Palma vs Malangas (413 SCRA 572)

Palma Development Corporation vs Municipality of Malangas
413 SCRA 572 [GR No. 152492 October 16, 2003]

Facts: Petitioner Palma Development Corporation is engaged in milling and selling rice and corn to wholesalers in Zamboanga City. It uses the municipal port of Malangas, Zamboanga del Sur as transshipment port for its goods. The port, as well as the surrounding roads leading to it, belong to and are maintained by the Municipality of Malangas, Zamboanga del Sur. On January 16, 1994, the municipality passed municipal revenue code no. 09 series of 1993, which was subsequently approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del Sur in resolution no. 1330 dated August 4, 1994. Section 56.01 of the ordinance reads as follows:

Sec 56.01 Imposition of Fees. There shall be collected service fee for its use of the municipal roads or streets leading to the wharf and to any point along the shorelines within the jurisdiction of the municipality and for police surveillance on all goods and all equipment harboured or sheltered in the premises of the wharf and other within the jurisdiction of the municipality [xxx]

Accordingly, the service fees imposed by section 56.01 of the ordinance was paid by petitioner under protest. It contended that under Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the local government code of 1991, municipal governments did not have authority to tax goods and vehicles that passed through their jurisdictions. Thereafter, before the Regional Trial Court of Pagadian City, petitioner filed against the Municipality of Malangas on November 29, 1995, an action for declaratory relief assailing the validity of section 56.01 of the municipal ordinance.

Issue: Whether or not the imposition of service fee is proper and valid.

Held: No. By the express language of section 153 and 155 RA 7160, local government units, through their sanggunian, may prescribe the terms and conditions for the imposition of toll fees or charges for the use of any public road, pier or wharf funded and constructed by them. A service fee imposed on vehicles using municipal roads leading to the wharf is thus valid, however, section 133 (e) of RA 7160 prohibits the imposition, in the guise of wharfage fees — as well as other taxes or charges in any form whatsoever on goods or merchandise. It is therefore irrelevant if the fee imposed are actually for police surveillance on the goods, because any other form of imposition on goods passing through the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality is clearly prohibited by section 133 (e).

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