Narra Nickel Mining vs Redmont (G.R. No. 195580 April 21, 2014)

Narra Nickel Mining and Development Corp. vs Redmont Consolidated Mines Corporation
G.R. No. 195580 April 21, 2014

Facts: Sometime in December 2006, respondent Redmont Consolidated Mines Corp. (Redmont), a domestic corporation organized and existing under Philippine laws, took interest in mining and exploring certain areas of the province of Palawan. After inquiring with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it learned that the areas where it wanted to undertake exploration and mining activities where already covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) applications of petitioners Narra, Tesoro and McArthur. Petitioner McArthur, through its predecessor-in-interest Sara Marie Mining, Inc. (SMMI), filed an application for an MPSA and Exploration Permit (EP) with the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB), Region IV-B, Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Subsequently, SMMI was issued MPSA-AMA-IVB-153 covering an area of over 1,782 hectares in Barangay Sumbiling, Municipality of Bataraza, Province of Palawan and EPA-IVB-44 which includes an area of 3,720 hectares in Barangay Malatagao, Bataraza, Palawan. The MPSA and EP were then transferred to Madridejos Mining Corporation (MMC) and, on November 6, 2006, assigned to petitioner McArthur. Petitioner Narra acquired its MPSA from Alpha Resources and Development Corporation and Patricia Louise Mining & Development Corporation (PLMDC) which previously filed an application for an MPSA with the MGB, Region IV-B, DENR on January 6, 1992. Through the said application, the DENR issued MPSA-IV-1-12 covering an area of 3.277 hectares in barangays Calategas and San Isidro, Municipality of Narra, Palawan. Subsequently, PLMDC conveyed, transferred and/or assigned its rights and interests over the MPSA application in favor of Narra. Another MPSA application of SMMI was filed with the DENR Region IV-B, labeled as MPSA-AMA-IVB-154 (formerly EPA-IVB-47) over 3,402 hectares in Barangays Malinao and Princesa Urduja, Municipality of Narra, Province of Palawan. SMMI subsequently conveyed, transferred and assigned its rights and interest over the said MPSA application to Tesoro. On January 2, 2007, Redmont filed before the Panel of Arbitrators (POA) of the DENR three (3) separate petitions for the denial of petitioners’ applications for MPSA designated as AMA-IVB-153, AMA-IVB-154 and MPSA IV-1-12. In the petitions, Redmont alleged that at least 60% of the capital stock of McArthur, Tesoro and Narra are owned and controlled by MBMI Resources, Inc. (MBMI), a 100% Canadian corporation. Redmont reasoned that since MBMI is a considerable stockholder of petitioners, it was the driving force behind petitioners’ filing of the MPSAs over the areas covered by applications since it knows that it can only participate in mining activities through corporations which are deemed Filipino citizens. Redmont argued that given that petitioners’ capital stocks were mostly owned by MBMI, they were likewise disqualified from engaging in mining activities through MPSAs, which are reserved only for Filipino citizens.
Issue: Whether or not the petitioner corporations are Filipino and can validly be issued MPSA and  EP.
Held: No. The SEC Rules provide for the manner of calculating the Filipino interest in a corporation for purposes, among others, of determining compliance with nationality requirements (the ‘Investee Corporation’). Such manner of computation is necessary since the shares in the Investee Corporation may be owned both by individual stockholders (‘Investing Individuals’) and by corporations and partnerships (‘Investing Corporation’). The said rules thus provide for the determination of nationality depending on the ownership of the Investee Corporation and, in certain instances, the Investing Corporation.
Under the SEC Rules, there are two cases in determining the nationality of the Investee Corporation. The first case is the ‘liberal rule’, later coined by the SEC as the Control Test in its 30 May 1990 Opinion, and pertains to the portion in said Paragraph 7 of the 1967 SEC Rules which states, ‘(s)hares belonging to corporations or partnerships at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipino citizens shall be considered as of Philippine nationality.’ Under the liberal Control Test, there is no need to further trace the ownership of the 60% (or more) Filipino stockholdings of the Investing Corporation since a corporation which is at least 60% Filipino-owned is considered as Filipino.
The second case is the Strict Rule or the Grandfather Rule Proper and pertains to the portion in said Paragraph 7 of the 1967 SEC Rules which states, “but if the percentage of Filipino ownership in the corporation or partnership is less than 60%, only the number of shares corresponding to such percentage shall be counted as of Philippine nationality.” Under the Strict Rule or Grandfather Rule Proper, the combined totals in the Investing Corporation and the Investee Corporation must be traced (i.e., “grandfathered”) to determine the total percentage of Filipino ownership. Moreover, the ultimate Filipino ownership of the shares must first be traced to the level of the Investing Corporation and added to the shares directly owned in the Investee Corporation.
In other words, based on the said SEC Rule and DOJ Opinion, the Grandfather Rule or the second part of the SEC Rule applies only when the 60-40 Filipino-foreign equity ownership is in doubt (i.e., in cases where the joint venture corporation with Filipino and foreign stockholders with less than 60% Filipino stockholdings [or 59%] invests in other joint venture corporation which is either 60-40% Filipino-alien or the 59% less Filipino). Stated differently, where the 60-40 Filipino- foreign equity ownership is not in doubt, the Grandfather Rule will not apply.


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