SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: A Subic locator that opposes the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s (SBMA) imposition of Common Use Service Area (CUSA) fees has asked the government agency to stop charging it for payment, citing a court ruling that annulled the practice.
In a letter dated August 22, 2017 addressed to SBMA Chairman Martin Diño and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma, the lawyer for Brighterday Subic Ltd. Inc. (BSLI), Diosdado Rongcal, invoked the nullity of SBMA Resolution 12-04-43-48 based on a decision by Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 rendered on January 5, 2015.
The ruling is based on a case filed by another locator, Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. (SBMEI), that was paying CUSA fees. It was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on August 14, 2017.
“Without necessarily abandoning other reasons for not paying CUSA fees – and by way of invoking the nullity of the subject resolution pursuant to a final and executory decision – it is our stand that SBMA could no longer execute or implement the resolution and the alleged CUSA fees can no longer be collected from our client – BSLI,” the letter stated.
The BSLI lawyer said the decision must apply to all, not only to SBMEI, also citing constitutional provisions on the equal protection of the law.
The decision rendered by the RTC annulling the SBMA resolution also ruled to dissolve all billings and statements of account imposing CUSA fees permanently and enjoined its officers from collecting them.
The Manila Times on Thursday sought both Diño and Eisma for comment but the SBMA administrator said she is yet to read the BSLI letter, while Diño was not in Subic, according to his chief of staff.
A source at the SBMA who refused to be named said Subic Bay management has won CUSA cases in court at a ratio of four to one.
“Every court decision applies only to the parties involved in the case. If BLSI is a party to that case, then it applies to it, otherwise, it cannot,” the source said.
He added that CUSA cases are decided case to case and as in the court cases the SBMA has won regarding CUSA, the SBMA has not told other locators who filed CUSA petitions that the cases they have won should also apply to other locators.
“In the same way, for every four CUSA cases we won against one we lost, we never tell these locators who are not party to these cases that the court’s decision is also binding [on]them,” the source said.
The SBMA started charging locators CUSA fees in October 2012 for use of common areas like parking lots and other facilities.