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SECOND DIVISION [G.R. No. 75962. June 30, 1988.] GREENHILLS MINING COMPANY, petitioner, vs.

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES, DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF MINES AND THE GEO-SCIENCES, AND GREEN VALLEY COMPANY, respondents.

Laurel Law Office for petitioner. Belo, Abiera and Associates and Eulogio R. Rodriguez for private respondent.
YAP, J p: DECISION

The instant petition seeks the review of (a) the decision dated July 8, 1986 issued by respondent Office of the President and signed by Deputy Executive Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., declaring all mining claims located and registered within the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve as null and void and granting private respondent Green Valley Company preferential right to possess, exploit, develop and operate the area covered by its exploration permit, and (b) the order dated September 10, 1986 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration. The facts are as follows: The petition involves a conflict of Greenhills mining claims and the exploration permit of Green Valley over an area within the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve and within the same mineral land. Mining claims of different claimowners were previously located and registered with the office of the Mining Recorder at Iba, Zambales, in 1933 and 1934 under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. However, for failure to pursue their claims and to perform annual assessment works, the claims were considered abandoned. On January 18, 1956, then President Ramon Magsaysay issued Proclamation No. 245 establishing the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve (hereinafter called "Reservation" for brevity) with an area of 37,000 hectares embracing the municipalities of San Marcelino and Castillejos for soil protection, timber production, and other forest purposes subject to existing private rights. In 1970 and 1971, Greenhills relocated the previously abandoned mining claims of the claimowners inside the reservation. It executed certificates or declaration of location (DOL) covering 113 claims and registered them with the office of the Mining Recorder. Lode Lease Applications (LLAs) on the 113 claims were later filed with the Bureau of Mines. Boundary survey plans or returns for the 113 claims were submitted and approved by the Mines Director on October 27, 1971, and together with lease applications they were published in the Official Gazette and in newspapers of general circulation. On September 5, 1975, Greenhills filed with the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD for brevity) an application for prospecting permit (Prospecting Permit No. 354-03079) covering 1,296 hectares within the reservation, which was granted by the BFD Director on January 5, 1978 to expire six months thereafter or on June 5, 1978. On March 1, 1979 Green Valley applied with BFD for a prospecting permit over 4,800 hectares also within the reservation. BFD granted the permit (Prospecting Permit No. 349-03179) to expire on August 31, 1979. It was extended to January 31, 1980. prLL On July 19, 1979 Green Valley filed with the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences (BMGS for brevity) an application for exploration permit over the same area covered by its prospecting permit, as well as additional areas covered by prospecting permits issued to Concepcion Lomotan, Dolores Montilla and Asuncion Caguios. The application was referred to the BMGS Mineral Lands and Topographic Survey Division (MLTSD) which upon verification submitted reports dated August 17, 1979 and October 4, 1979 with the finding that the areas applied for by Green Valley were in conflict with the Greenhills group of claims. In another report dated September 10, 1979, the Mineral Resources Administrative Division also of the Bureau of Mines commented that Green Valley's exploration permit may be given due course contending that all mining claims in areas within the reserve are null and void pursuant to Section 28(a), Commonwealth Act No. 137. 1 On October 16 and November 29, 1979, respectively, Green Valley's exploration permits (Exploration Permit Nos. 79 and 80) covering 5,208.96 hectares were approved.

Aggrieved, Greenhills filed separate letter-protests with the BFD and BMGS asking for the cancellation of Green Valley's prospecting and exploration permits. In answer to Greenhills' protest, Green Valley countered that the protest had become moot and academic and it has no factual and legal basis since the alleged prospecting Permit No. 35403079 of Greenhills Mining Co., which was the basis of its protest had long expired and at the time Green Valley Co. applied for and was issued Prospecting Permit No. 439-83179, the area was open for registration; that said prospecting permit had been replaced by Exploration Permit Nos. 79 and 80 issued by the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences on October 16, 1979 and November 29, 1979, respectively; that the Bureau of Forestry was no longer the proper forum; that the subject matter of the protest concerned the validity of mining claims and should be filed with the proper forum. Supporting Greenhills' protest, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. which operates Greenhills Mining claims in its letters dated May 4 and May 20, 1981 manifested that the mining claims of Greenhills were excluded from Green Valley's prospecting permit for the reasons that: (1) the areas covered by the mining claims of Greenhills were previously covered by patentable mining claims duly located and registered by different mining claimowners in 1933 and 1934 under the Philippine Bill of 1902; (2) that pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court in McDaniel vs. Apacible, 2 reservation of public lands cannot be made to include prior perfected mining locations and therefore the areas covered by Greenhills mining claims should be deemed segregated from the mass of the public domain which were open to relocation and registration; (3) that Greenhills mining claims had been surveyed and survey plans approved and the lease applications published in 1971 and 1973. On June 5, 1981, the Director of the BFD issued an order directing amendment of Green Valley's prospecting permit to exclude areas previously located and registered patentable mining claims as appearing in a sketch plan issued by the BMGS. In a letter dated June 9, 1981 to the BMGS, Greenhills reiterated its request to exclude from Green Valley's exploration permit area covered by its mining claims. On June 11, 1981, the Director of the Bureau of Mines issued the following order, the dispositive portion of which reads: "PREMISES CONSIDERED, Exploration Permit No. 79 issued in favor of Green Valley Company on October 16, 1979 should be, as hereby it is, AMENDED to exclude therefrom the area covered by previously located and registered patentable mining claims as appearing in the sketch plan, likewise made integral part of this Order." Against the BFD and the BMGS orders, Green Valley filed an appeal to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). LibLex On July 23, 1981, the MNR held that since the cases involved the determination of the mining rights of the parties concerned over the disputed area, the investigation and resolution of these issues were within the original jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences. Accordingly, it set aside the order of BFD dated June 5, 1981 and the order of BMGS dated June 11, 1981. Unsatisfied, Green Valley filed an appeal with the Office of the President assailing MNR's refusal to rule on the validity of the mining claims of Greenhills. It faults MNR for remanding the case to the Bureau of Mines in deference to the latter's original jurisdiction to resolve and decide the mining rights of the parties and to investigate and determine if there was any conflict or overlapping over the parties' mining claims/permit. On July 6, 1986, the Office of the President rendered the decision in question, the dispositive portion of which inter alia read as follows: "PREMISES CONSIDERED, the order of the Minister of Natural Resources dated July 23, 1981, is hereby affirmed. "Further, all mining claims within the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve located and registered by the Greenhills Mining Company in violation of section 28(c) of C.A. No. 137, as amended, are hereby declared null and void. The Green Valley Company is given the preferential right to possess, exploit, explore, develop and operate the areas within the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve covered by Exploration Permit No. 79 issued in its name on October 16, 1979. A motion to reconsider the decision filed by Greenhills was denied on September 10, 1986. Hence, the present petition. Petitioner alleges that: (a) mining claims located under the Philippine Bill of 1902 which were later on abandoned or forfeited by the original locators could be the subject of relocation by another person; (b) the reservation of public lands such as the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve established

under Proclamation No. 245 dated January 18, 1956, cannot be deemed to include areas previously covered by a valid mining location; (c) the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences, basing its plottings on certified declaration of locations filed in 1933 and 1934, correctly ordered the exclusion from the Exploration Permit No. 79 of respondent Green Valley the areas covered by previously located and registered patentable mining claims; (d) Greenhills has valid claims being the relocator of the 1933 and 1934 patentable mining claims; (e) questions concerning the validity of petitioner Greenhills' mining claims are already barred by statute; and (f) the "Exploration Agreement with assignable Option to Purchase" executed by and between respondent Green Valley Company and Gold Fields Asia Limited violates Section 9, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution, since the agreement is not a "service contract" within the contemplation of said constitutional provision. Petitioner prays, among other things, that a preliminary injunction issue enjoining respondent Director of the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences from acting on the application for renewal of the exploration permit of respondent Green Valley. The Court, in its resolution dated November 12, 1986, issued a temporary restraining order enjoining respondent Director of Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences from acting on the application for the renewal of the exploration permit of respondent Green Valley Company covering the areas involved. The established doctrine that where there is no showing of fraud, collusion, arbitrariness, illegality, imposition or mistake on the part of the Office of the President or a department head (such as the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the present case), in rendering their questioned decisions or of a total lack of substantial evidence to support the same, such administrative decisions are entitled to great weight and respect and will not be interfered with by the courts. 3 In upholding Green Valley's prior right over the mining areas subject of conflicting claims, the Office of the President rightly relied on the provisions of Section 28(a) of Commonwealth Act No. 137 (now Section 13(a), Presidential Decree No. 463). Under this provision, and under the regulations implementing it, it is required that the lessor shall, first, secure a prospecting permit from the BFD and second, obtain an exploration permit in case of discovery of minerals in the area or when there is strong proof of mineralization. The records show that the petitioner's mining claims were backed up by no prospecting permit. llcd On the other hand, Green Valley had fully complied with such requirements, for which its claims should be declared superior. As a general rule, the findings of government agencies with respect to the construction of statutes the implementation of which has been reposed in them, are controlling on the Court. The cases of McDaniel v. Apacible, 4 Gold Creek Mining Corporation v. Rodriguez, 5 and Salacot Mining Company v. Abadilla, 6 relied upon by the petitioner, and where we

held that the appropriation of a mineral land pursuant to a valid claim segregates it from the public domain, are not in point. The petitioner assumes that the claims of other claimants recorded in 1933 and 1934 were still valid when the Southern Zambales Forest Reservation was established in 1956. According to the Office of the President, however, the original claimowners had failed to perform annual development work on the claims in violation of the provisions ofSection 36 of the Philippine Bill of 1902. As a consequence, the area became "open to relocation . . . as if no location of the same had ever been made." 7Conversely, assuming that the government lost the property when the petitioner, or the original claimowners staked their claims in 1933 and 1934, it reverted to the public dominion upon abandonment thereof. Accordingly, when President Magsaysay established the Southern Zambales Forest Reserve in 1956, the areas covered by the said abandoned claims already formed part of the public domain. The petitioner cannot, moreover, claim privity of title with the owners of the prior locations. Such prior locations had been abandoned, or at most, forfeited, and the petitioner's own location cannot be considered a continuation thereof. prLL WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The temporary restraining order issued on November 12, 1986 is hereby lifted. No pronouncement as to costs.

Melencio-Herrera, Paras, Padilla and Sarmiento, JJ., concur.


Footnotes 1.Now Section 13 of PD 463, dated May 17, 1974, which provides inter alia that no prospecting permit shall be allowed in mineral and other reservations proclaimed closed to mining locations except by the government. 2.42 Phil. 749. 3.Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. 33646, January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115. 4.42 Phil. 749 (1922). 5.66 Phil. 259 (1938). 6.67 Phil. 110 (1939). 7.Philippine Bill of 1902, Sec. 36.

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 129820. November 30, 2006.] PNOC-ENERGY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (PNOCEDC), petitioner, vs. EMILIANO G. VENERACION, JR., respondent. DECISION CHICO-NAZARIO, J :
p

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the Order, dated 21 May 1997 issued by the Mines Adjudication Board (MAB) of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), 1 declaring that the respondent Emiliano Veneracion has a preferential right over the contested Block 159. This case involves the conflicting claims of the petitioner Philippine National Oil Corporation-Energy Development Corporation and the respondent over the mining rights over Block 159 of the Malangas Coal Reservation, Alicia, Zamboanga del Sur. On 31 January 1989, respondent applied with the Mines and Geo-Sciences Development Services, DENR, Region IX, Zamboanga City for a Declaration of Location (DOL) over Block 159 of the Malangas Coal Reservation, situated at Barangays Payongan and Kauswagan, Alicia, Zamboanga del Sur. On 18 May 1989, the Office of the Regional Executive Director (RED) of the DENR informed the respondent that his DOL cannot be registered since Block 159 was part of the Malangas Coal Reservation, as provided under Proclamation No. 284, issued by the President on 19 July 1938. 2 With the endorsement of the Office of Energy Affairs (OEA) and the DENR Secretary, the respondent petitioned the Office of the President for the withdrawal of Block 159 from the coal reservation and its conversion into a mineral reservation. 3 The petitioner applied for a mineral prospecting permit over Block 159 (and Blocks 120 and 160) with the OEA, which the latter granted on 4 September 1989. The Malangas Coal Reservation was, at that time, under the administration of the OEA. 4 When it had initially applied for a mineral prospecting permit over lands within the Malangas Coal Reservation, the OEA advised it to obtain the permission of the Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences (BMGS). 5 On 18 October 1991, petitioner submitted to the DENR an application/proposal for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) over Blocks 120, 159 and 160 of the Malangas Coal Reservation. 6 On 21 February 1992, the Officer-In-Charge Regional Technical Director Dario R. Mioza of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Developmental Service (MGDS) advised

the petitioner to amend its application for MPSA by excluding Block 159 as the same is covered by the application of the respondent. 7 Nevertheless, the petitioner did not exclude Block 159 from its MPSA. Records also show that it had not applied for nor was it able to obtain an Exploration Permit from the BMGS over Block 159.
IEDHAT

On 13 April 1992, Presidential Proclamation No. 890 was issued, which effectively excluded Block 159 from the operation of Proclamation No. 284, and declared Block No. 159 as government mineral reservation open for disposition to qualified mining applicants, pursuant to Executive Order No. 279. 8 On 26 May 1992, petitioner's application for MPSA covering Coal Block Nos. 120, 159 and 160 was accepted for filing. 9 Respondent immediately filed, on 28 May 1992, a protest to the petitioner's inclusion of Block 159 in its application for MPSA before the RED of the DENR Office in Zamboanga City. 10 After the parties were heard, the RED, in an Order, dated 12 April 1993, ruled in favor of the respondent and ordered the petitioner to amend its MPSA by excluding therefrom Block 159. 11 On 18 May 1993, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated 12 April 1993, 12 which the RED denied in an Order dated 5 July 1993. 13 On 30 July 1993, petitioner filed an appeal with the DENR Secretary questioning the Orders issued by the RED. 14 While the case was pending, respondent applied for a MPSA. On 31 July 1992, he paid the processing fee for a MPSA covering Block 159 and was able to comply with all other requirements of the MPSA application. 15 On 4 October 1994, the Office of the Secretary dismissed the appeal on the ground that petitioner's right to appeal had already prescribed. 16 Section 50 of Presidential Decree No. 463 provides therefore for a five-day reglementary period from the receipt of the order or decision of the Director. 17 Petitioner received its copy of the assailed Order dated 12 April 1993 on 7 May 1993, but filed its Motion for Reconsideration only on 18 May 1993, or eleven days after its receipt thereof. Thereafter, petitioner received a copy of the Order dated 5 July 1993 on 16 July 1993, but filed its appeal only on 30 July 1993 or nine days after the allowable period to appeal. On 25 October 1994, petitioner, through a letter addressed to the DENR Secretary, sought the reconsideration of the Decision, dated 4 October 1994. 18 In a Resolution, dated 21 December 1994, the then DENR Secretary Angel C. Alcala reversed the Decision, dated 4 October 1994, and gave due course to the MPSA of the petitioner. 19 On 1 February 1995, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution, dated 21 December 1994. 20 The now DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos issued an Order, dated 5 August 1996, reversing the Resolution, dated 21 December 1994 and reinstating the Decision, dated 4 October 1994. It ruled that the Orders issued by the RED have already become final and executory when the petitioner failed to file its appeal five days after it had received the Orders. As a

result, the DENR Secretary no longer had the jurisdiction to issue the assailed Resolution, dated 21 December 1994. It added that after looking into the merits of the case, the Orders of the RED were in accordance with the evidence on record and the pertinent laws on the matter. 21 On 20 August 1996, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order, dated 5 August 1996. On 21 May 1997, the MAB resolved the motion in favor of the respondent and affirmed the assailed Order, dated 5 August 1996. 22 It took cognizance of the appeal filed by petitioner, in accordance with Section 78 of Republic Act No 7942, otherwise known as The Philippine Mining Act of 1995. 23 The MAB ruled that the petitioner filed its appeal beyond the five-day prescriptive period provided under Presidential Decree No. 463, which was then the governing law on the matter. The MAB also decreed that the respondent had preferential mining rights over Block 159. It ruled that the proper procedure with respect to the mining rights application over Block 159 when it was still part of the Malangas Coal Reservation required the following: (1) application for prospecting permit with the OEA or other office having jurisdiction over said reservation; (2) application for exploration permit; (3) application for exclusion of the land from such reservation; (4) Presidential Declaration on exclusion as recommended by the Secretary; and (5) application for Lease thereof with priority given to holder of exploration Permit.
ASIDTa

The MAB noted that petitioner did not file for an exploration permit nor applied for the exclusion of Block 159. Moreover, petitioner filed a MPSA on 18 October 1991, or almost six (6) months prior to the issuance of Proclamation No. 890 excluding Block 159 from the Malangas Coal Reservation and allowing its disposition. Thus, the application for a MPSA over Block 159, while it was still part of a government reservation other than a mineral reservation, was erroneous and improper and could not have been legally accepted. And, since the records show that only one MPSA was filed after the issuance of Proclamation 890 that of the respondent's, the preferential right over Block 159 was acquired by the respondent. The MAB, nevertheless, pointed out that the said preferential right does not necessarily lead to the granting of the respondent's MPSA, but merely consists of the right to have his application evaluated and the prohibition against accepting other mining applications over Block 159 pending the processing of his MPSA. Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari. The correct mode of appeal would have been to file a petition for review under Rule 43, before the Court of Appeals. Petitioner's reliance on Section 79 of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is misplaced. 24 Republic Act No. 7902 expanded the appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to include:
Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments, decisions, resolutions, orders or awards of Regional Trial Courts and quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards or commissions . . . except those falling within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Constitution, the Labor Code of the Philippines

under Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, the provisions of this Act, and of subparagraph (1) of the third paragraph and subparagraph (4) of the fourth paragraph of Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.

With the enactment of Republic Act No. 7902, this Court issued Circular No. 1-95 dated 16 May 1995 governing appeals from all quasi-judicial bodies to the Court of Appeals by petition for review, regardless of the nature of the question raised. Said circular was incorporated in Rule 43 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. 25 In addition, this Court held in a line of cases that appeals from judgments and final orders of quasi-judicial bodies are required to be brought to the Court of Appeals, under the requirements and conditions set forth in Rule 43 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. 26 Nevertheless, this Court has taken into account the fact that these cases were promulgated after the petitioner filed this appeal on 4 August 1997, and decided to take cognizance of the present case. There are two main issues that need to be resolved in this case: (1) whether or not the petitioner has already lost its right to appeal the RED's Order dated 12 April 1993; and (2) whether or not the petitioner acquired a preferential right on mining rights over Block 159.

This Court finds no merit in this Petition. Petitioner alleges that Section 61 of Commonwealth Act No. 137 27 governs the petitioner's appeal of the Orders, dated 12 April 1993 and 5 July 1993, and not Section 50 of Presidential Decree No. 463. He further adds that even if Presidential Decree No. 463 was applicable in this case, his appeal should have been allowed on grounds of substantial justice. When Presidential Decree No. 463 was enacted in 1974, Section 50 of the law had clearly intended to repeal the corresponding provision found in Section 61 of Commonwealth Act No. 137, and to shorten the 30-day period within which to file an appeal from the Decision of the Director of Mines and Geo-Sciences to five days. Section 61 of Commonwealth Act No. 137, as amended, provides that:
SEC. 61.Conflicts and disputes arising out of mining locations shall be submitted to the Director of Mines for decision: Provided, That the decision or order of the Director of Mines may be appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources within thirty days from receipt of such decision or order. In case any one of the parties should disagree from the decision or order of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the matter may be taken to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, within thirty days from the receipt of such decision or order, otherwise the said decision or order shall be final and binding upon the parties concerned. . . . .

Section 50 of Presidential Decree No. 463 reads:


Sec. 50.Appeals. Any party not satisfied with the decision or order of the Director, may, within five (5) days from receipt thereof, appeal to the Minister [now Secretary]. Decisions of the Minister [now Secretary]

are likewise appealable within five (5) days from receipt thereof by the affected party to the President whose decision shall be final and executory.
HCaDET

Petitioner's insistence that the 30-day reglementary period provided by Section 61 of Commonwealth Act No. 137, as amended, applies, cannot be sustained by this Court. By providing a five-day period within which to file an appeal on the decisions of the Director of Mines and Geo-Sciences, Presidential Decree No. 463 unquestionably repealed Section 61 of Commonwealth Act No. 137. In Pearson v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 28 this Court extensively discussed the development of the law on the adjudication of mining claims, as seen in the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 137, Presidential Decree No. 463, until its present state under Republic Act No. 7942. It was noted that there was a clear effort to modernize the system of administration and disposition of mineral lands and that the procedure of adjudicating mining claims had become increasingly administrative in character.
[W]ith the issuance of Presidential Decree Nos. 99-A, 309, and 463, the procedure of adjudicating conflicting mining claims has been made completely administrative in character, with the President as the final appeal authority. Section 50 of P.D. 463, providing for a modernized system of administration and disposition of mineral lands, to promote and encourage the development and exploitation thereof, mandates on the matter of "Protests, Adverse Claims and Appeals," the following procedure: Appeals Any party not satisfied with the decision or order of the Director may, within five (5) days from receipt thereof appeal, to the Secretary. Decisions of the Secretary are likewise appealable within five (5) days from receipt thereof by the affected party to the President of the Philippines whose decision shall be final and executory. It should be noted that before its amendment, the Mining Law (C.A. No. 137) required that after the filing of adverse claim with the Bureau of Mines, the adverse claimant had to go to a court of competent jurisdiction for the settlement of the claim. With the amendment seeking to expedite the resolution of mining conflicts, the Director of Mines became the mandatory adjudicator of adverse claims, instead of the Court of First instance. Thus, it cannot escape notice that under Section 61 of the Mining Law, as amended by Republic Act Nos. 746 and 4388, appeals from the decision of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (then Minister of Natural Resources) on conflicts and disputes arising out of mining locations may be made to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court as the case may be. In contrast, under the decrees issued at the onset of martial law, it has been expressly provided that the decisions of the same Secretary in mining cases are appealable to the President of the Philippines under Section 50 of the Mineral Resources Development Decree of 1974 (P.D. No. 463) and Section 7 of P.D. No. 1281 in relation to P.D. No. 309.

The trend at present is to make the adjudication of mining cases a purely administrative matter. This does not mean that administrative bodies have complete rein over mining disputes. The very terms of Section 73 of the Mining Law, as amended by R.A. No. 4388, in requiring that the adverse claim must "state in full detail the nature, boundaries and extent of the adverse claim" show that the conflicts to be decided by reason of such adverse claim refer primarily to questions of fact. The controversies to be submitted and resolved by the Director of Mines under the sections referred only to the overlapping of claims and administrative matters incidental thereto. Questions and controversies that are judicial, not administrative, in nature can be resolved only by the regular courts in whom is vested the judicial power to resolve and adjudicate such civil disputes and controversies between litigants in accordance with the established norms of law and justice. Decisions of the Supreme Court on mining disputes have recognized a distinction between (1) the primary powers granted by pertinent provisions of law to the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (and the bureau directors) of an executive or administrative nature, such as "granting of license, permits, lease and contracts, or approving, rejecting, reinstating or cancelling applications, or deciding conflicting applications," and (2) controversies or disagreements of civil or contractual nature between litigants which are questions of a judicial nature that may be adjudicated only by the courts of justice. This distinction is carried on even under the present law. Findings of fact by the Mines Adjudication Board, which exercises appellate jurisdiction over decisions or orders of the panel of arbitrators, shall be conclusive and binding on the parties, and its decision or order shall be final and executory. But resort to the appropriate court, through a petition for review by certiorari, involving questions of law, may be made within thirty days from the receipt of the order or decision of the Mines Adjudication Board.
acITSD

Nor can petitioner invoke the doctrine that rules of technicality must yield to the broader interest of substantial justice. While every litigant must be given the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities, the failure to perfect an appeal within the reglementary period is not a mere technicality. It raises a jurisdictional problem as it deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction over the appeal. The right to appeal is not part of due process of law but is a mere statutory privilege to be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of the law. 29 Petitioner invokes the judicial policy of allowing appeals, although filed late, when the interest of justice so requires. Procedural law has its own rationale in the orderly administration of justice, namely, to ensure the effective enforcement of substantive rights by providing for a system that obviates arbitrariness, caprice, despotism, or whimsicality in the settlement of disputes. Hence, rules of procedure must be faithfully followed except only when for persuasive reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure. Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to explain his failure to abide by the rules. 30 In the instant case, petitioner failed to state any compelling reason for not filing its appeal

within the mandated period. Instead, the records show that after failing to comply with the period within which to file their motion for reconsideration on time, they again failed to file their appeal before the Office of the DENR Secretary within the time provided by law. Even if petitioner had not lost its right to appeal, it cannot claim any mining rights over Block 159 for failure to comply with the legal requirements. Petitioner applied for an MPSA with the DENR on 18 October 1991, prior to the release of Block 159 from the Malangas Coal Reservation under Proclamation No. 890 on 13 April 1992. Thus, the provisions on the acquisition of mining rights within a government reservation other than a mineral reservation under Presidential Decree No. 463 and the Consolidated Mines Administrative Order (CMAO) should apply. As a general rule, prospecting and exploration of minerals in a government reservation is prohibited under Section 13 of Presidential Decree No. 463. However, the same rule provides an exception involving instances when the government agency concerned allows it.
Section 13.Areas Closed to Mining Location. No prospecting and exploration shall be allowed: (a)In military, and other Government reservations except when authorized by the proper Government agency concerned.

Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 463 reiterates the rule and clarifies it further by stating that prospecting, exploration and exploitation of minerals on reserved lands other than mineral reservations may be undertaken by the proper government agency. As an exception to this rule, qualified persons may undertake the said prospecting, exploration and exploitation when the said agencies cannot undertake them.

Section 8.Prospecting, Exploration and Exploitation of Minerals in Reserved Lands. Prospecting, exploration and exploitation of minerals in reserved lands other than mineral reservations may be undertaken by the proper government agency. In the event that the said agencies cannot undertake the prospecting, exploration and exploitation of minerals in reserved lands, qualified persons may be permitted to undertake such prospecting, exploration and exploitation in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the Secretary [Minister]. The right to exploit the minerals found therein shall be awarded by the President under such terms and conditions as recommended by the Director and approved by the Secretary [Minister]: Provided, That the party who undertook prospecting, exploration and exploitation of said are shall be given priority.
aSTAHD

Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph, a special permit may be issued by the Director to the exploration permitee to extract, remove and dispose of minerals in limited quantities as verified by the Bureau of Mines [Director of Mines and Geo-Sciences].

Section 15 of the CMAO is more straightforward when it states that government reserved lands are open for prospecting, subject to the rules and regulations provided therein.
SEC. 15.Government Reserved Land. Lands reserved by the Government for purposes other than mining are open to prospecting. Any interested party may file an application therefore with the head of the agency administering said land, subject always to compliance with pertinent laws and rules and regulations covering such reserved land. Such application shall be acted upon within thirty (30) days. In such cases, the compensation due the surface owner shall accrue equally to the agency administering the reserved land and the Bureau of Mines.

The law enumerates the following requirements: (1) a prospecting permit from the agency that has jurisdiction over the area, in this case, the OEA; 31 (2) an exploration permit from the BMGS; 32 (3) if the exploration reveals the presence of commercial deposit, the permitee applies before the BMGS for the exclusion of the area from the reservation; 33 (4) granting by the president of the application to exclude the area from the reservation; 34 and (5) a mining agreement approved by the DENR Secretary. In this case, petitioner complied with the first requirement and obtained a prospecting permit from the OEA. In its correspondence with the petitioner, the OEA, however, advised the petitioner on two separate occasions to obtain a "prospecting permit" from the BMGS, although the OEA was probably referring to an exploration permit. 35 The petitioner did not apply for an exploration permit with the BMGS, nor would the BMGS have granted petitioner an exploration permit because when petitioner wrote to the BMGS informing the latter of its intention to enter into an MPSA with the DENR over Block 159, the BMGS informed the petitioner that the respondent's claim over Block 159 had already preceded that of the petitioner. 36 The advice given by the BMGS was justified since at that time, the respondent already had a pending application for the exclusion of Block 159 from the Malangas Coal Reservation. Thereafter, the petitioner filed his MPSA application, without complying with the second, third and fourth requisites. Since it ignored the sound advice of the OEA and the BMGS, the government agencies concerned, and stubbornly insisted on its incorrect procedure, petitioner cannot complain now that its MPSA was revoked for failure to comply with the legal requirements.
AHCETa

In contrast, the respondent applied for a DOL as early as 30 January 1989. The DENR Regional Office refused to register the respondent's DOL since Block 159 was still part of the Malangas Coal Reservation and advised the respondent to apply for the exclusion of the area from the reservation. The respondent followed this advice. The BMGS then treated the respondent's application for a DOL as an application for an exploration permit and caused a verification report of the area applied for, as provided under Section 99 of the CMAO. 37 Upon the application of the respondent, the OEA and thereafter the DENR Secretary endorsed the respondent's application for the exclusion of the area from the reservation. 38 This application was granted by the President, through Proclamation No. 890, which provided that the mining rights to Block 159 will be disposed of in accordance with Executive Order No. 279. On 30 July 1992,

respondent filed his MPSA. 39 On 12 April 1993, the RED of Zamboanga City ordered that the respondent's MPSA be given due course. 40 Although the respondent's applications may not follow the strict letter of the law, there was substantial compliance with the requirements of the law. Hence, the respondent was able to acquire a preferential right on the mining claims over Block 159, as provided under Section 101 of the CMAO. Even if it were to be assumed that the respondent failed to comply with these requirements, this would not be fatal to his cause since he filed his MPSA on 31 July 1992, after the issuance of Proclamation No. 890; therefore, the provisions on the application of mining rights over government reservations would no longer apply to him because Block 159 was already converted into a mineral reservation, wherein a different set of rules would apply. The only effect of his failure to comply with the requirements CMAO on government reservations is that he loses the preferential right over the area involved. In this case, the respondent was the only applicant to the mining rights over Block 159, apart from the petitioner who was not qualified for failure to comply with the legal requirements. Proclamation No. 890 specifically provides that Executive Order No. 279 should be applied. Records indicate that the provisions of Executive Order No. 279 have been complied with. 41 IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant Petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision of the Mines Adjudication Board is hereby AFFIRMED. No costs. SO ORDERED.

Panganiban, C.J., Ynares-Santiago Austria-Martinez and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.


Footnotes

1.Penned by Chairman Victor O. Ramos with Associate Justices Virgilio Q. Mercado and Horacio C. Ramos, concurring; rollo, pp. 199-205. 2.Rollo, p. 91. 3.Records, Folder II, pp. 14-15, 39-40, 41. 4.Rollo, p. 200. 5.Id. at 41 and 46. 6.Id. at 91. 7.Records, Folder V, p. 43. 8.Executive Order 279, Authorizing the Secretary of Environment and National Resources to Negotiate and Conclude Joint Venture Co-Production, or Production-Sharing Agreements for the Exploration, Development and Utilization of Mineral Resources, and Prescribing the Guidelines for Such Agreements and Those Agreements Involving Technical or Financial Assistance by Foreign Owned Corporations for Large-Scale Exploration, Development and Utilization of Minerals, 25 July 1987.

9.Rollo, p. 92. 10.Id. 11.Id. at 93. 12.Id. at 94-98. 13.Id. at 99-100. 14.Id. at 101-112. 15.Id. at 200. 16.Id. at 114-118. 17.Sec. 50. Appeals. Any party not satisfied with the decision or order of the Director may, within five (5) days from receipt thereof, appeal to the Minister (now Secretary). Decisions of the Minister (now Secretary) are likewise appealable within five (5) days from receipt thereof by the affected party to the President of the Philippines whose decision shall be final and executory. 18.Rollo, pp. 120-134. 19.Id. at 135-150. 20.Id. at 152-164. 21.Id. at 181-186. 22.Id. at 199-205. 23.SEC. 78. Appellate Jurisdiction. The decision or order of the panel of arbitrators may be appealed by the party not satisfied thereto to the Mines Adjudication Board within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof which must decide the case within thirty (30) days from submission thereof for decision. 24.Rollo, p. 5. The last paragraph of Section 79 of Republic Act No. 7942, The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 provides that: xxx xxx xxx A petition for review by certiorari and question of law may be filed by the aggrieved party with the Supreme Court within thirty (30) days from receipt of the order or decision of the Board. 25.Sebastian v. Hon. Morales, 445 Phil. 595, 606-607 (2003). 26.Carpio v. Sulu Resources Development Corporation, 435 Phil. 836, 844 (2002); Fabian v. Hon. Disierto, 356 Phil. 787, 803-804 (1998); Sy v. Commission on Settlement of Land Problems, 417 Phil. 378, 393 (2001); Sebastian v. Morales, supra.

27.An Act to Provide for The Conservation, Disposition, and Development of Mineral Land and Minerals, 7 November 1936. 28.356 Phil. 341, 357-359 (1998). 29.Republic v. Court of Appeals, 379 Phil. 92, 100-101 (2000). 30.Sebastian v. Morales, supra note 25 at 558-559. 31.SEC. 97. Prospecting Permit Before a prospector is allowed to enter a government reservation, he shall first secure a prospecting permit from the agency that has jurisdiction over the area. He shall submit to said agency the following: a)Bureau of Coast and Geodetic Survey Map of scale 1:50,000 showing the boundaries of the area and location thereof in the map prepared by a geodetic engineer; and b)Proof of financial capability and technical competence. The term of prospecting permit shall be for six (6) months within which period the applicant may apply for exploration permit with the Bureau of Mines. If portions only of the area covered by the permit are mineralized, the prospector shall modify and reduce the area. In no case should the area be enlarged even after prospecting the same is found to be larger than the original area applied for. Another application for prospecting permit for the additional area shall be filed thereon. 32.SEC. 98. Application for Exploration Permit Upon discovery of mineral deposits or strong evidences thereof, the prospector may apply for exploration permit with the Bureau of Mines on the form (BM Form No. MRD-24) attached hereto as Appendix "T", and made part of these Regulations. He shall pay a filing fee of fifty centavos (P0.50) per hectare, and submit together with his application the following:

a)A certified copy of the prospecting permit which should be subsisting at the date of application for exploration permit; b)Copy of the same location map as in Section 97 (a) accompanied by another mad defined by actual survey; c)Work program for exploration covering the full term of the permit for two (2) years; d)Proof of financial capability and technical competence to undertake exploration; and e)Geologic support of prospecting activities and findings in the area prepared by a licensed geologist or mining engineer. SEC. 99. Approval of Exploration Permit The Director shall thereafter cause a geologic verification of the area applied for and upon finding that the same contains minerals, he may issue an exploration permit. He may issue an exploration permit on the form (BM Form No. MRD-25) hereto attached as

Appendix "U", and made part of these Regulations, for a period of two (2) years extendable for the same period. 33.SEC. 101. Exclusion of the Area for Mining Purposes If the result of the exploration reveals the presence of a commercial deposit, the permittee may apply with the Bureau of Mines for the exclusion of the area from the reservation which shall be supported by: a)Complete geologic report on the area prepared by a licensed geologist; b)Project study prepared by a licensed mining engineer justifying the development of the area; c)Financial report of all expenditures incurred duly certified by a certified public accountant; and d)Boundary survey of the area by a deputy geodetic engineer complete with survey returns and map on prescribed form (BM Form No. MRD-18). Upon receipt of the application, the Director shall conduct a verification of the findings reported in the project study and valuation of the area at the expense of the applicant. If after verifications the Director finds the application meritorious, he shall forward to the Secretary for consideration who may recommend to the President the exclusion of the area from the reservation. In the event that the area is excluded from the reservation, the applicant shall have a preferential right to the lease thereof, subject to the terms which the President may impose in the exclusion of the area. 34.Id. 35.Rollo, p. 41 and 46. 36.Records, Folder V, p. 43. 37.Records, Folder II, pp. 32-33; Rollo, p. 203. 38.Id. at 39-40, and 41. 39.Records, Folder II, p. 62. 40.Rollo, p. 93. 41.Records, Folder II, pp. 62-100.

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 74454. September 3, 1998.] ALFRED PEARSON, for himself and as the attorney-in-fact of his co-heirs/co-successors-in-interest, namely: ELSIE PEARSON-FUENTES, HENRY PEARSON, WILLIAM PEARSON, JR, ROBERT PEARSON, EDUARD PEARSON, CHARLES PEARSON, FREDRIECH PEARSON and HARRY F. GASSER, petitioners, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, Hon. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, Branch 155, Pasig, Metro Manila, Hon. Presidential Executive Assistant; Hon. Minister of Natural Resources; Hon. Director of Mines; DIAMOND MINING CORPORATION, ROSARIO MINING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, and A. SORIANO CORPORATION, respondents.

Maximo F. Belmonte for petitioners. Eriberto D. Ignacio for private respondents.


SYNOPSIS Alfred Pearson, et al. as successors-in-interest of the late William F. Pearson, Sr., the biggest stockholder and sole owner of the dissolved Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc., the claimant of the mining claims in Brgy. Bahi, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with preliminary injunction against the herein respondents with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Pasig to annul the decision of the Office of the President affirming the decision of the Ministry of Natural Resources which held that "Appellant's (herein

petitioners) mining claims are abandoned, if not null and void. Evidence on record clearly establishes the fact that appellants failed to conduct the necessary works on their claim, to file the affidavit of annual work obligations, and to pay the real estate taxes," and to restrain the private respondents mining companies,
Rosario Mining and Diamond Mining from entering and developing the mining claims involved. The mining companies filed their joint motion to dismiss and opposition to the preliminary injunction. Instead of resolving the motion to dismiss, the CFI ordered the creation of an Ad Hoc Ocular Inspection Committee to determine the correct tie-point of private respondents' mineral claim, and subsequently scheduled the ocular inspection. In turn, the mining companies filed with the IAC a petition for certiorari and prohibition, assailing the aforementioned orders of the CFI which granted the writ and set aside the orders of the CFI.

After the decision of the IAC became final and executory, the CFI issued an order dismissing the petition filed by the Pearsons. Hence, the petition.

The petition is entirely devoid of merit. No reversible error was committed by the IAC when it assumed jurisdiction over private respondents' petition for certiorariinvolving interlocutory orders of the trial court. The trial court clearly acted outside of its jurisdiction when it issued the assailed ordered creating the Ad Hoc Committee and scheduling the ocular inspection. The lower court did not have jurisdiction over the mining dispute. With the issuance of Presidential Decree Nos. 99-A, 309, and 463, the procedure of adjudicating conflicting mining claims has been made completely administrative in character, with the President as the final appeal authority.
cACEHI

HEITAD

The public officials' judgment are well supported by substantial evidence. Moreover, by the Pearsons' own admission, they failed to file the affidavit of annual assessment works and to pay the real estate taxes from 1957-1974, which were filed and paid only later in 1974. SYLLABUS 1.REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION; CERTIORARI; PRINCIPLE OF HIERARCHY OF COURTS MUST BE OBSERVED. It has also been emphasized in a number of cases that while this Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts (for writs enforceable within their respective regions), to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition or certiorari, the litigants are well advised against taking a direct recourse to this Court. Instead, they should initially seek the proper relief from the lower courts. As a court of last resort, this Court should not be burdened with the task of dealing with causes in the first instance. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is concurrently within the competence of the CA and RTC, litigants must observe the principle of hierarchy of courts. This Court's original jurisdiction to issue extraordinary writs should be exercised only where absolutely necessary, or where serious and important reasons therefor exist.
CAETcH

2.ID.; ID.; ID.; ALLOWED AS A MODE OF REDRESS TO PREVENT IRREPARABLE DAMAGES AND INJURY TO A PARTY. As a general rule, an interlocutory order is not appealable until after the rendition of the judgment on the merits, an exception is made where the remedy of appeal cannot afford an adequate and expeditious relief. In such exception, certiorari can be allowed as a mode of redress to prevent irreparable damage and injury to a party. We further held that where the order complained of is a patent nullity, a petition for certiorari and mandamus may properly be entertained despite the existence of the remedy of appeal. 3.CIVIL LAW; NATURAL RESOURCES; MINING CLAIMS; PRESIDENT IS THE FINAL APPEAL AUTHORITY. With the issuance of Presidential Decree Nos. 99A, 309, and 463, the procedure of adjudicating conflicting mining claims has been made completely administrative in character, with the President as the final appeal authority.

4.ID.; ID.; ID.; DECISIONS OF MINES ADJUDICATION BOARD CAN BE RAISED TO THE APPROPRIATE COURT THROUGH PETITION FOR REVIEW ONCERTIORARI. Findings of fact by the Mines Adjudication Board, which exercises appellate jurisdiction over decisions or orders of the panel of arbitrators, shall be conclusive and binding on the parties, and its decision or order shall be final and executory. But resort to the appropriate court, through a petition by certiorari, involving questions of law, may be made within thirty days from the receipt of the order or decision of the Mines Adjudication Board.
EDACSa

5.ID.; ID.; ID.; FINDINGS OF FACT BY THE MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES IS NOT APPEALABLE TO THIS COURT UNLESS THERE IS A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN MAKING SUCH FINDINGS. Well established is the rule that findings of fact made in the decision of the Minister of Natural Resources (then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) appealed from will not be reviewed by this Court unless there has been a grave abuse of discretion in making said findings by reason of the total absence of competent evidence in support thereof. 6.ID.; ID.; ID.; RIGHT OF A LOCATOR OF A MINING CLAIM IS NOT ABSOLUTE. While it is recognized that the right of a locator of a mining claim is a property right, such right is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right, more so where petitioner's claims are still unpatented. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or located claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply the location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This cannot be approved or sanctioned because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirement for annual works and improvements in the located mining claims. Not only should there be a valid and subsisting location of the mineral land but also there should be, thereafter, continuous compliance with all the requirements of law such as the performance of annual assessment works and payment of real estate taxes.
CIETDc

DECISION QUISUMBING, J :
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This Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with Preliminary Injunction and Prayer for a Restraining Order seeks to annul the following:
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1.Decision dated September 30, 1983 of respondent Intermediate Appellate Court (now Court of Appeals) in AC-G.R. No. 15439 which in effect upheld herein private respondents' mining claims and directed respondent Regional Trial Court to resolve the motion to dismiss in Civil Case No 45053. 1

2.Order dated July 31, 1984 of the Court of First Instance, Branch X (now Regional Trial Court, Branch 155), Pasig, Metro Manila, dismissing Civil Case No. 45053 on the basis of an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals upholding the findings of fact of the Minister of Natural Resources; 2 3.Decision dated August 31, 1981 of the Office of the President, upholding the finding of the Minister that petitioners had abandoned their "BAROBO" mining claims and accordingly dismissed their appeal; 3 4.Decision dated October 29, 1979 of the Minister of Natural Resources, affirming the decision of the Director of Mines; 5.Consolidated Decision dated May 12, 1976 of the Director of Mines in Mines Administrative Case Nos. V-817 and V-818, upholding the preferential rights of private respondents to lease, possess, explore and develop their respective "DIAMOND" and "MARTIN" mining claims in question; 5 The petitioners also pray that their mining claims be declared valid and that private respondents' mining claims be declared null and void. The petitioners Alfred Pearson, et al. (hereinafter "Pearsons") claim to have inherited the beneficial-interest of the Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc. (hereinafter "Tambis Gold") upon its dissolution, owing to the fact that the biggest stockholder of said company and the sole owner of the claims was their ancestor, William F. Pearson, Sr. 6 Private respondents Diamond Mining Corporation, Rosario Mining Development Corporation and their assignee A. Soriano Corporation (hereinafter "Mining Companies") are domestic corporations organized and existing under Philippine laws. The public respondents are the Director of Mines, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Presidential Executive Assistant, the Court of First Instance (CFI), and the Intermediate Appellate Court (IAC). 7 Each of them had ruled in favor of the Mining Companies.

The facts as found by the respondent Minister of Natural Resources and confirmed by the respondents Presidential Executive Assistant and the IAC are as follows:
"From the records and the documentary evidence at hand, it appears that the Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc. filed in 1919, under the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, declarations of location covering the "BAROBO-1" to "BAROBO-5" placer claims located at the barrio of Bahi, municipality of Lianga, province of Surigao del Sur. These declarations of location were destroyed or lost during the war.

In 1948, the Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc. filed with the Bureau of Mines affidavits to reconstitute the declarations of location for the "BAROBO" placer claims. The affidavits were recorded with the mining recorder on January 19, 1949. On February 29, 1960, the Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc. was dissolved. Appellants (herein petitioners) were at that time stockholders of the corporation. From May 10 to June 11, 1970, appellee (now respondent) Rosario Mining, through its agent Marcelino Manabat, discovered and located the "MARTIN - 1", "MARTIN - 2", "MARTIN - 5", "MARTIN - 6" and "MARTIN - 27" placer claims in the barrio of Bahi, municipality of Barobo, province of Surigao del Sur. On June 25, 1970, the declarations of location therefor, and the Special Power and (sic) Attorney appointing Marcelino Manabat as attorney-in-fact, were registered with the Mining Recorder of Surigao del Sur. On August 31, 1970, the applications for the survey of the "MARTIN" claims were filed, and, on March 13, 1973 and December 18, 1973, the corresponding orders for survey were issued. On June 22, 1973, appellee (now respondent) Rosario Mining filed the lease application covering the "MARTIN" placer claims. After the survey returns of said placer claims were approved on January 3, 1975, the notice of lease was published in February 20 and 27, 1975 issues of the "Mindanao Times" and in the February 25 and March 4, 1975 issues of the "Times Journal". Meanwhile, from February 24 to March 5, 1974, appellee (now also respondent) Diamond Mining, through its agent Justiniano Deloso, discovered and located the "DIAMOND - I" to "DIAMOND - 7" placer claims in the barrio of Bahi, municipality of Barobo, province of Surigao del Sur. On March 25, 1974, the declarations of location therefor, including the Special Power of Attorney in favor of Justiniano Deloso, were registered with the Mining Recorder of Surigao del Sur. On April 17, 1973, the application for survey of the "DIAMOND" placer claims were filed, and, on May 21, 1974, the order for survey was issued. On April 22, 1974 appellee Diamond Mining filed the lease applications covering the "DIAMOND" placer claims. Subsequently, after the survey returns of said claims were approved on December 24, 1974 and January 3, 1975, the notice of lease application was published in the February 25 and March 4, 1975 issues of the "Times Journal" and in the February 27 and March 6, 1975 issues of the "Mindanao Times". On 10 March 1975, appellants (petitioners herein) filed the adverse claims against appellees (now private respondents). After the case was heard by the Panel of Investigators of the Bureau of Mines, the Director of Mines rendred (sic) the decision appealed from.

In his decision, the Director held that appellants (petitioners) failed to establish the existence of the conflict among the placer claims involved; that the "BAROBO" placer claims are null and void because their tie points, as described in the affidavits to reconstitute the declarations of location therefor, are not the natural objects or permanent monuments prescribed under the law and their geographical positions cannot be accurately determined; that, even if said "BAROBO" claims were validly located, the same have been abandoned due to the failure of the original locators thereof to perform assessment works therein, to file the corresponding affidavits of annual work obligations, and to pay the real estate taxes thereon; and that appellants (petitioners) are not the successors-in-interest of the Tambis Gold Dredging Co., Inc., hence they have no legal personality to institute the adverse claims." 8

On appeal, the Minister of Natural Resources in a Decision dated October 29, 1979, affirmed the judgment of the Director of Mines. 9 He agreed with the Director's finding on the issue of abandonment. Not satisfied with the decision of the Minister of Natural Resources, the Pearsons appealed to the Office of the President. They filed a Manifestation requesting the Office to require the Mining Companies to file a bond in such amount as may be necessary to protect the interests of the Pearsons during the pendency of the case before it. Also, they prayed for an order for immediate ocular inspection of the area to determine the fundamental issue of the correct tie point of the controverted mining claims. 10 In an Order dated June 23, 1981, the Office of the President granted the motion concerning the bond but denied the request for ocular inspection. In the order, it was stated that "the investigation conducted by the Presidential Investigating Committee of the Bureau of Mines has already considered and determined the issue which require no more (sic) further verification and clarification." 11 The Pearsons and the Mining Companies separately moved for reconsideration. 12 Subsequently, the Office of the President granted the motion for ocular inspection, and ordered the creation of an Ad Hoc Ocular Inspection Committee on June 23, 1989. 13 The Mining Companies moved for reconsideration of this order. 14 In a Decision dated August 31, 1981, the Office of the President revoked the order allowing ocular inspection, dismissed the appeal for lack of merit, and released all monies that might have been deposited by the Mining Companies. The pertinent grounds of its dismissal are hereunder quoted: 15
". . . We agree with the findings of the Ministry of Natural Resources that Appellant's mining claims are abandoned, if not null and void. Evidence on record clearly establishes the fact that appellants failed to conduct the necessary works on their claim, to file the affidavits of annual work obligations, and to pay the real estate taxes. These ommissions (sic) by appellants constitute abandonment of their claims. Executive Order No. 141 dated August 1, 1968, explicitly states that unpatented mining claims which were located more than thirty years ago under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902, as amended, and

which have not complied with the annual assessment requirement are considered abandoned and their declaration of location cancelled. On this score, this Office finds no legal justification to modify, much less reverse, the appealed decision."

On January 18, 1982, the Office of the President issued a Resolution denying the Pearsons' motion for reconsideration. 16 After said denial, the Pearsons filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, with a writ of preliminary injunction, before Branch X of the CFI of Pasig to annul the aforementioned decisions of public respondents and to restrain private respondents from entering and developing the mining claims involved. 17 This was docketed as Civil Case No. 45053. The Mining Companies filed their joint motion to dismiss and opposition to the preliminary injunction alleging, among others, that the Decision dated August 31, 1981 of the Office of the President is already final and executory pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 463, Section 50 which states that:
"Appeals Any party not satisfied with the decision or order of the Director, may, within five (5) days from receipt thereof, appeal to the Secretary. Decisions of the Secretary are likewise appealable within five (5) days from receipt thereof by the affected party to the President of the Philippines whose decision shall be final and executory. xxx xxx xxx"

Instead of expressly resolving the said motion to dismiss, the CFI ordered on October 15, 1982 the creation of an Ad Hoc Ocular Inspection Committee "to determine the correct tie-point of private respondents' mineral claim". Both the public and private respondents moved for reconsideration of said order. 18 The CFI denied both motions and issued the Order dated December 21, 1982 scheduling the ocular inspection for January 3, 1983. In view of this last order, the Mining Companies filed with the IAC their Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition, assailing the abovementioned orders dated October 15, 1982 and December 21, 1982 allowing the creation of and setting the schedule for ocular inspection by the Ad Hoc Committee, and praying that the latter court be prohibited from further proceeding with Civil Case No. 45053. The Mining Companies argued that when P.D. Nos. 99-A, 309, and 463 were promulgated, it became unquestionable that the procedure of adjudicating mining claims was made completely administrative with the President as the final authority. 19 In their Answer, the Pearsons assailed the propriety of the petition since its subjects are two interlocutory orders. 20 The IAC issued a Restraining Order dated January 31, 1983, restraining the CFI judge from implementing his order directing the Ad Hoc Committee to conduct an ocular inspection. 21 Later on, the IAC granted the writ of certiorari, set aside the orders of the CFI with regard to the Ad Hoc Committee and ocular inspection, and directed the CFI "to resolve the joint motion to dismiss filed by the private respondents in said case in light of what has been stated in this decision." The decision of the IAC was promulgated on September 30, 1983, and

the same became final and executory with an entry of judgment issued by the said IAC on February 17, 1984. As directed by the IAC, the CFI issued an Order on July 31, 1984 dismissing the petition of the Pearsons before it.

Hence, the petitioners now come before this Court raising in their petition the following issues: 22
I.WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF RESPONDENT INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT IN CA-G.R. NO. 15439 IS NULL AND VOID FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CASE; II.ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT IT HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE, WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION, AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION, WHEN IT GAVE DUE COURSE TO AND DECIDED SAID PETITION DESPITE THE CLEAR SHOWING BY HEREIN PETITIONER THAT THE ORDERS IN QUESTION ARE MERELY INTERLOCUTORY AND ARE, THEREFORE, NOT PROPER SUBJECT MATTER OF A PETITION FOR CERTIORARI UNDER RULE 65 OF THE RULES OF COURT; AND III.ASSUMING AGAIN ARGUENDO THAT THE QUESTIONED INTERLOCUTORY ORDERS ARE PROPER SUBJECT OF CERTIORARI, WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION DATED SEPTEMBER 30, 1983 OF RESPONDENT INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT IS A PATENT NULLITY FOR BEING DEVOID OF ANY FACTUAL OR LEGAL BASIS.

Petitioners maintain that the Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction over all cases where the jurisdiction of a lower court is in issue, as well as all cases decided by lower courts involving pure questions of law, 23 pursuant to paragraph 2(c), Section 5, Art X of the present Constitution which states that:
"Sec. 5.The Supreme Court shall have the following powers: xxx xxx xxx (2)Review and revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and decrees of inferior courts in xxx xxx xxx (c)All cases in which the jurisdiction of any inferior court is in issue. xxx xxx xxx

Likewise, they assert that the Judiciary Act of 1948 (R.A. No. 296), as amended, also clearly provides that the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the case, pursuant to Paragraph (3), Sec. 1 7 thereof, to wit:
"Sec. 17.Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. xxx xxx xxx The Supreme Court shall further have exclusive jurisdiction to review revise, reverse, modify or affirm on certiorari as the law or rules of court may provide, final judgments and decrees of inferior courts as herein provided in xxx xxx xxx (2)All cases in which the jurisdiction of any inferior court is in issue. xxx xxx xxx

Consequently, they argue that the IAC Decision dated September 30, 1983 is a patent nullity for utter want of jurisdiction. They further argue that the questioned orders of the CFI dated October 15, 1982 and December 21, 1982 allowing the creation of and setting the schedule for ocular inspection by the Ad Hoc Committee were merely interlocutory, and therefore, cannot be subject of a petition for certiorari in the IAC. 24 Lastly, they claim that the IAC, in its September 30, 1984 decision sustaining the Decision dated August 31, 1981 of the Office of the President dismissing the appeal of petitioners, has no factual and legal bases. They stress that they have lived in their ancestral home in the mining area up to the filing of this petition; they continued performing the assessment work on their mineral claims up to 1975 when this case arose, and they were enjoined to stop their operations by respondent Bureau of Mines; that they have performed assessment work continuously up to 1975; that they filed religiously their affidavits of assessment work; and that they paid their realty taxes due, although they admitted that certain affidavits were filed and certain taxes were also paid in later years. 25 Private respondents, in their Comment dated June 26, 1986, allege that the IAC has jurisdiction to entertain the original petition for certiorari filed by them against respondents CFI and the Pearsons under Rule 65 of the New Rules of Court. They argue that under P.D. Nos. 99-A, 309 and 463 governing the procedures of adjudicating conflicting mining claims which were made completely administrative, the decision of the President on appeal to his Office is final and executory, and therefore, not subject to judicial review. 26 The different issues raised in the instant petition may be subsumed in two principal issues:
LexLib

1.Whether or not respondent IAC committed reversible error in assuming jurisdiction over the private respondents' petition for certiorari assailing the trial court's interlocutory orders?

2.Assuming the IAC had validly assumed jurisdiction, whether or not it committed reversible errors of law in its decision now before us? We find the petition entirely devoid of merit. Thus we see, in regard to the first principal issue, no reversible error committed by the IAC when it assumed jurisdiction over private respondents' petition for certiorari involving interlocutory orders of the trial court. The petitioners launch a two-pronged attack against the jurisdiction of the respondent appellate court, to wit: first, the IAC could not adjudicate cases where the jurisdiction of the trial court is in issue; and second, the orders of the CFI, being merely interlocutory, could not be the subject of a petition for certiorari in the IAC. The petitioners err on both counts. Firstly, the IAC correctly invoked the ruling of this Court in Uytiepo vs. Aggabao 27 , to wit:
"As regards the claim that the issues raised by Aggabao in her action filed with the respondent Court of Appeals involve only questions of law and are therefore exclusively reviewable by this Court, the petitioners apparently confuse the remedy of special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court in relation to section 30 of the Judiciary Act as amended and an appeal by certiorari under Rule 42 also of the Rules of Court in relation to the fourth paragraph of section 17 of the same Act. The first is a remedy available in the Court of Appeals, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, essentially to correct errors of jurisdiction or abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The second lies within the competence of this Court for the review of errors of inferior courts involving only questions of law. . ."

What private respondents availed of was the first remedy, placing in issue the jurisdiction of the trial court to create an Ad Hoc Committee and schedule an ocular inspection. Considered in relation to Section 9 of B.P. Blg. 129 (The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980), now incorporated in Section 4, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which vested the then IAC with original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari and prohibition, among other auxillary writs, "whether or not in aid of its appellate jurisdiction", we find that respondent appellate court correctly assumed jurisdiction over CA-G.R. No. 15439. It has also been emphasized in a number of cases 28 that while this Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts (for writs enforceable within their respective regions), to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition or certiorari, the litigants are well advised against taking a direct recourse to this Court. Instead, they should initially seek the proper relief from the lower courts. As a court of last resort, this Court should not be burdened with the task of dealing with causes in the first instance. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is concurrently within the competence of the CA or RTC, litigants must observe the principle of hierarchy of courts. This Court's

original jurisdiction to issue extraordinary writs should be exercised only where absolutely necessary, or where serious and important reasons therefor exist. Secondly, petitioner's contention that the lower court's orders of October 15, 1982 and December 21, 1982, being merely interlocutory, are not correctible by certiorari, ignores this Court's consistent ruling, to wit:
"On the procedural issues raised, we hold that where an interlocutory order was allegedly issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, such order may be questioned before the Court on a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court. To delay the review of the order until the appeal from the decision of the main case would not afford the party adversely affected by the said order a speedy, plain and adequate remedy." 29

In Marcelo vs. De Guzman, 30 we held that although, as a general rule, an interlocutory order is not appealable until after the rendition of the judgment on the merits, an exception is made where the remedy of appeal cannot afford an adequate and expeditious relief. In such exception, certiorari can be allowed as a mode of redress to prevent irreparable damage and injury to a party. We further held that where the order complained of is a patent nullity, a petition for certiorari and mandamus may properly be entertained despite the existence of the remedy of appeal. 31 This we reiterated in Salcedo-Ortaez vs. Court of Appeals. 32 Does the controversy at hand fall under the exception where interlocutory orders may be the subject of a petition for certiorari in the IAC? In our view, it does. For the trial court clearly acted outside of its jurisdiction when it issued the assailed orders creating the Ad Hoc Committee and scheduling the ocular inspection. To begin with the lower court did not have jurisdiction over the mining dispute. With the issuance of Presidential Decree Nos. 99-A, 309, and 463, 33 the procedure of adjudicating conflicting mining claims has been made completely administrative in character, with the President as the final appeal authority. 34 Section 50 of P.D. 463, providing for a modernized system of administration and disposition of mineral lands, to promote and encourage the development and exploitation thereof, mandates on the matter of "Protests, Adverse Claims and Appeals," the following procedure:

"Appeals Any party not satisfied with the decision or order of the Director may, within five (5) days from receipt thereof, appeal to the secretary. Decisions of the Secretary are likewise appealable within five (5) days from receipt thereof by the affected party to the President of the Philippines whose decision shall be final and executory.

It should be noted that before its amendment, the Mining Law (C.A. No. 137) required that after the filing of adverse claim with the Bureau of Mines, the adverse claimant had to go to a court of competent jurisdiction for the settlement of the claim. With the amendment seeking to expedite the resolution of mining conflicts, the Director of Mines became the mandatory adjudicator of

adverse claims, instead of the Court of First Instance. 35 Thus, it cannot escape notice that under Section 61 of the Mining Law, as amended by Republic Act Nos. 746 and 4388, appeals from the decision of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (then Minister of Natural Resources) on conflicts and disputes arising out of mining locations may be made to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court as the case may be. In contrast, under the decrees issued at the onset of martial law, it has been expressly provided that the decisions of the same Secretary in mining cases are appealable to the President of the Philippines under Section 50 of the Mineral Resources Development Decree of 1974 (P.D. No. 463) and Section 7 of P.D. No. 1281 in relation to P.D. No. 309. 36 The trend at present is to make the adjudication of mining cases a purely administrative matter. 37 This does not mean that administrative bodies have complete rein over mining disputes. The very terms of Section 73 of the Mining Law, as amended by R.A. No. 4388, in requiring that the adverse claim must "state in full detail the nature, boundaries and extent of the adverse claim" show that the conflicts to be decided by reason of such adverse claim refer primarily to questions of fact. The controversies to be submitted and resolved by the Director of Mines under the sections referred only to the overlapping of claims and administrative matters incidental thereto. 38 Questions and controversies that are judicial, not administrative, in nature can be resolved only by the regular courts in whom is vested the judicial power to resolve and adjudicate such civil disputes and controversies between litigants in accordance with the established norms of law and justice. 39Decisions of the Supreme Court on mining disputes have recognized a distinction between (1) the primary powers granted by pertinent provisions of law to the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (and the bureau directors) of an executive or administrative nature, such as "granting of license, permits, lease and contracts, or approving, rejecting, reinstating or cancelling applications, or deciding conflicting applications," and (2) controversies or disagreements of civil or contractual nature between litigants which are questions of a judicial nature that may be adjudicated only by the courts of justice. 40 This distinction is carried on even under the present law. 41 Findings of fact by the Mines Adjudication Board, which exercises appellate jurisdiction over decisions or orders of the panel of arbitrators, shall be conclusive and binding on the parties, and its decision or order shall be final and executory. 42 But resort to the appropriate court, through a petition for review by certiorari, involving questions of law, may be made within thirty days from the receipt of the order or decision of the Mines Adjudication Board. 43 With regard to the second issue, the query boils down to whether the IAC committed reversible error in concluding that petitioners had abandoned their mining claims. As found by the IAC:
"It will not be amiss to state here that the basis of abandonment of the Pearsons of their mining claims is well established by the evidence already presented to the Bureau of Mines and to the Ministry of Natural Resources. We need only to refer to the following reasons found in the

decision of the Ministry of Natural Resources, dated October 29, 1975, to wit: '. . . assuming, in gratia argumentis, that the 'BAROBO' placer claims were validly located, said claims have been abandoned for failure of the claim owners thereof to conduct works therein, to file the affidavits of annual work obligations, and to pay the real estate taxes. The evidence indicate that affidavits of annual assessment works have been filed for the 'BAROBO-2' to 'BAROBO-5' placer claims from 1946 to 1951. However, the affidavits for the years 1957 to 1974, respectively were all filed only on April 8, 1975. Thus, during the latter years, no proof was submitted to show compliance with the annual assessment works. So, at the time the 'DIAMOND' and 'MARTIN' placer claims were located and registered, the 'BAROBO' claims had already been deemed abandoned and the areas covered thereby open to relocation.' "Said decision also took into account Executive Order No. 141, dated August 1, 1968, which provides: 'NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare unpatented mining claims which were located more than thirty years ago under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902, as amended, and which had not complied with the annual assessment requirement, as abandoned and their declaration of location cancelled.'" 44

Well established is the rule that findings of fact made in the decision of the Minister of Natural Resources (then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) appealed from will not be reviewed by this Court unless there has been a grave abuse of discretion in making said findings by reason of the total absence of competent evidence in support thereof. 45 As shown above, the public officials' judgments are well supported by substantial evidence. Moreover, by the Pearsons' own admission, they failed to file the affidavit of annual assessment works and to pay the real estate taxes from 1957-1974, which were filed and paid only later in 1974. 46 In Santa Rosa Mining Co. vs. Hon. Minister of Natural Resources Jose Leido, Jr. and Director of Mines Juanito Fernandez 47 , this Court held that while it is recognized that the right of a locator of a mining claim is a property right, such right is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right, more so where petitioner's claims are still unpatented. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or located claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply the location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This cannot be approved or sanctioned because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirement for annual works and improvements in the located mining claims. 48Not only should there be a valid

and subsisting location of the mineral land but also there should be, thereafter, continuous compliance with all the requirements of law such as the performance of annual assessment works and payment of real estate taxes. 49 While it is understandable that petitioners would want this Court to reassess the evidence presented before the mining officials to support their plea of not having abandoned the mining claim involved, this cannot be done now in this proceeding, for this Court is not a trier of facts. Moreover, we find no cogent, much less compelling, reason to depart from established practice and precedents. For where, as in the case at bar, there is no showing that there was fraud, collusion, arbitrariness, illegality, imposition or mistake on the part of the Office of the President or a department head in rendering a questioned decision; nor a total lack of substantial evidence to support their administrative decisions, their factual findings and conclusions are entitled to great weight and respect, and will not be interfered with. 50 WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED, and the assailed Orders and Decisions, particularly the Decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in ACG.R. No. 15439, including the Order of dismissal of Civil Case No. 45053, are hereby AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.
llcd

Bellosillo, Vitug and Panganiban, JJ ., concur. Davide, Jr., principally for the reason that the instant petition was filed out of
time and, definitely as a substitute for the lost remedy of appeal.
Footnotes

1.Per Justice Nestor B. Alampay with the concurrence of Justice Carolina G. Aquino and Justice Santiago M. Kapunan, Rollo, pp. 78-90. 2.Per Judge Eficio B. Acosta, Rollo, pp. 91-92. 3.Per Presidential Executive Assistant Juan C. Tuvera, Rollo, 93-96. 4.Per Minister Jose J. Leido, Jr., Rollo, pp. 218-226. 5.Per Director of Mines Juanito C. Fernandez, Rollo, pp. 108-114. 6.Pearsons, Tambis Gold Dredging Company, Inc.: In Capsule, Rollo, p. 652. 7.The CFI is now Regional Trial Court (RTC), while the IAC is now the Court of Appeals. The Director of Mines is now known as Director of Mines and Geoscience; and the Minister of Natural Resources is now the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. 8.Rollo, pp. 220-222. 9.Supra note 4, at 107.

10.Rollo, pp. 290, 292. 11.Order, Rollo, pp. 316. 12.Annex "FF", Rollo, pp. 318-321; Annex "GG", Rollo, pp. 322-327. 13.Annex "HH", Rollo, pp. 328-329. 14.Annex "II", Rollo, pp. 330-337. 15.Supra note 3, at 96. 16.Rollo, p. 16. 17.Id., at 16, 18. 18.Id., at 21. 19.Id., at 25. 20.Annex "PPP", Rollo, pp. 470-498.

21.Annex "NNN", Rollo, p 467. 22.Petition, Rollo, p. 28. 23.Id., at 30-31. 24.Id., at 47. 25.Id., at 48-49. 26.Comment, Rollo, pp. 582-593. 27.35 SCRA 186, 192. 28.Gelindon vs. De la Rama, 228 SCRA 322; Vergara, Sr. vs. Suelto, 156 SCRA 753. 29.Aquino vs. NLRC, 226 SCRA 76, citing Mendoza vs. CA, 201 SCRA 343. 30.114 SCRA 657, at 661-664. 31.Id., citing Perlas vs. Concepcion, 34 Phil. 559, at 561; Director of Lands vs. Sta Maria, 44 Phil. 594, al 596; Clemente vs. Lucban, 53 Phil. 931, at 934. 32.235 SCRA 111. 33.P.D. No. 99-A was enacted on January 15, 1973; P.D. No. 309 was enacted on October 10 1973; P.D. No. 463 was enacted on May 17, 1974. 34.Solicitor General's REPLY to OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO DISMISS, Rollo, p. 395.

35.Atty. Severino Tabios, Resolution of Adverse Claim on Mineral Properties, 94 SCRA 776, at 780. 36.Twin Peaks vs. Navarro, 94 SCRA 768, at 773-774. 37.Id., at 768. 38.Philex Mining Corporation vs. Zaldivia, 43 SCRA 479, at 484. 39.Pio vs. Marcos, 56 SCRA 726, at 756. 40.Supra note 35, at 781. 41.R.A. No. 7942 Philippine Mining Act of 1995. 42.Id., Chapter XIII, Section 79. 43.Id. 44.Decision of the IAC, pp. 11-12. 45.Basiano, Sr. vs. Luna, 103 SCRA 49. 46.Reply to Comment of Private Respondents, Rollo, p. 567. 47.156 SCRA 1. 48.Director of Lands vs. Kalahi Investments, Inc., 169 SCRA 683, at 689. 49.Zambales Chromite Mining Co., Inc. vs. Leido, Jr., 176 SCRA 602, at 606. 50.Lacuesta vs. Herrera, 62 SCRA 123, citing Syquio vs. Sta. Maria, 55 SCRA 736, and Nera vs. Titong, Jr., 56 SCRA 40.