SC affirms users’ fee in Subic Freeport
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT––The Supreme Court has denied the petition of a locator here that sought to stop the implementation of the Common Use Service Area (CUSA) inside the free port, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority announced on Thursday, Sept. 9.
In a statement, the SBMA described the high court’s ruling dismissing the petition of Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. as a “huge legal victory.”
“We’re very happy that ultimately the Supreme Court decided in SBMA’s favor and sustained the validity of the CUSA fee,” said lawyer Ramon Agregado, SBMA senior deputy administrator for support services.
In 2013, Philip Morris filed a petition at the SC seeking the reversal of the decision issued by the Court of Appeals (CA), which affirmed the Dec. 2, 2015 ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City dismissing the firm’s plea to stop the CUSA.
SBMA enforced the CUSA fee in October 2012 to defray the cost of municipal services in the free port that was being shouldered by the agency. The fee covered law enforcement, fire-fighting, street lighting, and street-cleaning.
According to Agregado, when the free port was created in 1992 until the imposition of CUSA, the SBMA had shouldered expenses for municipal services, except garbage collection.
“This continued until it came to a point that the expenses were already so heavy and so significant that they were draining SBMA’s resources,” he said.
In the 19-page ruling of SC’s First Division issued recently, the high tribunal upheld the CA decision and affirmed the constitutionality of the imposition of CUSA fee by the SBMA.
The SC cited that Republic Act 7227, which created the SBMA, “granted it authority to impose reasonable fees and charges for the provision of the municipal services covered by the CUSA Fee.”
Agregado said the SBMA is now waiting for the SC to make it final and executory.
“Procedurally, Philip Morris can still file a motion for reconsideration. But personally, we feel very confident that ultimately, the Supreme Court will affirm its decision, which was very comprehensive. It covered all of the issues raised by Philip Morris,” Agregado added.
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