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REP. ENRIQUE GARCIA v.

BOARD OF INVESTMENTS, LUZON PETROCHEMICAL, PILIPINAS SHELL


07 Sep 1989 | J. Grio-Aquino Information and Access to Public Records X

DOCTRINE: It is the constitutional right of a citizen to have access to information on matters of public concern under Art. III sec. 7 of the Constitution. However,
citizens right of access to them is not unlimited. The law exempts certain types of information, such as trade secrets and confidential commercial information, from
public scrutiny.
CASE SUMMARY: At issue was the proposed transfer of a petrochemical plant from Bataan to Batangas, and the original and amended applications filed by the
investor were ordered released to the government officials inquiring into the matter, and for hearings to be conducted with community stakeholders.

FACTS:
a. In 1988, Taiwanese investors formed BPC (Bataan Petrochemical Corp) and applied with BOI (Board of Investments under DTI; grants tax and other incentives to
investors that setup plants within industrial zones) for registration as new domestic producer of petrochemicals (polymers which are raw materials for plastics). Its
application:
- specified Bataan as the plant site; stated that the plant would use naphtha as fuel.
b. BOI granted BPCs application and gave it tax incentives. As additional incentive, Congress approved bill introduced by Rep. Garcia (congressman of Bataan 2nd
District); it eliminated the 48% ad valorem tax on naphtha if used as raw material in BPCs plant.
c. A year after, BPC wrote to DTI Secretary Concepcion seeking to amend the site from Bataan to Batangas, fuel from naphtha only to naphtha and/or LPG.
d. News of the changes was published by one of the major newspapers, which stated that the cause of the relocation of the project is insurgency and unstable labor
situation in Bataan, and the presence in Batangas of a huge LPG depot owned by Shell (BPC changed its name to LPC/Luzon PC)

e. Petitioner Garcia opposed the changes. Garcia asked DTI Sec through BOI Vice-Chairman, for a copy of the amendment and original application by BPC.
f. Garcia was told that the Taiwanese investors did not consent to the release of the documents requested.
g. Despite the opposition, BOI approved the amendment, stating that the government could only recommend as to where the project should be located, and that the
final choice lay with the proponent.
h. Garcia filed a petition, assailing that approval of the amended application. He alleged that:
- BOI and DTI gravely abused their discretion, in approving the amendment without a hearing and in in refusing to furnish him with copies, in violation of the
Governments policy of transparency.

ISSUE: WON Garcias right to information and access to public records violated. YES, BOI and DTI can be compelled to release the information to Garcia.

RULING:
Principle: The Omnibus Investments Code of 1987 (EO 226) expressly declares it to be the policy of the State to accelerate the sound development of the national
economy x x x by encouraging private Filipino and foreign investments in industry, agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism and other sectors of the economy. For this
purpose, the Code mandates the holding of consultations with affected communities, and requires the publication of applications for registration.

In this case:
Since the BPCs amended application (the change of location from Bataan to Batangas) was in effect a new application, it should have been published so that
whoever may have any objection to the transfer may be heard. The BOIs failure to publish such notice and to hold a hearing on the amended application deprived
the oppositors, like Garcia, of due process and amounted to a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the BOI.

BOI contended: Garcia has no legal interest in the matter of the transfer of the plant from Bataan to Batangas.
Court ruled: There is no merit in BOIs contention. The provision in the Investments Code requiring publication of the investors application for registration in the
BOI is implicit recognition that the proposed investment or new industry is a matter of public concern on which the public has a right to be heard.

Principle/Application : Garcias request for photocopies of certain documents filed by BPC e.g. original application and amendments, may not be denied:
The confidentiality of the records of BPCs applications is not absolute for Art. 81 of the Omnibus Investments Code provides that they may be disclosed upon
the consent of the applicant, or on orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.

It is the constitutional right of a citizen to have access to information on matters of public concern under Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution The
right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.

Principle: However, just as the confidentiality of an applicants records in the BOI is not absolute, neither is Garcias right of access to them unlimited. The Constitution
does not open every door to any and all information. Art. III, Sec. 7 of the Consti states that Access to official records, papers, etc. is subject to limitations as may be
provided by law.

The law may exempt certain types of information from public scrutiny (per Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission). The trade secrets and confidential,
commercial and financial information of the applicant BPC, and matters affecting national security are excluded from the privilege.

DISPOSITION: Petition is granted. BOI is ordered to publish the amended application of BPC; to allow Garcia to have access to BPCs records on the original and
amended applications for registration, excluding, however, privileged papers containing its trade secrets and other business and financial information, and

BOI found to have committed grave abuse of discretion in approving BPC application.Amendment is nullified and original application is ordered maintained.

NOTES: In our syllabus, it is the 1990 motion for partial reconsideration that is listed (G.R. No. 92024, November 9, 1990, ponente J. Gutierrez). But it is the 1989
petition for certiorari that is relevant to the topic (G.R. No. 88637, September 7, 1989, ponente J. Grio-Aquino).