2016 (Mercantile Law) Bar Exam Questions: Question 19

[Answer/discuss the question below, or see 2016 bar exam Mercantile Law Instructions; 2016 Mercantile Law Questions: 123456789101112131415161718, and 20; See also 2016 Bar Exam: Information, Discussions, Tips, Questions and Results]

-XIX-

In 2015, R Corp., a domestic company that is wholly owned by Filipinos, filed its opposition to the applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) of O Corp., P Corp., and Q Corp. which were pending before the Panel of Arbitrators (POA) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The three corporations wanted to undertake exploration and mining activities in the province of Isabela. The oppositor alleged that at least 60% of the capital shareholdings of the applicants are owned by B Corp., a 100% Chinese corporation, in violation of Sec. 2, Art. XII of the Constitution. The applicants countered that they are qualified corporations as defined under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 since B Corp. holds only 40% of the capital stocks in each of them and not 60% as alleged by R Corp.

The Summary of Significant Accounting Policies statement of B Corp. reveals that the joint venture agreements of B Corp. with Sigma Corp. and Delta Corp. involve the O Corp., P Corp., and Q Corp. The ownership of the layered corporations and joint venture agreements show that B Corp. practically exercises control over the O, P and Q corporations. O, P and Q corporations contend that the control test should be applied and its MPSA applications granted. On the other hand, R Corp. argues that the “grandfather rule” should be applied. Decide with reasons. (5%)

2 comments

  1. SUGGESTED ANSWER:

    Basically, there are two acknowledged tests in determining the nationality of a corporation: the control test and the grandfather rule. Paragraph 7 of DOJ Opinion No. 020, Series of 2005, adopting the 1967 SEC Rules which implemented the requirement of the Constitution and other laws pertaining to the controlling interests in enterprises engaged in the exploitation of natural resources owned by Filipino citizens, provides:

    Shares 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, 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. Thus, if 100,000 shares are registered in the name of a corporation or partnership at least 60% of the capital stock or capital, respectively, of which belong to Filipino citizens, all of the shares shall be recorded as owned by Filipinos. But if less than 60%, or say, 50% of the capital stock or capital of the corporation or partnership, respectively, belongs to Filipino citizens, only 50,000 shares shall be counted as owned by Filipinos and the other 50,000 shall be recorded as belonging to aliens.

    The first part of paragraph 7, DOJ Opinion No. 020, stating “shares 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,” pertains to the control test or the liberal rule. On the other hand, the second part of the DOJ Opinion which provides, “if the percentage of the Filipino ownership in the corporation or partnership is less than 60%, only the number of shares corresponding to such percentage shall be counted as Philippine nationality,” pertains to the stricter, more stringent grandfather rule.

    In ending, the “control test” is still the prevailing mode of determining whether or not a corporation is a Filipino corporation, within the ambit of Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution, entitled to undertake the exploration, development and utilization of the natural resources of the Philippines. When in the mind of the Court there is doubt, based on the attendant facts and circumstances of the case, in the 60-40 Filipino-equity ownership in the corporation, then it may apply the “grandfather rule.”

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