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Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs The Deputy Executive Secretary, et al. 190 SCRA 673 / GR No.

79538, 18 October 1990, J. Cortes FACTS: In 1986, at the start of President Corazon Aquinos administration, petitioner sent letters to the Office of the President and to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) seeking the reinstatement of its timber license agreement (TLA No. 87), which was cancelled in August 1983 along with nine other concessions, during the Marcos administration. It alleged that after the its TLA was cancelled without being given the opportunity to be heard, its logging area was re-awarded to other logging concessionaires without a formal award or license, as these entities were controlled or owned by relatives or cronies of deposed President Marcos. The Ministry ruled that a timber license was not a contract within the due process clause of the Constitution, but only a privilege which could be withdrawn whenever public interest or welfare so demands, and that petitioner was not discriminated against in view of the fact that it was among ten concessionaires whose licenses were revoked in 1983. It also emphasized the fact that there was currently a total log ban being imposed on the subject areas. After the logging ban was lifted, petitioner appealed to the Office of the President, but the petition was denied on the ground that the appeal was prematurely filed, the matter not having been terminated in the MNR. Hence, petitioner filed with the Supreme Court a petition for certiorari. ISSUE: Whether public respondents acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in refusing to overturn administrative orders issued by their predecessors. RULING: The refusal of public respondents to reverse final and executory administrative orders does not constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It is an established doctrine in this jurisdiction that the decisions and orders of administrative agencies have, upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders are as conclusive upon the rights of the affected parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of general jurisdiction. The rule of res judicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by competent authority acting within their exclusive jurisdiction Petitioner did not avail of its remedies under the law for attacking the validity of these administrative actions until after 1986. By the time petitioner sent its letter to the newly

appointed Minister of the MNR requesting for reconsideration, these were already settled matters as far as petitioner was concerned. More importantly, the assailed orders of the MNR disclose public policy consideration, which effectively forestall judicial interference. Public respondents, upon whose shoulders rests the task of implementing the policy to develop and conserve the country's natural resources, have indicated an ongoing department evaluation of all timber license agreements entered into, and permits or licenses issued, under the previous dispensation. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under their special technical knowledge and training. Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause. The Court expresses its concern regarding alleged irregularities in the issuance of timber license agreements to a number of logging concessionaires. Should the appropriate case be brought showing a clear grave abuse of discretion on the part of concerned officials with respect to the implementation of this public policy, the Court will not hesitate to step in. However, in this case, the Court finds no basis to issue a writ of certiorari and to grant any of the affirmative reliefs sought. Petition is dismissed.