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Republic of the Philippines

Court of Appeals
Manila

SPECIAL SEVENTH DIVISION


IN RE: APPLICATION FOR
REGISTRATION OF TITLE,

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581

SPS.
ROLAND0
and
FLORDELIZA VERZOSA,
Members:
Applicants-Appellees,
*

versus

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.,
Acting Chairperson,
**
PUNZALAN-CASTILLO, and
ROSARIO, JJ.

REPUBLIC
OF
THE
Promulgated:
PHILIPPINES,
Public Oppositor-Appellant,
March 31, 2009
WILFREDO SISON,
Private Oppositor-Appellant.
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
ROSARIO, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated 5 November 2007 of


the Regional Trial Court, Branch 69, Lingayen, Pangasinan, in LRC
Case No. N-4025, ordering the registration of title applied for by the
spouses Verzosa over an 11,573-square meter parcel of land
Acting Chairperson, per Office Order No. 517-09-CMV dated March 23, 2009.
Acting Senior Member, per Office Order No. 515-09-CMV dated March 20, 2009.
1
Record, p. 343.
*

**

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

adjoining the Lingayen Gulf.

In 2003, the spouses Rolando and Flordeliza Verzosa acquired


an 11,573-square meter parcel of land situated in Barangay
Pangapisan North, Lingayen, Pangasinan by purchase from the
following persons: 9,222 square meters from Baldomero Sison;2 and
the other portions from several other persons,3 who all acquired their
portions from Baldomero Sison.4 Subsequently, the spouses Verzosa
developed the subject property into a beach resort:, the El Puerto
Marina Beach Resort and Spa.
On 15 August 2005, the spouses Verzosa applied for
registration of title over the subject property.5 According to a survey
commissioned by the spouses Verzosa, the land is bounded on the
northwest by a 20-meter Salvage Zone; on the northeast by a 6meter road; on the south by land belonging to Anastacia Sison; and
on the southwest by land belonging to Wilfredo Sison.
The Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the
Solicitor General, opposed the application on the grounds that: (1) the
subject property is public land incapable of private appropriation; and
(2) the applicant spouses have not been in possession of the subject

Exhibits GG and JJ.


Exhibits U, AA and P.
4
Exhibits X, DD and S.
5
Record., p. 1.
2
3

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

property since 12 June 1945 or earlier.


Adjacent owner, Wifredo Sison, also opposed the application,
echoing the Republics stand that the subject property is foreshore
land incapable of private appropriation. In addition, Wilfredo pointed
out that the land applied for included a portion of public land already
adjudicated to him by way of lease by the DENR.
After due publication, mailing, posting of notices, and
presentation of evidence, the trial court decided in favor of the
spouses Verzosa and granted the registration prayed for.
Hence, this appeal by both Oppositors, with the Republic
raising the following assignment of errors:
I.
THE LAND REGISTRATION COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED
IN HOLDING THAT THE QUESTIONED PARCEL OF LAND IS
REGISTRABLE DESPITE THE EXISTENCE OF DOUBT(S) ON
RECORD THAT IT IS A FORESHORE LAND, THUS, PART OF
THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
II.
THE LAND REGISTRATION COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED
IN
GRANTING
THE
INSTANT
APPLICATION
FOR
REGISTRATION OF TITLE, APPLICANTS-APPELLEES FAILING
TO PROVE BY THE QUANTUM OF EVIDENCE MANDATED BY
LAW OF THE REQUIRED PERIOD OF OPEN, CONTINUOUS,
EXCLUSIVE AND NOTORIOUS POSSESSION IN THE CONCEPT

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

OF AN OWNER OVER THE SUBJECT LAND.6

Similarly, Wilfredo Sison assigns the following errors to the trial


court:
I.
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT
THE LAND SOUGHT TO BE REGISTERED IS A PUBLIC LAND.
II.
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT
DECLARING THAT APPELLEES-APPLICANTS WERE NOT IN
OPEN,
CONTINUOUS,
EXCLUSIVE
AND
NOTORIOUS
POSSESSION AND OCCUPATION OF THE SUBJECT LAND,
UNDER A BONA FIDE CLAIM OF ACQUISITION OF
OWNERSHIP SINCE JUNE 12, 1945 OR EARLIER AS
REQUIRED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 48(b) OF
COMMONWEALTH ACT NO. 141, AS AMENDED BY SECTION 4
OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 1073.
III.
THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DECLARING
THAT APPELLEES-APPLICANTS SPOUSES VERZOSA ARE
ENTITLED TO THE REGISTRATION OF THE LAND IDENTIFIED
AS PLAN PSU-01-008997.7

For their part, the spouses Verzosa deny that the subject
property is foreshore land, as defined by jurisprudence, because it is
6
7

Rollo, p. 96.
Id., at pp. 41-42.

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

far from the seashore and is not alternately wet and dry , depending
on the flow of the tides. Moreover, the spouses Verzosa rely on the
strength of a Certification8 dated 17 May 2001 of the previous CENR
officer of Dagupan City, to the effect that:
This area is located along the beach of Lingayen but far
from the foreshore area and it is not within timberland or
public forest per L.C. Map No. 698 certified on November 21,
1927, it appears that there is no timberland or forestland within the
Municipality of Lingayen.
xxx

xxx

xxx. (emphasis supplied)

However, in their Appellees' Brief, even while claiming that the


subject property is not public land, they admit that the subject
property is the product of accretion by the action of the sea. Thus:
3.42. It is not disputed that the Property is a product of
accretion. It is land formed by the gradual flow of the sea. xxx.
3.43. Based on the Application, the property is immediately
bound ed on the south by Lot 519 owned by Anastacia Sison.
Comparing this to the land plotted in Cad 373-D, Lot 519 is actually
bounded on the North by a parcel of land denominated as a twenty
(20)-meter wide Salvage Zone. Thus, at the time that Cad 373-D
was plotted, a portion of the Property already existed but was
merely denominated as a Salvage Zone. And as the years
passed, the accretion grew until in 2005, the Property was
already 11,573 square meters.9

8
9

Exhibit B-1.
Rollo, pp. 200-201.

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

The theory of the spouses Verzosa being that accreted land is


not necessarily foreshore land, and since, according to the spouses
Verzosa, only foreshore land is incapable of private appropriation, the
subject property while admittedly a product of accretion by sea
action may be registered under the Torrens system in their names.
The spouses Verzosa are mistaken. The appeal of the
Oppositors is meritorious.
In view of the spouses Verzosas admission that the subject
property is a product of accretion by the sea, the Certification issued
by the CENR Officer that the subject property is neither timberland
nor forestland loses its strength and significance. Both foreshore
lands and lands accreted by sea action are classified as land of the
public domain incapable of private acquisition and registration. The
difference between the two lies in their definition and mode of
exploitation by private individuals. In any event, the spouses Verzosa
may not register the disputed land, whether as foreshore land or land
accreted from the sea.
First, as to definition, foreshore lands are restrictively defined
as that part of the land adjacent to the sea, which is alternately
covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides.
Foreshore land was first defined in the 1953 case of Hacut vs.

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

Director of Lands10 as
"that part of the land immediately in front of the shore; the
part which is between high and low water marks, and alternately
covered with water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides. It
is indicated by a middle line between the highest and lowest tides."

This definition was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1965


cases of Ponce vs. Gomez11 and Ponce vs. City of Cebu,12 where
foreshore land was defined as
that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternately
covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides."

In 1984, in Republic vs. Court of Appeals,13 the Supreme Court


restated the definition of foreshore land as
"that part of [the land] which is between high and low
water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides x x x"
"The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks
and that is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide.

From the definition given by the Supreme Court over the years,
it is clear that foreshore land is only that portion of the shore that is
covered and uncovered by the action of the tides. On the other hand,
land accreted by sea action could encompass a bigger area,
6724-R, 49 O.G. No. 5, p. 1863 [1953].
L-21870, 3 February 1965.
12
L-22669, 3 February 1965.
13
131 SCRA 532, 539 [1984].
10
11

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

including its own foreshore land.


Thus, while it might be true, as argued by the spouses Verzosa,
that their hotel and resort could not have been built on foreshore land
because it is never submerged under water or subjected to the action
of the tides, the subject property nevertheless pertains to the public
domain as accreted land.
Second, as to mode of acquisition or utilization, foreshore land
is incapable of acquisition, except through reclamation by the
National Government,14 through the Public Estates Authority,15 the
intention of the law being to limit the use of foreshore land to public
use.
Nevertheless, a private entity who owns the property adjacent
to foreshore land otherwise known as the littoral owner has the
preference to lease foreshore land from the government under
paragraph 32 of Lands Administrative Order No. 7-1,16 which reads:
32. Preference of Riparian Owner. The owner of the
property adjoining foreshore lands or lands covered with water
bordering upon shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers, shall
be given preference to apply for such lands adjoining his property
as may not be needed for the public service, subject to the laws
and regulations governing lands of this nature, provided that he
applies therefore within sixty (60) days from the date he receives a
communication from the Director of Lands advising him of his
PD No. 3 and 3-A.
PD No. 1084.
16
Dated 30 April 1936.
14
15

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

preferential right.

The reason for giving a preferential right to lease foreshore land


to the littoral owner was stated in SIAIN Enterprises vs. F.F. Cruz &
Co., Inc.,17 citing Santulan vs. Executive Secretary,18 as follows:
Now, then, is there any justification for giving to the littoral
owner the preferential right to lease the foreshore land abutting on
his land?
That rule in paragraph 32 is in consonance with article 4 of
the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 which provides that, while lands
added to the shores by accretions and alluvial deposits caused by
the action of the sea form part of the public domain, such lands,
when they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea are not
necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of
special industries, or for the coast guard service, shall be declared
by the Government to be the property of the owners of the estates
adjacent thereto and as increment thereof.
In other words, article 4 recognizes the preferential right
of the littoral (riparian according to paragraph 32) to the
foreshore land formed by accretions or alluvial deposits due to
the action of the sea.
The reason for the preferential right is the same as the
justification for giving accretions to the riparian owner for the
diminutions which his land suffers by reason of the destructive force
of the waters. So, in the case of littoral lands, he who loses by the
encroachments of the sea should gain by its recession.

In this case, since the spouses Verzosa are not littoral owners,
17
18

G.R. No. 146616, 31 August 2006.


80 SCRA 548, 556 (1977).

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

10

they may not benefit from the preference to lease foreshore land from
the government, under paragraph 32 of Lands Administrative Order
No. 7-1, given to owners of land adjacent to foreshore land.
In contrast, Article 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters19 allows a
littoral owner the right to acquire accretions from the sea but only
upon declaration by the government that the same is no longer
necessary for public use. Thus
"Lands added to the shores by accretions and alluvial
deposits caused by the action of the sea, form part of the public
domain. When they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea
and are not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the
establishment of special industries, or for the coast-guard service,
the Government shall declare them to be the property of the owners
of the estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof."

In the light of the aforecited vintage but still valid law,


unequivocal is the public nature of the disputed land in this
controversy, the same being an accretion on the shores of the
Lingayen Gulf.
As part of the public domain, the subject property is intended
for public uses, and so long as the land in litigation belongs to the
national domain and is reserved for public uses, it is not capable of
being appropriated by any private person, except through express
authorization granted in due form by a competent authority. Only the
executive and possibly the legislative departments have the right and
19

Enacted on 3 August 1866.

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

11

the power to make the declaration that the lands so gained by action
of the sea is no longer necessary for purposes of public utility or for
the cause of establishment of special industries or for coast guard
services.20
In any event, even if the executive or legislative department
were to declare the disputed land as qualified to become private
property, under Article 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, only
the littoral owner may benefit from such a declaration. Since the
spouses Verzosa are not littoral owners

or owners of property

adjacent to the accretion they will never be qualified to own the


same and have the same registered in their names.
In sum, the spouses Verzosa have no right over the subject
property whether of lease or ownership because they are not
littoral owners, or owners of property adjacent thereto. This holds true
regardless of whether the same is foreshore land or accreted land.
The trial court clearly erred in granting the registration applied for.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is REVERSED and
SET ASIDE, and the application for registration filed by the spouses
Rolando M. Verzosa and Flordeliza B. Verzosa over the parcel of
land designated as Psu-01-008997, situated in Barangay Pangapisan
North, Lingayen, Pangasinan, is DISMISSED.
20

Heirs of Navarro vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68166, 12 February 1997.

CA-G.R. CV NO. 90581


Decision

12

SO ORDERED.

RICARDO R. ROSARIO
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

MARIFLOR PUNZALAN-CASTILLO
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, it is
hereby certified that the conclusions in the above decision were
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson,
Special Seventh Division
RRR/acn(em)