Cyber Bay appeals case
() - May 19, 2003 - 12:00am
Central Bay Reclamation and Development Corp. (Cyber Bay or formerly Amari Coastal Bay Development Corp.) has appealed the recent Supreme Court decision which nullified the real estate company’s contract with the Philippine Estate Authority (PEA) to reclaim some 750 hectares of land from the shores of Manila Bay.

The high court earlier nullified the amended joint venture contract between PEA and Amari citing, among others, that reclaimed lands are public domain and could not be sold to private enterprises.

Cyber Bay, however, believed the case deserves a second review because:

1. The high court failed to appreciate that even before its first decision on July 9, 2002, there had been no judicial doctrine that "reclaimed lands are lands of public domain and therefore cannot be alienated in favor of private corporations. The decision should therefore be given prospective and not retroactive effect."

2. The Supreme Court also did not take into account that there was no sales contract, much more a transfer of reclaimed lands to Amari under the amended joint venture agreement (JVA).

3. The high court overlooked that Amari "could not have been in bad faith in executing the amended JVA."

Cyber Bay argued that as early as the 1866 Spanish Law of Waters, the "doctrine has been that lands, if reclaimed by private persons with proper permission from the Government, belong to the private persons and not to the Government."

In effect, what Cyber Bay was saying is that if the high court wishes to issue a new law, or a new doctrine governing land reclamations, then it should not cover projects that had been either completed or in the process of completion before the SC’s landmark decision: "The retroactive application of a law usually divests right that have already become vested or impairs the obligations of contract and hence is unconstitutional. Thus, new doctrines should be applied prospectively and should not apply to parties who had relied on the old doctrine and acted on the faith thereof (Spouses Benzonan v. Court of Appeals – 1992).

"Government approvals have in fact been granted on similar numerous other projects based on similar arrangements," Cyber Bay said, arguing that to single out the PEA-Amari deal, "would indeed violate private respondent’s constitutional right to the equal protection of our laws."

Also, Cyber Bay does not see up to now where in the Amari-PEA contract does it state that there was transfer of any lands in favor of the company: "Private respondent does not likewise see which portions of the amended JVA could have been construed as an outright sale of reclaimed lands in favor of private respondent, when there has been no question between the parties that their contractual intent under the Amended JVA was to enter into a contract or services, for which the consideration may be paid in reclaimed land of cash."

Cyber Bay also said that former Francisco Chavez’s petition only prayed that he be granted right to information and not to nullify the contract altogether.

While recognizing that the high court ruling was final, Cyber Bay stated that the legal issues involved in the case are of "paramount significance since" they affect not only the Amari-PEA project, but all other reclamation projects elsewhere. The decision, Cyber Bay said "also affects numerous shareholders – foreign and local – who had invested their funds on the faith of the review and various approvals by Government of the Amended JVA (joint venture agreement).

Cyber Bay cited previous jurisprudence in which the high court allowed a second review of the case it had ruled against: "... Millares, et al v. NLRC (29 July 2002) and Tan Tiac Chiong v. Hon Rodrigo V. Cosico (20 January 2000)."

"While the rules generally prohibit a second motion for reconsideration in certain instances, the rules have been suspended by the Honorable Court in order to make them comfortable to law and justice and to subserve an overriding public interest," Cyber Bay said.

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