New Rules of Procedure for Admiralty or Maritime Claims in the Philippines
With the end in view of providing a fast, reliable, and efficient means of recourse to Philippine courts and enhancing the administration of justice in Admiralty cases in the Philippines, the Supreme Court promulgated Administrative Matter No. 19-08-14-SC, or otherwise known as the Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases (Rules), which took effect on 01 January 2020.
What admiralty cases are covered by the New Rules of Procedure?
Under the Rules, the following are maritime claims or admiralty cases covered by such rules:
- Loss or damage caused by the operation of the ship;
- Loss of life or personal injury occurring, whether on land or on water, in direct connection with the operation of the ship;
- Salvage operations or any salvage agreement;
- Damage or threat of damage caused by the ship to the environment, coastline, or related interests
- Costs or expenses relating to the raising, removal, recovery, destruction or rendering harmless of a ship which is sunk, wrecked, stranded, or abandoned
- Any agreement relating to the use of a ship, including bareboat charter, charter by demise, time charter, voyage charter or contract of affreightment, and maritime contract of carriage, whether of goods or people, including bills of lading;
- General average;
- Goods, materials, provisions, bunkers, equipment (including containers) supplied or services rendered to the ship for its operation, management, preservation, or maintenance;
- Construction, reconstruction, repair, converting or equipping of the ship;
- Port, canal, dock, harbor and other waterway dues and charges;
- Wages and other sums due to the master, officers and other members of the ship’s complement who are not Filipino citizens, in respect of their employment on the ship
- Disbursements incurred on behalf of the ship or its owners;
- Insurance premiums (including mutual insurance calls) in respect of the ship, payable by or on behalf of the shipowner or demise charterer;
- Any commissions, brokerages, or agency fees payable in respect of the ship by or on behalf of the shipowner or demise charterer;
- Any dispute as to ownership or possession of the ship;
- Any dispute between co-owners of the ship as to the employment or earnings of the ship;
- A mortgage or a “hypothèque” or a charge of the same nature on the ship;
- Any dispute arising out of a contract for the sale of the ship; and
- Enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards in relation to claims, or judgments and awards rendered under the Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of a foreign court or arbitral tribunal, and subject to the procedures under Rule 39, Section 48 of the Rules of Court and the requirements of Republic Act No. 9285.
Who has jurisdiction over admiralty cases?
Section 19(3) of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, or otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, provides that Regional Trial Courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all actions in admiralty and maritime jurisdiction where the demand or claim exceeds Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱300,000.00) or, in Metro Manila, where such demand of claim exceeds Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱400,000.00).
The Supreme Court shall designate existing branches of the Regional Trial Courts as Admiralty courts which shall have jurisdiction over all actions in Admiralty.
What is the procedure in filing an admiralty case?
An admiralty case may be initiated by any real party in interest, including the government and juridical entities authorized by law by filing a civil action in Admiralty jurisdiction.
A complaint in Admiralty jurisdiction may be filed against a ship, or against specific cargo or freight, or against the owners, charterers, other persons in possession or control of a ship and/or cargo, or other relevant persons. The payment of filing and all other legal fees by the plaintiff shall be made upon the filing of the complaint.
What must be alleged in the verified complaint in Admiralty?
The verified complaint must state or contain:
- A statement that it is a case in Admiralty jurisdiction;
- The names, addresses, and other relevant personal or juridical circumstances of the parties;
- All facts material and relevant to plaintiff’s cause or causes of action;
- The law, rule, or regulation relied upon, violated, or sought to be enforced;
- Specification of all evidence supporting the cause of action, such as affidavits of witnesses, authenticated documentary evidence which must be attached to the complaint, and object evidence;
- The reliefs prayed for. The verified complaint may also include a prayer for the immediate issuance ex parte of a Warrant of Arrest of a Vessel (WAVe), Cargo, or Freight; and
- A certification against forum shopping.
Upon the filing of the complaint, the plaintiff or the one who filed the complaint is required to furnish a copy thereof to the Ship’s Register with which the ship is registered or, in the absence thereof, the consulate of the ship’s flag. Proof of service upon the Ship’s Register or appropriate consulate shall be attached to the complaint.
What happens after the complaint in Admiralty is filed?
The judge may motu proprio dismiss the case outright on any of the grounds apparent therefrom for the dismissal of a civil action. If no ground for dismissal is found, the Admiralty court shall forthwith issue the writ or summons. Persons summoned shall have ten (10) calendar days within which to appear in court and file an answer.
What if the defendant, the one against whom the complaint is directed, fails to file an answer?
If the defendant fails to file an answer to the complaint within 10 days, the court motu proprio, or on motion of the plaintiff as may be warranted by the facts alleged in the complaint and limited to the reliefs prayed for, shall declare the defendant in default and render judgment based on the complaint and the evidence attached thereto, awarding to the plaintiff whatever maritime claims or causes of action in the admiralty case which are alleged in the complaint and proven through the evidence attached or filed with the court.
What if the defendant files an answer?
If the defendant answers, pre-trial shall ensue. The parties to the admiralty case may enter into an amicable settlement, and should the parties reach an amicable settlement, a copy of the agreement setting forth the terms of such settlement shall be submitted to the court at the pretrial, and the court shall render judgment based on the terms and conditions thereof.
If there are still facts to be controverted or issues to be resolved, the case may be immediately referred to mediation, which proceeding shall not exceed a period of thirty (30) calendar days, without further extension. If mediation fails, the assigned mediator shall immediately submit his report thereon, and the court shall conduct trial without referral to Judicial Dispute Resolution.
What happens during the trial?
Within ten (10) calendar days from date of pre-trial, if the case is not referred to mediation, or within thirty (30) calendar days from date of pre-trial if the case is referred to mediation and the same fails, the court shall hold trial for purposes of cross-examination of the parties’ witnesses.
The court shall conduct continuous trial which shall not exceed two (2) months from the date of the initial trial. A witness must be fully examined in one (1) day, subject to the court’s discretion of extending the examination for justifiable reason. The parties may agree that witnesses may be examined via videoconferencing.
Furthermore, the court may require the submission of position papers within a non-extendible period of ten (10) calendar days from notice.
When shall the court render its decision over the admiralty case?
Within fifteen (15) calendar days from the expiration of the period for filing of position papers, with or without position papers, the court shall render judgment.
Can a ship be arrested?
Yes. The plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be, may upon commencement of an action in rem, apply for a Warrant of Arrest of Vessel, Cargo, or Freight applicable against the vessel or ship, cargo, or freight subject of the action or counterclaim.
The Warrant of Arrest directs the Sheriff or a duly authorized person to arrest a specific vessel or ship, cargo, or freight while it is within the jurisdiction of a Philippine port, and detain the same within the port limits until further orders from the court. The same shall be valid for twelve (12) months from the date of its issuance.
While a ship is under arrest, its cargo may still be discharged.
About Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices
If you need assistance in Filing an Admiralty Claim or other related issues, or have any other issues or concerns regarding admiralty or maritime law and litigation in the Philippines, we can help you. Nicolas and de Vega Law Offices is a full-service law firm in the Philippines. You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines. You may also call us at +632 84706126, +632 84706130, +632 84016392 or e-mail us at [email protected]. Visit our website www.ndvlaw.com.