Korea Technologies Co. Ltd vs Lerma (GR No. 143581 January 7, 2008)

Korea Technologies Co. Ltd vs Lerma
GR No. 143581 January 7, 2008

Facts: Petitioner Korea Technologies Co., Ltd. (KOGIES) is a Korean corporation which is engaged in the supply and installation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Cylinder manufacturing plants, while private respondent Pacific General Steel Manufacturing Corp. (PGSMC) is a domestic corporation. On March 5, 1997, PGSMC and KOGIES executed a Contract whereby KOGIES would set up an LPG Cylinder Manufacturing Plant in Carmona, Cavite. The contract was executed in the Philippines. On April 7, 1997, the parties executed, in Korea, an Amendment for Contract No. KLP-970301 dated March 5, 1997 amending the terms of payment. The contract and its amendment stipulated that KOGIES will ship the machinery and facilities necessary for manufacturing LPG cylinders for which PGSMC would pay USD 1,224,000. KOGIES would install and initiate the operation of the plant for which PGSMC bound itself to pay USD 306,000 upon the plants production of the 11-kg. LPG cylinder samples. Thus, the total contract price amounted to USD 1,530,000. On October 14, 1997, PGSMC entered into a Contract of Lease with Worth Properties, Inc. (Worth) for use of Worths 5,079-square meter property with a 4,032-square meter warehouse building to house the LPG manufacturing plant. The monthly rental was PhP 322,560 commencing on January 1, 1998 with a 10% annual increment clause. Subsequently, the machineries, equipment, and facilities for the manufacture of LPG cylinders were shipped, delivered, and installed in the Carmona plant. PGSMC paid KOGIES USD 1,224,000. However, gleaned from the Certificate executed by the parties on January 22, 1998, after the installation of the plant, the initial operation could not be conducted as PGSMC encountered financial difficulties affecting the supply of materials, thus forcing the parties to agree that KOGIES would be deemed to have completely complied with the terms and conditions of the March 5, 1997 contract. For the remaining balance of USD306,000 for the installation and initial operation of the plant, PGSMC issued two postdated checks: (1) BPI Check No. 0316412 dated January 30, 1998 for PhP 4,500,000; and (2) BPI Check No. 0316413 dated March 30, 1998 for PhP 4,500,000. When KOGIES deposited the checks, these were dishonored for the reason PAYMENT STOPPED. Thus, on May 8, 1998, KOGIES sent a demand letter to PGSMC threatening criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 in case of nonpayment. On the same date, the wife of PGSMCs President faxed a letter dated May 7, 1998 to KOGIES President who was then staying at a Makati City hotel. She complained that not only did KOGIES deliver a different brand of hydraulic press from that agreed upon but it had not delivered several equipment parts already paid for.

Issue: Whether or not the arbitration clause in the contract of the parties should govern.

Held: Yes. Established in this jurisdiction is the rule that the law of the place where the contract is made governs. Lex loci contractus. The contract in this case was perfected here in the Philippines. Therefore, our laws ought to govern. Nonetheless, Art. 2044 of the Civil Code sanctions the validity of mutually agreed arbitral clause or the finality and binding effect of an arbitral award. Art. 2044 provides, Any stipulation that the arbitrators award or decision shall be final, is valid, without prejudice to Articles 2038, 2039 and 2040.

The arbitration clause was mutually and voluntarily agreed upon by the parties. It has not been shown to be contrary to any law, or against morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. There has been no showing that the parties have not dealt with each other on equal footing. We find no reason why the arbitration clause should not be respected and complied with by both parties. In Gonzales v. Climax Mining Ltd., we held that submission to arbitration is a contract and that a clause in a contract providing that all matters in dispute between the parties shall be referred to arbitration is a contract. Again in Del Monte Corporation-USA v. Court of Appeals, we likewise ruled that [t]he provision to submit to arbitration any dispute arising therefrom and the relationship of the parties is part of that contract and is itself a contract.

Having said that the instant arbitration clause is not against public policy, we come to the question on what governs an arbitration clause specifying that in case of any dispute arising from the contract, an arbitral panel will be constituted in a foreign country and the arbitration rules of the foreign country would govern and its award shall be final and binding.

Thus, it can be gleaned that the concept of a final and binding arbitral award is similar to judgments or awards given by some of our quasi-judicial bodies, like the National Labor Relations Commission and Mines Adjudication Board, whose final judgments are stipulated to be final and binding, but not immediately executory in the sense that they may still be judicially reviewed, upon the instance of any party. Therefore, the final foreign arbitral awards are similarly situated in that they need first to be confirmed by the RTC.

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