Friday, July 13, 2012

White Gold v Pioneer G.R. No. 154514. July 28, 2005

J. Quisimbing

White Gold procured a protection and indemnity coverage for its vessels from The Steamship Mutual through Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corporation.  White Gold was issued a Certificate of Entry and Acceptance. Pioneer also issued receipts.  When White Gold failed to fully pay its accounts, Steamship Mutual refused to renew the coverage.
Steamship Mutual thereafter filed a case against White Gold for collection of sum of money to recover the unpaid balance.  White Gold on the other hand, filed a complaint before the Insurance Commission claiming that Steamship Mutual and Pioneer violated provisions of the Insurance Code.
The Insurance Commission dismissed the complaint.  It said that there was no need for Steamship Mutual to secure a license because it was not engaged in the insurance business and that it was a P & I club. Pioneer was not required to obtain another license as insurance agent because Steamship Mutual was not engaged in the insurance business. 
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Insurance Commissioner.  In its decision, the appellate court distinguished between P & I Clubs vis-à-vis conventional insurance.  The appellate court also held that Pioneer merely acted as a collection agent of Steamship Mutual.
Hence this petition by White Gold.

1. Is Steamship Mutual, a P & I Club, engaged in the insurance business in the Philippines?
2. Does Pioneer need a license as an insurance agent/broker for Steamship Mutual?

Held:  Yes. Petition granted.

White Gold insists that Steamship Mutual as a P & I Club is engaged in the insurance business.  To buttress its assertion, it cites the definition as “an association composed of shipowners in general who band together for the specific purpose of providing insurance cover on a mutual basis against liabilities incidental to shipowning that the members incur in favor of third parties.” 
They argued that Steamship Mutual’s primary purpose is to solicit and provide protection and indemnity coverage and for this purpose, it has engaged the services of Pioneer to act as its agent.
Respondents contended that although Steamship Mutual is a P & I Club, it is not engaged in the insurance business in the Philippines.  It is merely an association of vessel owners who have come together to provide mutual protection against liabilities incidental to shipowning.
Is Steamship Mutual engaged in the insurance business?
A P & I Club is “a form of insurance against third party liability, where the third party is anyone other than the P & I Club and the members.” By definition then, Steamship Mutual as a P & I Club is a mutual insurance association engaged in the marine insurance business.
The records reveal Steamship Mutual is doing business in the country albeit without the requisite certificate of authority mandated by Section 187 of the Insurance Code.  It maintains a resident agent in the Philippines to solicit insurance and to collect payments in its behalf.  Steamship Mutual even renewed its P & I Club cover until it was cancelled due to non-payment of the calls.  Thus, to continue doing business here, Steamship Mutual or through its agent Pioneer, must secure a license from the Insurance Commission.
Since a contract of insurance involves public interest, regulation by the State is necessary.  Thus, no insurer or insurance company is allowed to engage in the insurance business without a license or a certificate of authority from the Insurance Commission.
2. Pioneer is the resident agent of Steamship Mutual as evidenced by the certificate of registration issued by the Insurance Commission.  It has been licensed to do or transact insurance business by virtue of the certificate of authority issued by the same agency.  However, a Certification from the Commission states that Pioneer does not have a separate license to be an agent/broker of Steamship Mutual.
Although Pioneer is already licensed as an insurance company, it needs a separate license to act as insurance agent for Steamship Mutual.  Section 299 of the Insurance Code clearly states:
SEC. 299 No person shall act as an insurance agent or as an insurance broker in the solicitation or procurement of applications for insurance, or receive for services in obtaining insurance, any commission or other compensation from any insurance company doing business in the Philippines or any agent thereof, without first procuring a license so to act from the Commissioner…

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