Civil Law, Taxation

MERALCO vs. CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS (CBAA) G.R. No. L-46245 May 31, 1982 TAXATION, REALTY TAX, CIVIL LAW, REAL PROPERTY

 

FACTS:

Meralco Securities Industrial Corporation assails the decision of the CBAA, holding that Meralco Securities’ oil pipeline is subject to realty tax.

The record reveals that pursuant to a pipeline concession issued under the Petroleum Act of 1949, R. A. No. 387, Meralco Securities installed from Batangas to Manila a pipeline system consisting of cylindrical steel pipes joined together and buried not less than one meter below the surface along the shoulder of the public highway. The portion passing through Laguna is about thirty kilometers long.

In order to repair, replace, remove or transfer segments of the pipeline, the pipes have to be cold-cut by means of a rotary hard-metal pipe-cutter after digging or excavating them out of the ground where they are buried. In points where the pipeline traversed rivers or creeks, the pipes were laid beneath the bed thereof. Hence, the pipes are permanently attached to the land.

However, Meralco Securities notes that segments of the pipeline can be moved from one place to another as shown in the permit issued by the Secretary of Public Works and Communications which permit provides that the government reserves the right to require the removal or transfer of the pipes by and at the concessionaire’s expense should they be affected by any road repair or improvement.

Pursuant to the Assessment Law, Commonwealth Act No. 470, the provincial assessor of Laguna treated the pipeline as real property and issued Tax Declarations Nos. 6535-6537, San Pedro; 7473-7478, Cabuyao; 7967-7971, Sta. Rosa; 9882-9885, Biñan and 15806-15810, Calamba, containing the assessed values of portions of the pipeline.

Meralco Securities appealed the assessments to the Board of Assessment Appeals of Laguna. That board upheld the assessments.

Meralco Securities insists that its pipeline is not subject to realty tax because it is not real property within the meaning of article 415. This contention is not sustainable under the provisions of the Assessment Law, the Real Property Tax Code and the Civil Code.

 

ISSUE:

 Whether or not the pipeline of Meralco fall within any of the classes of exempt real property enumerated in section 3 of the Assessment Law and section 40 of the Real Property Tax Code.

RULING:

Section 2 of the Assessment Law provides that the realty tax is due “on real property, including land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements” not specifically exempted in section 3 thereof. This provision is reproduced with some modification in the Real Property Tax Code which provides:

 

SEC. 38.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Incidence of Real Property Tax.— There shall be levied, assessed and collected in all provinces, cities and municipalities an annual ad valorem tax on real property, such as land, buildings, machinery and other improvements affixed or attached to real property not hereinafter specifically exempted. *

 

It is incontestable that the pipeline of Meralco Securities does not fall within any of the classes of exempt real property enumerated in section 3 of the Assessment Law and section 40 of the Real Property Tax Code.

 

Pipeline means a line of pipe connected to pumps, valves and control devices for conveying liquids, gases or finely divided solids. It is a line of pipe running upon or in the earth, carrying with it the right to the use of the soil in which it is placed (Note 21[10],54 C.J.S. 561).

 

Article 415[l] and [3] provides that real property may consist of constructions of all kinds adhered to the soil and everything attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without breaking the material or deterioration of the object.

The pipeline system in question is indubitably a construction adhering to the soil (Exh. B, p. 39, Rollo). It is attached to the land in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without dismantling the steel pipes which were welded to form the pipeline.

Insofar as the pipeline uses valves, pumps and control devices to maintain the flow of oil, it is in a sense machinery within the meaning of the Real Property Tax Code.

It should be borne in mind that what are being characterized as real property are not the steel pipes but the pipeline system as a whole. Meralco Securities has apparently two pipeline systems.

Meralco Securities argues that the realty tax is a local tax or levy and not a tax of general application. This argument is untenable because the realty tax has always been imposed by the lawmaking body and later by the President of the Philippines in the exercise of his lawmaking powers.

The realty tax is enforced throughout the Philippines and not merely in a particular municipality or city but the proceeds of the tax accrue to the province, city, municipality and barrio where the realty taxed is situated (Sec. 86, P.D. No. 464). In contrast, a local tax is imposed by the municipal or city council by virtue of the Local Tax Code, Presidential Decree No. 231, which took effect on July 1, 1973 (69 O.G. 6197).

The Court held that the CBAA did not act with grave abuse of discretion, did not commit any error of law and acted within its jurisdiction in sustaining the holding of the provincial assessor and the local board of assessment appeals that Meralco Securities’ pipeline system in Laguna is subject to realty tax.

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