G.R. No. L-47379 (May 16, 1988)
Plaintiff Engineering Construction, Inc., being a successful bidder, executed a contract in Manila with the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), whereby the former undertook to furnish all tools, labor, equipment and materials, and to construct the proposed 2nd Ipo-Bicti Tunnel, Intake and Outlet Structures, and Appurtenant Structures, and Appurtenant Features at Norzagaray, Bulacan and to complete said works within 800 calendar days.
The project involves two major phases: (1) tunnel work covering a distance of 7 kilometres and (2) the outworks at both ends of the tunnel. The ECI already had completed the first major phase of the work, the Tunnel Excavation Work. Some portions of the outworks were still under construction. As soon as the plaintiff corporation had finished the tunnel excavation work at the Bicti site, all the equipment no longer needed there were transferred to the Ipo site where some projects were yet to be completed.
On November 4, 1967, Typhoon “Welming” hit Central Luzon, passing through corporations’ Angat Hydro-electric Project and Dam. Due to the heavy downpour, the water in the reservoir of the Angat Dam was rising perilously at the rate of 60 cm per hour. To prevent an overflow of water from the dam, the National Power Corporation (NPC) caused the opening of the spillway gates. Extraordinary large volume of water rushed out of the gates, and hit the installations and construction works of ECI at Ipo site with terrific impact, as a result of which the latter’s stockpile of materials supplies, camp facilities and permanent structures and accessories whether washed away, lost or destroyed.
Whether or not the destruction and loss of ECI’s equipment and facilities were due to force majeure which will exempt NPC from liability.
No. The NPC will not be exempted from liability. It is clear from the appellate court’s decision that based on its findings of fact and that of the trial court’s, petitioner NPC was undoubtedly negligent because it opened the spillway gates of the Angat Dam only at the height of typhoon “Welming” when it knew very well that it was safer to have opened the same gradually and earlier, as it was also undeniable that NPC knew of the coming typhoon at least four days before it actually struck. And even though the typhoon was an act of God or what we may call force majeure, NPC cannot escape liability because its negligence was the proximate cause of the loss and damage.
* Case digest by Vera Nataa, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018