Refund to airport concessionaire ordered

Posted on June 24, 2013

THE COURT of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to refund a concessionaire ₱3.8 million in overcharged rent fees.

"[T]he decision dated August 15, 2011 of the RTC (Regional Trial Court) Branch 119 Pasay City… is affirmed with modification by ordering defendant-appellant Manila International Airport Authority to pay plaintiff-appellee Domestic Petroleum Retail Corp. (DPRC) the principal amount of ₱3,839,643.05 paid during the period January 9, 2003 to December 5, 2005, plus legal interest at 12% per annum computed from the time of the extrajudicial demand on July 27, 2006," read the 17-page decision dated May 31 and penned by Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando of the CA special 2nd division.

The amount, however, was lower than the ₱9,593,179.87 cited by DPRC due to late filing in 2006, or beyond the six-year reglementary period for refund after the first payment was made in 1998.

"[T]he claim for refund must be made within six years from date of payment. Since plaintiff-appellee DPRC demanded the refund of the increase in monthly rentals mistakenly paid only on July 27, 2006 and filed this case before the lower court only on December 23, 2008, it can recover only those paid during the period January 9, 2003 to December 5, 2005 or a total amount of ₱3,839,643.05," the CA division said.

Associate Justices Normandie B. Pizarro and Zenaida T. Galapae-Laguilles concurred with the decision.

According to court records, on June 4, 1998, the MIAA -- operator of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex -- and the DPRC signed a contract of lease whereby the concessionaire would pay ₱108,713.74 in monthly rentals in a property along Domestic Road in Pasay City.

On April 2, 1998, or two months prior to the signing of lease agreement, MIAA issued Resolution 98-30 implementing a 20% increase in rentals of terminal buildings, VIP lounge, other airport buildings and land, including check-in and concession charges. The new charges took effect on June 1, 1998, or three days before the agreement was signed.

The DPRC initially refused to pay the adjusted fees as these were implemented without prior notice and hearing. The concessionaire, however, started paying under protest the new rates starting Dec. 11, 1998.

On Dec. 21, 2005, the DPRC informed MIAA that it will stop paying the higher rent as the Supreme Court (SC) had nullified in 2004 Resolution 98-30 for being issued without prior notice and public consultation. The SC ruling involved the same issue between MIAA and other concessionaires led by Airspan Corp.

On July 27, 2006, the DPRC demanded a refund of ₱9,593,179.87, from MIAA covering the period Dec. 11, 1998 to Dec. 5, 2005, but to no avail prompting the concessionaire to file the case with the Pasay RTC on Dec. 23, 2008.

For its part, the MIAA argued that the DPRC was delayed in filing its claim. The Pasay RTC ruled in favor of DPRC, with MIAA haling the case to the CA.

In siding with the concessionaire, the CA affirmed that "there was no evidence showing that MIAA complied with the required prior notice and public hearing before charging the DPRC with an increased rent."

However, the appeals court, citing 1979 case between Ramie Textiles, Inc. vs. Ismael G. Mathay, Sr., auditor-general of National Marketing Corp. said the claim for refund must be filed within six years from the date of payment, or in the present case in December 1998.

The CA said the "DPRC has, by reason of the six years prescriptive period, lost its right to recover the amount of ₱5,753,536.82 paid during the period December 11, 1998 to December 5, 2002."

Sought for comment Jose Angel A. Honrado, MIAA general manager, reserved comment pending receipt of a copy of the decision.

DPRC officials were not immediately available for comment. -- Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag