Republika ng Pilipinas


Department of Justice





Opinion No. 10, Series of 2008




Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza

Department of Transportation and Communications

17th Floor Columbia Towers, Brgy. Wack-Wack

Ortigas Ave., Mandaluyong City




This refers to your request for opinion on the queries stated herein relating to the appropriate interpretation/construction of the relevant provisions of Republic Act (R..A.) No. 9483, otherwise known as “An Act Providing for the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage and the 1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, Providing Penalties or Violations Thereof, and For Other Purposes,” which was signed into law on 2 June 2007.


The request, it appears, is raised in connection with the promulgation by your Department of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9483, pursuant to the power granted to DOTC to issue the IRR under Section 24 thereof, and in view of the queries raised by the private sector that will be affected by the implementation of the law.  While you say that a Special Drafting Group has already prepared a draft of the IRR, it is your intent to include in the proposed IRR our answers to your queries.


Although, for all intents and purposes, the queries raised are not only hypothetical but are also speculative and anticipatory, hence, pursuant to settled policy and precedents, the Secretary of Justice cannot and should not render opinion thereon (Sec. of Justice Op. No. 100 and 82, s. 2000), we are constrained to do so, not only because of the paramount importance of the issues raised but also as a guide for the Special Drafting Group under DOTC which prepared the draft IRR in connection with the exercise of a power or authority conferred by law (Ibid., No. 47, 2007).


On the issues raised relating to the aforecited conflict between the provisions of R.A. No. 9483, also known as the “Oil Pollution Compensation Act of 2007,” and those of the “1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage,” which the subject law “adopts and implements” (Sec. 2, R.A. No. 9483).  Sections 4 and 5, respectively, of R.A. No. 9483 appear to be categorical, thus:


SEC. 4.  Incorporation of the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and 1992 Fund Convention.  Subject to the provisions of this Act, the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and 1992 Fund Convention and their subsequent amendments shall form part of the law of the Republic of the Philippines.


SEC. 5.  Scope of Application.  This law shall apply exclusively to Pollution Damage caused in Philippine territory, including its territorial sea and its exclusive economic zone, and to preventive measures, wherever taken, to prevent or minimize such damage.  (stress supplied)


Evidently, the adoption and implementation of the provisions of the two international agreements are “subject to the provisions” of R.A. No. 9483 and the provisions thereof so adopted “shall apply exclusively” to damage caused within the Philippine territory.


In interpretation of statutes, nothing is more basic than the doctrine that when the law is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation.  This doctrine is based on the valid presumption that the words employed by the legislature in a statute correctly express its intent or will and precludes a different construction (Sec. of Justice Op. No. 45, 44, 25, 18, 19, s. 2007, all citing cases).


In case of conflict, therefore, the provisions of R.A. No. 9483 govern.  For the same reason, the municipal law applies in the determination of both the liability or damage and the legal provisions to govern the said damage or liability when the even causing said damage occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines.


Conversely, absent such conflict, the provisions of the two conventions adopted and implemented through R.A. No. 9483 apply.  The rationale is found not only in the above-quoted provision of Section 4 itself, which explicitly states that the said conventions and their subsequent amendments “shall form part of the law” of the land, but also in the Act’s declared policy, to wit:


SEC. 2.  Declaration of Policy.  The State, in the protection of its marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, adopts internationally accepted measures which impose strict liability for Oil Pollution Damage and ensure prompt and adequate compensation for persons who suffer such damage.  This Act adopts and implements the provisions of the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage and the 1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage.  (emphasis ours)


As the Supreme Court explained in the recent case of Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines vs. Health Secretary Francisco Duque, III, et. al. (G.R. No. 173034, October 9, 2007:


Under the 1987 Constitution, international law can become part of the sphere of domestic law either by transformation or incorporation.  The transformation method requires that an international law be transformed into a domestic law through a constitutional mechanism such as local legislation.  The incorporation method applies when, by mere constitutional declaration, international law is deemed to have the force of domestic law.


And, in the case of Philip Morris vs. Court of Appeals, 22 SCRA 576, the same Court also said:


Withal, the fact that international law has been made part of the law of the land does not by any means imply the primacy of international law over national law in the municipal sphere.  Under the doctrine of incorporation as applied in most countries, rules of international law are given a standing equal, not superior, to national legislative enactments.


Indeed, while R.A. No. 9483 may have given the two conventions the force and effect of domestic law, the same does not render the conventions superior over legislative enactments; only on equal footing with local legislation.  As such, the adoption thereof can be qualified insofar as the implementation of the two conventions is concerned as what Section 4, earlier quoted has stated.  A contrary interpretation would not only render the two conventions adopted and sought to be implemented superior over national legislative enactments.  The provisions of Section 24 of R.A. No. 9483, which grant the DOTC the authority to issue the law’s IRR would also be rendered nugatory.


It must be stressed, at this point, that Congress may validly delegate to administrative agencies, such as the DOTC, the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to implement a given legislation and effectuate its policies (Sec. of Justice Op. No. 19, s. 2007, citing Director of Forestry vs. Muñoz, 23 SCRA 1183, 1197).


These rules and regulations that administrative agencies promulgate, which are the product of a delegated legislative power to create new and additional legal provisions that have the effect of law, should be within the scope of the staturoy authority granted by the legislature to the administrative agency (NFSW vs. Ovejera, 114 SCRA 354, 391; Victorias Milling Co., Inc. vs. SSC, 4 SCRA 627, 630; Sec. of Justice Op. No. 2, s. 2004).  To be valid, said regulation must also be germane to the objects and purposes of the law, inot in contradiction to, but in conformity with, the standards prescribed by law (Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayoc and De Los Angeles vs. Home Development Mutual Fund, G.R. No. 131082, 19 June 2000, 333 SCRA 777, 785-786), and must relate solely to carrying into effect the general provisions of the law (Vda. De Pineda vs. Peña, 187 SCRA 22, 29).


As a cautionary advice, in the preparation of the IRR, the warning of the Court in Aisporna vs. Court of Appeals, 113 SCRA 459, should be considered, thus:


xxx Legislative intent must be ascertained from a consideration of the statute as a whole.  The particular words, clauses and phrases should not be studied as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part of the statute must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts and in order to produce a harmonious whole.  A statute must be so construed as to harmonize and give effect to all its provisions whenever possible.  The meaning of the law, it must be borne in mind, is not to be extracted from any single part, portion or section or from isolated words and phrases, clauses or sentences but from a general consideration or view of the act as a whole.  Every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context.  This means that every part of the statute must be considered together with the other parts, and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment, not separately or independently.  More importantly, the doctrine of associated words (noscitur a sociis) provides that where a particular word or phrase in a statement is ambiguous in itself or is equally susceptible of various meanings, its true meaning may be made clear and specific by considering the company in which it is found or with which it is associated.  (at pp. 466-467, citing cases)


Finally, it would be advisable that the law, R.A. 9483, together with the two (2) conventions and the IRR be published in accordance with the New Civil Code.


Please be guided accordingly.


Very truly yours,







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