White Gold Marine Services vs. Pioneer Insurance & the Steamship Mutual; G.R. NO. 154514. July 28, 2005
White Gold Marine procured a protection and indemnity coverage for its vessels from The Steamship Mutual Underwriting through Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corporation. 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 latter’s unpaid balance. White Gold on the other hand, filed a complaint before the Insurance Commission claiming that Steamship Mutual is doing business in the country albeit without license.
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. It explained that Steamship Mutual was a Protection and Indemnity Club (P & I Club). Likewise, Pioneer need not obtain another license as insurance agent and/or a broker for Steamship Mutual because Steamship Mutual was not engaged in the insurance business.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Insurance Commissioner.
(a) WON Steamship, a Protection and Indemnity Club, is engaged in the insurance business in the PH.
YES. A Protection and Indemnity 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 test to determine if a contract is an insurance contract or not, depends on the nature of the promise, the act required to be performed, and the exact nature of the agreement in the light of the occurrence, contingency, or circumstances under which the performance becomes requisite. It is not by what it is called.
Section 2(b) of the Insurance Code enumerates what constitutes “doing an insurance business” or “transacting an insurance business”.These are:
(a) making or proposing to make, as insurer, any insurance contract;
(b) making, or proposing to make, as surety, any contract of suretyship as a vocation and not as merely incidental to any other legitimate business or activity of the surety;
(c) doing any kind of business, including a reinsurance business, specifically recognized as constituting the doing of an insurance business within the meaning of this Code;
(d) doing or proposing to do any business in substance equivalent to any of the foregoing in a manner designed to evade the provisions of this Code.
The fact that no profit is derived from the making of insurance contracts, agreements or transactions, or that no separate or direct consideration is received therefor, shall not preclude the existence of an insurance business.
Relatedly, a mutual insurance company is a cooperative enterprise where the members are both the insurer and insured. In it, the members all contribute, by a system of premiums or assessments, to the creation of a fund from which all losses and liabilities are paid, and where the profits are divided among themselves, in proportion to their interest. Additionally, mutual insurance associations, or clubs, provide three types of coverage, namely, protection and indemnity, war risks, and defense costs.
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 on its behalf. We note that 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
(b) WON Pioneer needs a license as an insurance agent/broker for Steamship Mutual?
YES. 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: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, which must be renewed annually on the first day of January, or within six months thereafter.
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