain the national sovereignty. It recognizes the fact that as long as Filipinos can formulate their own terms in their own territory, there is no danger of relinquishing sovereignty to foreign interests.
Are service contracts allowed under the new Constitution? No. Under the new Constitution, foreign investors (fully alien-owned) can NOT participate in Filipino enterprises except to provide: (1) Technical Assistance for highly technical enterprises; and (2) Financial Assistance for large-scale enterprises.
The intent of this provision, as well as other provisions on foreign investments, is to prevent the practice (prevalent in the Marcos government) of skirting the 60/40 equation using the cover of service contracts.241 [Emphasis supplied.]
Furthermore, it appears that Proposed Resolution No. 496,242 which was the draft Article on National Economy and Patrimony, adopted the concept of "agreements . . . involving either technical or financial assistance" contained in the "Draft of the 1986 U.P. Law Constitution Project" (U.P. Law draft) which was taken into consideration during the deliberation of the CONCOM.243 The former, as well as Article XII, as adopted, employed the same terminology, as the comparative table below shows:
The insights of the proponents of the U.P. Law draft are, therefore, instructive in interpreting the phrase "technical or financial assistance."
In his position paper entitled Service Contracts: Old Wine in New Bottles?, Professor Pacifico A. Agabin, who was a member of the working group that prepared the U.P. Law draft, criticized service contracts for they "lodge exclusive management and control of the enterprise to the service contractor, which is reminiscent of the old concession regime. Thus, notwithstanding the provision of the Constitution that natural resources belong to the State, and that these shall not be alienated, the service contract system renders nugatory the constitutional provisions cited."244 He elaborates:
Looking at the Philippine model, we can discern the following vestiges of the concession regime, thus:
In short, our version of the service contract is just a rehash of the old concession regime x x x. Some people have pulled an old rabbit out of a magician's hat, and foisted it upon us as a new and different animal.
The service contract as we know it here is antithetical to the principle of sovereignty over our natural resources restated in the same article of the  Constitution containing the provision for service contracts. If the service contractor happens to be a foreign corporation, the contract would also run counter to the constitutional provision on nationalization or Filipinization, of the exploitation of our natural resources.245 [Emphasis supplied. Underscoring in the original.]
Professor Merlin M. Magallona, also a member of the working group, was harsher in his reproach of the system:
x x x the nationalistic phraseology of the 1935 [Constitution] was retained by the  Charter, but the essence of nationalism was reduced to hollow rhetoric. The 1973 Charter still provided that the exploitation or development of the country's natural resources be limited to Filipino citizens or corporations owned or controlled by them. However, the martial-law Constitution allowed them, once these resources are in their name, to enter into service contracts with foreign investors for financial, technical, management, or other forms of assistance. Since foreign investors have the capital resources, the actual exploitation and development, as well as the effective disposition, of the country's natural resources, would be under their direction, and control, relegating the Filipino investors to the role of second-rate partners in joint ventures.
Through the instrumentality of the service contract, the 1973 Constitution had legitimized at the highest level of state policy that which was prohibited under the 1973 Constitution, namely: the exploitation of the country's natural resources by foreign nationals. The drastic impact of [this] constitutional change becomes more pronounced when it is considered that the active party to any service contract may be a corporation wholly owned by foreign interests. In such a case, the citizenship requirement is completely set aside, permitting foreign corporations to obtain actual possession, control, and [enjoyment] of the country's natural resources.246 [Emphasis supplied.]
Accordingly, Professor Agabin recommends that:
Recognizing the service contract for what it is, we have to expunge it from the Constitution and reaffirm ownership over our natural resources. That is the only way we can exercise effective control over our natural resources.
This should not mean complete isolation of the country's natural resources from foreign investment. Other contract forms which are less derogatory to our sovereignty and control over natural resources like technical assistance agreements, financial assistance [agreements], co-production agreements, joint ventures, production-sharing could still be utilized and adopted without violating constitutional provisions. In other words, we can adopt contract forms which recognize and assert our sovereignty and ownership over natural resources, and where the foreign entity is just a pure contractor instead of the beneficial owner of our economic resources.247 [Emphasis supplied.]
Still another member of the working group, Professor Eduardo Labitag, proposed that:
2. Service contracts as practiced under the 1973 Constitution should be discouraged, instead the government may be allowed, subject to authorization by special law passed by an extraordinary majority to enter into either technical or financial assistance. This is justified by the fact that as presently worded in the 1973 Constitution, a service contract gives full control over the contract area to the service contractor, for him to work, manage and dispose of the proceeds or production. It was a subterfuge to get around the nationality requirement of the constitution.248 [Emphasis supplied.]
In the annotations on the proposed Article on National Economy and Patrimony, the U.P. Law draft summarized the rationale therefor, thus:
5. The last paragraph is a modification of the service contract provision found in Section 9, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution as amended. This 1973 provision shattered the framework of nationalism in our fundamental law (see Magallona, "Nationalism and its Subversion in the Constitution"). Through the service contract, the 1973 Constitution had legitimized that which was prohibited under the 1935 constitutionthe exploitation of the country's natural resources by foreign nationals. Through the service contract, acts prohibited by the Anti-Dummy Law were recognized as legitimate arrangements. Service contracts lodge exclusive management and control of the enterprise to the service contractor, not unlike the old concession regime where the concessionaire had complete control over the country's natural resources, having been given exclusive and plenary rights to exploit a particular resource and, in effect, having been assured of ownership of that resource at the point of extraction (see Agabin, "Service Contracts: Old Wine in New Bottles"). Service contracts, hence, are antithetical to the principle of sovereignty over our natural resources, as well as the constitutional provision on nationalization or Filipinization of the exploitation of our natural resources.
Under the proposed provision, only technical assistance or financial assistance agreements may be entered into, and only for large-scale activities. These are contract forms which recognize and assert our sovereignty and ownership over natural resources since the foreign entity is just a pure contractor and not a beneficial owner of our economic resources. The proposal recognizes the need for capital and technology to develop our natural resources without sacrificing our sovereignty and control over such resources by the safeguard of a special law which requires two-thirds vote of all the members of the Legislature. This will ensure that such agreements will be debated upon exhaustively and thoroughly in the National Assembly to avert prejudice to the nation.249 [Emphasis supplied.]
The U.P. Law draft proponents viewed service contracts under the 1973 Constitution as grants of beneficial ownership of the country's natural resources to foreign owned corporations. While, in theory, the State owns these natural resources and Filipino citizens, their beneficiaries service contracts actually vested foreigners with the right to dispose, explore for, develop, exploit, and utilize the same. Foreigners, not Filipinos, became the beneficiaries of Philippine natural resources. This arrangement is clearly incompatible with the constitutional ideal of nationalization of natural resources, with the Regalian doctrine, and on a broader perspective, with Philippine sovereignty.
The proponents nevertheless acknowledged the need for capital and technical know-how in the large-scale exploitation, development and utilization of natural resources the second paragraph of the proposed draft itself being an admission of such scarcity. Hence, they recommended a compromise to reconcile the nationalistic provisions dating back to the 1935 Constitution, which reserved all natural resources exclusively to Filipinos, and the more liberal 1973 Constitution, which allowed foreigners to participate in these resources through service contracts. Such a compromise called for the adoption of a new system in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources in the form of technical agreements or financial agreements which, necessarily, are distinct concepts from service contracts.
The replacement of "service contracts" with "agreements involving either technical or financial assistance," as well as the deletion of the phrase "management or other forms of assistance," assumes greater significance when note is taken that the U.P. Law draft proposed other equally crucial changes that were obviously heeded by the CONCOM. These include the abrogation of the concession system and the adoption of new "options" for the State in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources. The proponents deemed these changes to be more consistent with the State's ownership of, and its "full control and supervision" (a phrase also employed by the framers) over, such resources. The Project explained:
3. In line with the State ownership of natural resources, the State should take a more active role in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources, than the present practice of granting licenses, concessions, or leases hence the provision that said activities shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. There are three major schemes by which the State could undertake these activities: first, directly by itself; second, by virtue of co-production, joint venture, production sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or corporations or associations sixty per cent (60%) of the voting stock or controlling interests of which are owned by such citizens; or third, with a foreign-owned corporation, in cases of large-scale exploration, development, or utilization of natural resources through agreements involving either technical or financial assistance only. x x x.
At present, under the licensing concession or lease schemes, the government benefits from such benefits only through fees, charges, ad valorem taxes and income taxes of the exploiters of our natural resources. Such benefits are very minimal compared with the enormous profits reaped by theses licensees, grantees, concessionaires. Moreover, some of them disregard the conservation of natural resources and do not protect the environment from degradation. The proposed role of the State will enable it to a greater share in the profits it can also actively husband its natural resources and engage in developmental programs that will be beneficial to them.
4. Aside from the three major schemes for the exploration, development, and utilization of our natural resources, the State may, by law, allow Filipino citizens to explore, develop, utilize natural resources in small-scale. This is in recognition of the plight of marginal fishermen, forest dwellers, gold panners, and others similarly situated who exploit our natural resources for their daily sustenance and survival.250
Professor Agabin, in particular, after taking pains to illustrate the similarities between the two systems, concluded that the service contract regime was but a "rehash" of the concession system. "Old wine in new bottles," as he put it. The rejection of the service contract regime, therefore, is in consonance with the abolition of the concession system.
In light of the deliberations of the CONCOM, the text of the Constitution, and the adoption of other proposed changes, there is no doubt that the framers considered and shared the intent of the U.P. Law proponents in employing the phrase "agreements . . . involving either technical or financial assistance."
While certain commissioners may have mentioned the term "service contracts" during the CONCOM deliberations, they may not have been necessarily referring to the concept of service contracts under the 1973 Constitution. As noted earlier, "service contracts" is a term that assumes different meanings to different people.251 The commissioners may have been using the term loosely, and not in its technical and legal sense, to refer, in general, to agreements concerning natural resources entered into by the Government with foreign corporations. These loose statements do not necessarily translate to the adoption of the 1973 Constitution provision allowing service contracts.
It is true that, as shown in the earlier quoted portions of the proceedings in CONCOM, in response to Sr. Tan's question, Commissioner Villegas commented that, other than congressional notification, the only difference between "future" and "past" "service contracts" is the requirement of a general law as there were no laws previously authorizing the same.252 However, such remark is far outweighed by his more categorical statement in his exchange with Commissioner Quesada that the draft article "does not permit foreign investors to participate" in the nation's natural resources which was exactly what service contracts did except to provide "technical or financial assistance."253
In the case of the other commissioners, Commissioner Nolledo himself clarified in his work that the present charter prohibits service contracts.254 Commissioner Gascon was not totally averse to foreign participation, but favored stricter restrictions in the form of majority congressional concurrence.255 On the other hand, Commissioners Garcia and Tadeo may have veered to the extreme side of the spectrum and their objections may be interpreted as votes against any foreign participation in our natural resources whatsoever.
WMCP cites Opinion No. 75, s. 1987,256 and Opinion No. 175, s. 1990257 of the Secretary of Justice, expressing the view that a financial or technical assistance agreement "is no different in concept" from the service contract allowed under the 1973 Constitution. This Court is not, however, bound by this interpretation. When an administrative or executive agency renders an opinion or issues a statement of policy, it merely interprets a pre-existing law; and the administrative interpretation of the law is at best advisory, for it is the courts that finally determine what the law means.258
In any case, the constitutional provision allowing the President to enter into FTAAs with foreign-owned corporations is an exception to the rule that participation in the nation's natural resources is reserved exclusively to Filipinos. Accordingly, such provision must be construed strictly against their enjoyment by non-Filipinos. As Commissioner Villegas emphasized, the provision is "very restrictive."259 Commissioner Nolledo also remarked 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."260 Indeed, exceptions should be strictly but reasonably construed; they extend only so far as their language fairly warrants and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provision rather than the exception.261
With the foregoing discussion in mind, this Court finds that R.A. No. 7942 is invalid insofar as said Act authorizes service contracts. Although the statute employs the phrase "financial and technical agreements" in accordance with the 1987 Constitution, it actually treats these agreements as service contracts that grant beneficial ownership to foreign contractors contrary to the fundamental law.
Section 33, which is found under Chapter VI (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement) of R.A. No. 7942 states:
SEC. 33. Eligibility.Any qualified person with technical and financial capability to undertake large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of mineral resources in the Philippines may enter into a financial or technical assistance agreement directly with the Government through the Department. [Emphasis supplied.]
"Exploration," as defined by R.A. No. 7942,
means the searching or prospecting for mineral resources by geological, geochemical or geophysical surveys, remote sensing, test pitting, trending, drilling, shaft sinking, tunneling or any other means for the purpose of determining the existence, extent, quantity and quality thereof and the feasibility of mining them for profit.262
A legally organized foreign-owned corporation may be granted an exploration permit,263 which vests it with the right to conduct exploration for all minerals in specified areas,264 i.e., to enter, occupy and explore the same.265 Eventually, the foreign-owned corporation, as such permittee, may apply for a financial and technical assistance agreement.266
"Development" is the work undertaken to explore and prepare an ore body or a mineral deposit for mining, including the construction of necessary infrastructure and related facilities.267
"Utilization" "means the extraction or disposition of minerals."268 A stipulation that the proponent shall dispose of the minerals and byproducts produced at the highest price and more advantageous terms and conditions as provided for under the implementing rules and regulations is required to be incorporated in every FTAA.269
A foreign-owned/-controlled corporation may likewise be granted a mineral processing permit.270 "Mineral processing" is the milling, beneficiation or upgrading of ores or minerals and rocks or by similar means to convert the same into marketable products.271
An FTAA contractor makes a warranty that the mining operations shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of R.A. No. 7942 and its implementing rules272 and for work programs and minimum expenditures and commitments.273 And it obliges itself to furnish the Government records of geologic, accounting, and other relevant data for its mining operation.274
"Mining operation," as the law defines it, means mining activities involving exploration, feasibility, development, utilization, and processing.275
The underlying assumption in all these provisions is that the foreign contractor manages the mineral resources, just like the foreign contractor in a service contract.
Furthermore, Chapter XII of the Act grants foreign contractors in FTAAs the same auxiliary mining rights that it grants contractors in mineral agreements (MPSA, CA and JV).276 Parenthetically, Sections 72 to 75 use the term "contractor," without distinguishing between FTAA and mineral agreement contractors. And so does "holders of mining rights" in Section 76. A foreign contractor may even convert its FTAA into a mineral agreement if the economic viability of the contract area is found to be inadequate to justify large-scale mining operations,277 provided that it reduces its equity in the corporation, partnership, association or cooperative to forty percent (40%).278
Finally, under the Act, an FTAA contractor warrants that it "has or has access to all the financing, managerial, and technical expertise. . . ."279 This suggests that an FTAA contractor is bound to provide some management assistance a form of assistance that has been eliminated and, therefore, proscribed by the present Charter.
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 nation's mineral resources to these contractors, leaving the State with nothing but bare title thereto.
Moreover, the same provisions, whether by design or inadvertence, permit a circumvention of the constitutionally ordained 60%-40% capitalization requirement for corporations or associations engaged in the exploitation, development and utilization of Philippine natural resources.
In sum, the Court finds the following provisions of R.A. No. 7942 to be violative of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution:
The following provisions of the same Act are likewise void as they are dependent on the foregoing provisions and cannot stand on their own:
When the parts of the statute are so mutually dependent and connected as conditions, considerations, inducements, or compensations for each other, as to warrant a belief that the legislature intended them as a whole, and that if all could not be carried into effect, the legislature would not pass the residue independently, then, if some parts are unconstitutional, all the provisions which are thus dependent, conditional, or connected, must fall with them.293
There can be little doubt that the WMCP FTAA itself is a service contract.
Section 1.3 of the WMCP FTAA grants WMCP "the exclusive right to explore, exploit, utilise[,] process and dispose of all Minerals products and by-products thereof that may be produced from the Contract Area."294 The FTAA also imbues WMCP with the following rights:
All materials, equipment, plant and other installations erected or placed on the Contract Area remain the property of WMCP, which has the right to deal with and remove such items within twelve months from the termination of the FTAA.296
Pursuant to Section 1.2 of the FTAA, WMCP shall provide "[all] financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the Mining Operations." The mining company binds itself to "perform all Mining Operations . . . providing all necessary services, technology and financing in connection therewith,"297 and to "furnish all materials, labour, equipment and other installations that may be required for carrying on all Mining Operations."298> WMCP may make expansions, improvements and replacements of the mining facilities and may add such new facilities as it considers necessary for the mining operations.299
These contractual stipulations, taken together, grant WMCP beneficial ownership over natural resources that properly belong to the State and are intended for the benefit of its citizens. These stipulations are abhorrent to the 1987 Constitution. They are precisely the vices that the fundamental law seeks to avoid, the evils that it aims to suppress. Consequently, the contract from which they spring must be struck down.
In arguing against the annulment of the FTAA, WMCP invokes the Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investments between the Philippine and Australian Governments, which was signed in Manila on January 25, 1995 and which entered into force on December 8, 1995.
x x x. Article 2 (1) of said treaty states that it applies to investments whenever made and thus the fact that [WMCP's] FTAA was entered into prior to the entry into force of the treaty does not preclude the Philippine Government from protecting [WMCP's] investment in [that] FTAA. Likewise, Article 3 (1) of the treaty provides that "Each Party shall encourage and promote investments in its area by investors of the other Party and shall [admit] such investments in accordance with its Constitution, Laws, regulations and investment policies" and in Article 3 (2), it states that "Each Party shall ensure that investments are accorded fair and equitable treatment." The latter stipulation indicates that it was intended to impose an obligation upon a Party to afford fair and equitable treatment to the investments of the other Party and that a failure to provide such treatment by or under the laws of the Party may constitute a breach of the treaty. Simply stated, the Philippines could not, under said treaty, rely upon the inadequacies of its own laws to deprive an Australian investor (like [WMCP]) of fair and equitable treatment by invalidating [WMCP's] FTAA without likewise nullifying the service contracts entered into before the enactment of RA 7942 such as those mentioned in PD 87 or EO 279.
This becomes more significant in the light of the fact that [WMCP's] FTAA was executed not by a mere Filipino citizen, but by the Philippine Government itself, through its President no less, which, in entering into said treaty is assumed to be aware of the existing Philippine laws on service contracts over the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources. The execution of the FTAA by the Philippine Government assures the Australian Government that the FTAA is in accordance with existing Philippine laws.300 [Emphasis and italics by private respondents.]
The invalidation of the subject FTAA, it is argued, would constitute a breach of said treaty which, in turn, would amount to a violation of Section 3, Article II of the Constitution adopting the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. One of these generally accepted principles is pacta sunt servanda, which requires the performance in good faith of treaty obligations.
Even assuming arguendo that WMCP is correct in its interpretation of the treaty and its assertion that "the Philippines could not . . . deprive an Australian investor (like [WMCP]) of fair and equitable treatment by invalidating [WMCP's] FTAA without likewise nullifying the service contracts entered into before the enactment of RA 7942 . . .," the annulment of the FTAA would not constitute a breach of the treaty invoked. For this decision herein invalidating the subject FTAA forms part of the legal system of the Philippines.301 The equal protection clause302 guarantees that such decision shall apply to all contracts belonging to the same class, hence, upholding rather than violating, the "fair and equitable treatment" stipulation in said treaty.
One other matter requires clarification. Petitioners contend that, consistent with the provisions of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, the President may enter into agreements involving "either technical or financial assistance" only. The agreement in question, however, is a technical and financial assistance agreement.
Petitioners' contention does not lie. To adhere to the literal language of the Constitution would lead to absurd consequences.303 As WMCP correctly put it:
x x x such a theory of petitioners would compel the government (through the President) to enter into contract with two (2) foreign-owned corporations, one for financial assistance agreement and with the other, for technical assistance over one and the same mining area or land; or to execute two (2) contracts with only one foreign-owned corporation which has the capability to provide both financial and technical assistance, one for financial assistance and another for technical assistance, over the same mining area. Such an absurd result is definitely not sanctioned under the canons of constitutional construction.304 [Underscoring in the original.]
Surely, the framers of the 1987 Charter did not contemplate such an absurd result from their use of "either/or." A constitution is not to be interpreted as demanding the impossible or the impracticable; and unreasonable or absurd consequences, if possible, should be avoided.305 Courts are not to give words a meaning that would lead to absurd or unreasonable consequences and a literal interpretation is to be rejected if it would be unjust or lead to absurd results.306 That is a strong argument against its adoption.307 Accordingly, petitioners' interpretation must be rejected.
The foregoing discussion has rendered unnecessary the resolution of the other issues raised by the petition.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court hereby declares unconstitutional and void:
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Quisumbing, Carpio, Corona, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga. JJ., concur.
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