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G.R. No. 167707 October 8, 2008 Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No.

1801 and its


implementing Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man.
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141,
DENR-REGION VI, REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have the lots
LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI PROVINCIAL registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO,
AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the
AUTHORITY, DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an
PHILIPPINE TOURISM AUTHORITY, petitioners, unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of lands
vs. classified as "public forest," which was not available for disposition pursuant
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in behalf of all those similarly situated, Code,11 as amended.
respondents.
The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants’ reliance on PD No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial
x--------------------------------------------------x confirmation of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since
G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775 October 8, 2008 Boracay Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable, whatever
possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.
DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE
LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST, During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the
ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION, petitioners, following facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of
vs. parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted with
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut trees had
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less fifty
LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI, PROVINCIAL (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they were
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO, occupying for tax purposes.12
AKLAN, respondents.
The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely
DECISION legal: whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or
impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with
REYES, R.T., J.: the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their
respective memoranda.13
AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of
Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands. The RTC took judicial notice14 that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island,
more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S.
for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed before
affirming that2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.15 The titles were issued on
granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-claimants
Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes. August 7, 1933.16
The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and
nullification of Proclamation No. 10645">[3] issued by President Gloria RTC and CA Dispositions
Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural
land. On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-
claimants, with a fallo reading:
The Antecedents
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that Proclamation
G.R. No. 167707 No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to the petitioners
and those similarly situated to acquire title to their lands in Boracay, in
Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner prescribed therein;
sand beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine and to have their lands surveyed and approved by respondent Regional
tourist destination. The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants4 who live Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself
in the bone-shaped island’s three barangays.5 constitute a title to the land.

On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources SO ORDERED.17
(DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay
The RTC upheld respondents-claimants’ right to have their occupied lands
Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named titled in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA
persons.7 Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could
not be the subject of disposition.18 The Circular itself recognized private
On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued ownership of lands.19 The trial court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the
Proclamation No. 18018 declaring Boracay Island, among other islands, Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in
caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as
under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). part of the forest reserve.22
President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-829 dated
September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801. The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The
Republic then appealed to the CA.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded
them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision,
survey of land for titling purposes, respondents-claimants disposing as follows:
Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap
filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan. WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby
rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the
In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 decision of the lower court.24
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over
their occupied lands. They declared that they themselves, or through their The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a
predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of
notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or a forest reserve.
earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax purposes
and paid realty taxes on them.10 Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.25 Hence,
the present petition under Rule 45.

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IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006,
G.R. No. 173775 VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY, PROTECTED BY
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS
Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA
Island into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land (protection 6657.
purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of
agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation likewise V.
provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of
roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall form part of the CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE
area reserved for forest land protection purposes. SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF
THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27 Wilfredo BORACAY?35 (Underscoring supplied)
Gelito,28 and other landowners29 in Boracay filed with this Court an original
petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-
1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior vested claimants in G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775)
rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession of have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay. The twin
their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial confirmation of imperfect
invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve their right to secure
internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.31 title under other pertinent laws.

Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation Our Ruling


reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither
mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first Public Land Act.
32 Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period to reclassify lands of the public domain
entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have judicial confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 190236
a vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an in relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874
unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by then President
public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 106439 issued by President Gloria
the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for
department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive acts.
public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a
positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition. But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to
reclassify lands of the public domain.
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two
petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land classification The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural,
of Boracay Island.33 forest or timber.40 Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following
divisions: agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement,
Issues mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands, and such other classes as may be
provided by law,41 giving the government great leeway for classification.42
G.R. No. 167707 Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution classification
with one addition: national parks.43 Of these, only agricultural lands may be
The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA alienated.44 Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22, 2006, Boracay Island
Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those had never been expressly and administratively classified under any of these
similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island. grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain.
34
The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to
G.R. No. 173775 the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of
land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony.45 The doctrine
Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely: has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions.
46
I.
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN presumed to belong to the State.47 Thus, all lands that have not been
CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR State as part of the inalienable public domain.48 Necessarily, it is up to the
TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for
NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of
AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the
CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be
DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705? granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of
their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.49
II.
Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the
HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and
PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.50 The Regalian
BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the
YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE? Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the foundation that "all lands that
were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant,
III. belong to the public domain."51

IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage
AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE- Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic
REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLE UNDER THE registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.52
TORRENS SYSTEM?
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish
IV. Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land,
under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree.54 Under

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Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable public land into
information title,55 when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.81 In fact, Section 8 of CA
converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have
uninterrupted possession which must be actual, public, and adverse,56 from been "officially delimited and classified."82
the date of its inscription.57 However, possessory information title had to be
perfected one year after the promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of
1895. Otherwise, the lands would revert to the State.58 the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or
claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application
In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be is alienable or disposable.83 To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible
founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or
real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion claim) is alienable or disposable.84 There must still be a positive act
con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase; declaring land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove
and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title.59> that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, the
applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government
The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative
under American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a
law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into legislative act or a statute.85 The applicant may also secure a certification
three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the
lands.61 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral lands by required number of years is alienable and disposable.86
means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold system).62
It also provided the definition by exclusion of "agricultural public lands."63 In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative
Interpreting the meaning of "agricultural lands" under the Philippine Bill of action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The
1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64 records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of
Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well-nigh
926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that lands
mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis Ours) occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition before 2006.
Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. They call
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, for proof.87
otherwise known as the Land Registration Act. The act established a system
of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible, and Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or
imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system.66 portions of it, agricultural lands. Private claimants posit that Boracay was
already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. Government
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. of the Philippine Islands (1919)88 and De Aldecoa v. The Insular
926, which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead Government (1909).89 These cases were decided under the provisions of the
system and made provisions for judicial and administrative confirmation of Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old
imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It permitted cases that "in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the
corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the controlling lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."90
stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.67 Under the Act, open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of Private claimants’ reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These
agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904 was cases did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or
sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.68 portions of it into agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the Philippine
Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner through which land
On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874, registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the
otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more land would be classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural depended on
comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos proof presented in each case.
and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same
privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and occupation en Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the
concepto dueño since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was required. Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral,
69 timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make
corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874 power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.91 This
on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the was the Court’s ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and
existing general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,92 in which it stated, through
the public domain other than timber and mineral lands,70 and privately Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:
owned lands which reverted to the State.71
x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be
Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of formally released by an act of the Executive before it can be deemed open to
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron
immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded v. Government of the Philippine Islands.
by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942,72 which provided for a simple thirty-year
prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The provision xxxx
was last amended by PD No. 1073,73 which now provides for possession and
occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, or earlier.74 Petitioner’s reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
Government is misplaced. These cases were decided under the Philippine Bill
The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926 enacted by the Philippine
Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings.76 Under the Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal provision
decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to
their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity of the classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so
decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered that the courts then were free to make corresponding classifications in
lands77 shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code, justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon
as amended by Act No. 3344. the preponderance of the evidence.93

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529, To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it
known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the was then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus
various laws relative to registration of property.78 It governs registration of evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have a right to presume, in the
lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
chattel mortgages.79 agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."94

A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to
keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and an argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically
again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government, such reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch of

Page 3 of 36
imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into interest, the courts were no longer authorized to determine the property’s
agricultural lands. land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.

If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
Act No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines, Register of Deeds of Manila,100 which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141,
except those already classified as timber or mineral land, alienable and vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public
disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State ownership and domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular
worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long- Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government,102 and Ankron v.
entrenched Regalian doctrine. Government of the Philippine Islands.103

The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally
registration cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more different issue. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots
specifically those cases dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; and if so,
of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that as an
administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring
cannot apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their predecessors- agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the issue is whether
in-interest, who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed
them, their land remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian agricultural.
doctrine, continued to be owned by the State.
Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned in Krivenko
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. relied on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874,
Land classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We have already stated, those cases
that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts could cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive did not have
adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. In Ankron, the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral.
this Court stated:
Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create a
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also contend that
admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question belongs to one their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the requisite
class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of land has period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926106 ipso facto converted the island
trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a title in their name.
one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of
the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of
While, as we have just said, many definitions have been given for Appeals.107 Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice
"agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,
question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or 107-a ruled:
mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or
the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act "Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the
No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of
land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable
rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided
as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. Each case must for the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for
be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having regard for its the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of
present or future value for one or the other purposes. We believe, however, imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated
the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts have on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands
a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each remained in the government; and that the government’s title to public land
case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain
the land involved in a particular land registration case is forestry or mineral and the United States. The term "public land" referred to all lands of the
land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior value for one purpose public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown
or the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular open to private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial
case. The fact that the land is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient property of the government and the friar lands."
for the courts to decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It
may perchance belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of
Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may, 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private individuals of
by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable and
considered forestry land, unless private interests have intervened before such disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)
reservation is made. In the latter case, whether the land is agricultural,
forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private interests have Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064. Such
may decide for itself what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No. 705. The
and reserved as forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority110
Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra)95 (Emphasis ours) certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public domain.

Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of
from the facts of each case, except those that have already became private the public domain as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a
lands.96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in Section 6 of public forest as "a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been the
CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the President, the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of which
exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not." Applying PD No.
disposable, mineral or forest.96-a Since then, courts no longer had the 705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are ipso facto
authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification of lands considered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles already
of the public domain.97 existing prior to its effectivity.

Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD
their title in 1933,98 did not present a justiciable case for determination by No. 705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island.
the land registration court of the property’s land classification. Simply put, Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the way
there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay for commercial developments. As a premier tourist destination for local and
occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort, rather
supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial than a forest land.
confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-in-

Page 4 of 36
Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but
beach resorts on the island;111 that the island has already been stripped of its sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such
forest cover; or that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro,
destroy the island’s tourism industry, do not negate its character as public Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and
forest. surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and
Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay Island as
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution112 tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No.
classifying lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber, 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide open for
mineral lands, and national parks," do not necessarily refer to large tracts of private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the
wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees and intent of the proclamation.
underbrushes.113 The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of
Forestry114 is particularly instructive: It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of
Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership. Sections 6
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose and 7 of CA No. 141120 provide that it is only the President, upon the
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority to
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable, timber
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other and mineral lands.121
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to domain, presumably subject to existing vested rights. Classification of public
be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the
classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that effect so Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so.122 Absent such
that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public classification, the land remains unclassified until released and rendered open
domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.115 to disposition.123
(Emphasis supplied)
Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise
"forest or timber land" as a classification of lands of the public domain as provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads
appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what appears on the land and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form part of
while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes.116 At any the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legal status of Boracay Island, and
not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been Contrary to private claimants’ argument, there was nothing invalid or
replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, irregular, much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay
it has not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within
agricultural land. her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights.

Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert Boracay Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the
into an agricultural land. However, private claimants argue that provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No.
Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 entitles them 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. They claim
to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation classified that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. 705, President Arroyo can
Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants assert that, no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul of Section
as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership. 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:

Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of SEC. 4. Scope. – The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall
Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all
which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 and
No. 3-82 to "private lands"117 and "areas declared as alienable and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable
disposable"118 does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural. for agriculture.
Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and
areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides: More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program:
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the
PTA. All forested areas in public lands are declared forest reserves. (a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or
(Emphasis supplied) suitable for agriculture. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to
agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act until
Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity
recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public
pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular domain.
recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development’s authority to declare
areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides: That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did
not bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay
Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD
Bureau of Forest Development. No. 705.

Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v.
to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If President Republic,124 the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.
Marcos intended to classify the island as alienable and disposable or forest,
or both, he would have identified the specific limits of each, as President While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically state
Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in Proclamation No. that the islands are public forests, the fact that they were unclassified lands
1801. leads to the same result. In the absence of the classification as mineral or
timber land, the land remains unclassified land until released and rendered
The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale open to disposition.125 (Emphasis supplied)
behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves
and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a "reclassification"
administered by the PTA – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public of land. If the land had never been previously classified, as in the case of
and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with Boracay, there can be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law.
due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice126 on this point:
proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological
purposes. It does not address the areas’ alienability.119 Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section
4(a) is the word "reclassification." Where there has been no previous

Page 5 of 36
classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to the mass of the public residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now classified as
domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments
for purposes of determining which are needed for forest purposes and which on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack
are not] into permanent forest or forest reserves or some other forest uses of right to possess.
under the Revised Forestry Code, there can be no "reclassification of forest
lands" to speak of within the meaning of Section 4(a). For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders
of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession.
Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the For another, they may look into other modes of applying for original
reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without a prior law registration of title, such as by homestead131 or sales patent,132 subject to
delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and cannot, apply to the conditions imposed by law.
those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the
Revised Forestry Code, which have not been previously determined, or More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to
classified, as needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions of acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain
the Revised Forestry Code.127 requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill133 now
pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill
Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of will become a law is for Congress to decide.
imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over the
occupied lands under the said law. There are two requisites for judicial In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1) necessary to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may not be
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of the island
subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no longer overrun
fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from June 12, 1945; and by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect its remaining forest
(2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and ecology.
domain.128 Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.

As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nation’s survival. Their
1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The promotion and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and
island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the activists. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our
Regalian doctrine, is considered State property. environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by
Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134
Private claimants’ bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on
the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public
because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable policy that should be followed with respect to forest lands. Many have written
land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our present Public Land much, and many more have spoken, and quite often, about the pressing need
Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already alienable for forest preservation, conservation, protection, development and
and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the law itself.129 Where the reforestation. Not without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment
land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how of any country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that
long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights.130 absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of
adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. The fish
title under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to function,
classified as agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to prove the first so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away;
element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of their geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded floods that wreak
lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945. havoc and destruction to property – crops, livestock, houses, and highways –
not to mention precious human lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations
We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory should be written down in a lumberman’s decalogue.135
relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove
the first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax 1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court
declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court that
the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12, 1945. 2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of
merit.
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having been
in possession of the island for a long time. They have invested millions of SO ORDERED.
pesos in developing the island into a tourist spot. They say their continued
possession and investments give them a vested right which cannot be —————————
unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064.
G.R. No. 134209 January 24, 2006
The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants
do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. This vs.
Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence CELESTINA NAGUIAT, Respondent.
presented and the laws applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand,
private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title DECISION
over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession
and considerable investment in the island. GARCIA, J.:

One Last Note Before the Court is this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court seeking the reversal of the Decision1 dated May 29, 1998 of the Court
The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001 which affirmed an earlier decision2
development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and of the Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69 in Land Registration
international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of Case No. N-25-1.
years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the Court
commiserates with private claimants’ plight, We are bound to apply the law The decision under review recites the factual backdrop, as follows:
strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at
ito ang dapat umiral. This is an application for registration of title to four (4) parcels of land
located in Panan, Botolan, Zambales, more particularly described in the
All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible amended application filed by Celestina Naguiat on 29 December 1989 with
to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA the Regional Trial Court of Zambales, Branch 69. Applicant [herein
No. 141, as amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the respondent] alleges, inter alia, that she is the owner of the said parcels of

Page 6 of 36
land having acquired them by purchase from the LID Corporation which mineral lands and national parks," do not necessarily refer to a large tract of
likewise acquired the same from Demetria Calderon, Josefina Moraga and wooded land or an expanse covered by dense growth of trees and
Fausto Monje and their predecessors-in-interest who have been in possession underbrush. As we stated in Heirs of Amunategui 9-
thereof for more than thirty (30) years; and that to the best of her knowledge,
said lots suffer no mortgage or encumbrance of whatever kind nor is there A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
any person having any interest, legal or equitable, or in possession thereof. such classification simply because loggers or settlers have stripped it of its
forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered
On 29 June 1990, the Republic of the Philippines [herein petitioner]. . . filed with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest
an opposition to the application on the ground that neither the applicant nor lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. xxx. The
her predecessors-in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and classification is merely descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not
notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question since 12 June have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. xxx
1945 or prior thereto; that the muniments of title and tax payment receipts of
applicant do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona-fide Under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution,10 which embodies the
acquisition of the lands applied for or of his open, continuous, exclusive and Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State – the
notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of (an) owner; source of any asserted right to ownership of land.11 All lands not appearing to
that the applicant’s claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish be clearly of private dominion presumptively belong to the State.12
title or grant can no longer be availed of . . .; and that the parcels of land Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as
applied for are part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State
Philippines not subject to private appropriation. remain part of the inalienable public domain.13 Under Section 6 of the Public
Land Act, the prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands of the public
On 15 October 1990, the lower court issued an order of general default as domain, i.e., from forest or mineral to agricultural and vice versa, belongs to
against the whole world, with the exception of the Office of the Solicitor the Executive Branch of the government and not the court.14 Needless to
General, and proceeded with the hearing of this registration case. stress, the onus to overturn, by incontrovertible evidence, the presumption
that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable or
After she had presented and formally offered her evidence . . . applicant disposable rests with the applicant.15
rested her case. The Solicitor General, thru the Provincial Prosecutor,
interposed no objection to the admission of the exhibits. Later . . . the In the present case, the CA assumed that the lands in question are already
Provincial Prosecutor manifest (sic) that the Government had no evidence to alienable and disposable. Wrote the appellate court:
adduce. 3
The theory of [petitioner] that the properties in question are lands of the
In a decision4 dated September 30, 1991, the trial court rendered judgment public domain cannot be sustained as it is directly against the above doctrine.
for herein respondent Celestina Naguiat, adjudicating unto her the parcels of Said doctrine is a reaffirmation of the principle established in the earlier
land in question and decreeing the registration thereof in her name, thus: cases . . . that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public
land for period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land,
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby adjudicates the upon completion of the requisite period, ipso jure and without the need of
parcels of land situated in Panan, Botolan, Zambales, appearing on Plan judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private
AP-03-003447 containing an area of 3,131 square meters, appearing on Plan property …. (Word in bracket and underscoring added.)
AP-03-003446 containing an area of 15,322 containing an area of 15,387
square meters to herein applicant Celestina T. Naguiat, of legal age, Filipino The principal reason for the appellate court’s disposition, finding a
citizen, married to Rommel Naguiat and a resident of Angeles City, registerable title for respondent, is her and her predecessor-in-interest’s
Pampanga together with all the improvements existing thereon and orders open, continuous and exclusive occupation of the subject property for more
and decrees registration in her name in accordance with Act No. 496, than 30 years. Prescinding from its above assumption and finding, the
Commonwealth Act No. 14, [should be 141] as amended, and Presidential appellate court went on to conclude, citing Director of Lands vs. Intermediate
Decree No. 1529. This adjudication, however, is subject to the various Appellate Court (IAC)16 and Herico vs. DAR,17 among other cases, that,
easements/reservations provided for under pertinent laws, presidential upon the completion of the requisite period of possession, the lands in
decrees and/or presidential letters of instructions which should be question cease to be public land and become private property.
annotated/ projected on the title to be issued. And once this decision
becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be immediately Director of Lands, Herico and the other cases cited by the CA are not,
issued. (Words in bracket added) however, winning cards for the respondent, for the simple reason that, in said
cases, the disposable and alienable nature of the land sought to be registered
With its motion for reconsideration having been denied by the trial court, was established, or, at least, not put in issue. And there lies the difference.
petitioner Republic went on appeal to the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001.
Here, respondent never presented the required certification from the proper
As stated at the outset hereof, the CA, in the herein assailed decision of May government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land applied for
29, 1998, affirmed that of the trial court, to wit: as alienable and disposable. Matters of land classification or reclassification
cannot be assumed. It calls for proof.18 Aside from tax receipts, respondent
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision appealed from is hereby submitted in evidence the survey map and technical descriptions of the lands,
AFFIRMED. which, needless to state, provided no information respecting the
classification of the property. As the Court has held, however, these
SO ORDERED. documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land
sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.19
Hence, the Republic’s present recourse on its basic submission that the CA’s
decision "is not in accordance with law, jurisprudence and the evidence, since It cannot be overemphasized that unwarranted appropriation of public lands
respondent has not established with the required evidence her title in fee has been a notorious practice resorted to in land registration cases.20 For
simple or imperfect title in respect of the subject lots which would warrant this reason, the Court has made it a point to stress, when appropriate, that
their registration under … (P.D. 1529 or Public Land Act (C.A.) 141." In declassification of forest and mineral lands, as the case may be, and their
particular, petitioner Republic faults the appellate court on its finding conversion into alienable and disposable lands need an express and positive
respecting the length of respondent’s occupation of the property subject of act from the government.21
her application for registration and for not considering the fact that she has
not established that the lands in question have been declassified from forest The foregoing considered, the issue of whether or not respondent and her
or timber zone to alienable and disposable property. predecessor-in-interest have been in open, exclusive and continuous
possession of the parcels of land in question is now of little moment. For,
Public forest lands or forest reserves, unless declassified and released by unclassified land, as here, cannot be acquired by adverse occupation or
positive act of the Government so that they may form part of the disposable possession; occupation thereof in the concept of owner, however long, cannot
agricultural lands of the public domain, are not capable of private ripen into private ownership and be registered as title.22
appropriation.5 As to these assets, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title
do not apply.6 Given this postulate, the principal issue to be addressed turns WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED and the assailed decision
on the question of whether or not the areas in question have ceased to have dated May 29, 1998 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001 is
the status of forest or other inalienable lands of the public domain. REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, respondent’s application for
original registration of title in Land Registration Case No. N-25-1 of the
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act7 and the Constitution8 Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69, is DENIED.
classifying lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber,

Page 7 of 36
No costs. Roque Borre, petitioner in G.R. No, L-30035, and Melquiades Borre, filed the
application for registration. In due time, the heirs of Jose Amunategui,
SO ORDERED. petitioners in G.R. No. L-27873 filed an opposition to the application of
—————————— Roque and Melquiades Borre. At the same time, they prayed that the title to a
portion of Lot No. 885 of Pilar Cadastre containing 527,747 square meters be
FIRST DIVISION confirmed and registered in the names of said Heirs of Jose Amunategui.

[G.R. No. L-27873. November 29, 1983.] The Director of Forestry, through the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz, also filed an
opposition to the application for registration of title claiming that the land
HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, Petitioners, v. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, was mangrove swamp which was still classified as forest land and part of the
Respondent. public domain.

[G.R. No. L-30035. November 29, 1983.] Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed his opposition insofar as a portion
of Lot No. 885 containing 117,956 square meters was concerned and prayed
ROQUE BORRE and ENCARNACION DELFIN, Petitioners, v. ANGEL that title to said portion be confirmed and registered in his name.
ALPASAN, HEIRS OF MELQUIADES BORRE, EMETERIO BEREBER and
HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI and THE CAPIZ COURT OF FIRST During the progress of the trial, applicant-petitioner Roque Borre sold
INSTANCE, Respondents. whatever rights and interests he may have on Lot No. 885 to Angel Alpasan.
The latter also filed an opposition, claiming that he is entitled to have said lot
registered in his name.
SYLLABUS
After trial, the Court of First Instance of Capiz adjudicated 117,956 square
meters to Emeterio Bereber and the rest of the land containing 527,747
1. CIVIL LAW; PUBLIC LAND ACT; FOREST LAND; square meters was adjudicated in the proportion of 5/6 share to Angel
CLASSIFICATION NOT LOST EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN STRIPPED OF Alpasan and 1/6 share to Melquiades Borre.
FOREST COVER; UNLESS RELEASED IN AN OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION
AS DISPOSABLE LANDS, RULES ON CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT Only the Heirs of Jose Amunategui and the Director of Forestry filed their
TITLE DO NOT APPLY. — A forested area classified as forest land of the respective appeals with the Court of Appeals, The case was docketed as CA-
public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or G.R. No. 34190-R.
settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as
forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin In its decision, the Court of Appeals held:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains
or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa ". . . the conclusion so far must have to be that as to the private litigants that
palms, and other tress growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified have been shown to have a better right over Lot 885 are, as to the
as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and northeastern portion of a little less than 117,956 square meters, it was
does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless Emeterio Bereber and as to the rest of 527,747 square meters, it was the heirs
and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation of Jose Amunategui; but the last question that must have to be considered is
to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of whether after all, the title that these two (2) private litigants have shown did
the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. not amount to a registerable one in view of the opposition and evidence of the
Director of Forestry; . . .
2. ID.; ID.; FOREST LANDS; ACQUISITIVE OWNERSHIP NOT
ACQUIRED. — This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. ". . . turning back the clock thirty (30) years from 1955 when the application
Muñoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long, was filed which would place it at 1925, the fact must have to be accepted that
cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA during that period, the land was a classified forest land so much so that
499), we granted the petition on the ground that the ares covered by the timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensee before 1926 and after that;
patent and title was not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest that even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut
zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab initio. It bears timber within the area; and this can only mean that the Bureau of Forestry
emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land had stood and maintained its ground that it was a forest land as indeed the
which is classified as forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land testimonial evidence referred to above persuasively indicates, and the only
for agricultural or other purposes. time when the property was converted into a fishpond was sometime after
1950; or a bare five (5) years before the filing of the application; but only after
3. ID.; ID.; CONFIRMATION, OF IMPERFECT TITLE CASES; there had been a previous warning by the District Forester that that could not
BURDEN OF PROVING THAT THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW HAVE be done because it was classified as a public forest; so that having these in
BEEN MET, RESTS ON THE APPLICANT. — In confirmation of imperfect mind and remembering that even under Republic Act 1942 which came into
title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the effect in 1957, two (2) years after this case had already been filed in the lower
requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Court, in order for applicant to be able to demonstrate a registerable title he
Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the presumption that the land he must have shown.
is applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an interest therein
sufficient to warrant registration in his name because of an imperfect title "‘open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
such as those derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition
open, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the of ownership for at least thirty (30) years, preceding the filing of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least application;’
thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his application.
the foregoing details cannot but justify the conclusion that not one of the
applicants or oppositors had shown that during the required period of thirty
DECISION (30) years prescribed by Republic Act 1942 in order for him to have shown a
registerable title for the entire period of thirty (30) years before filing of the
application, he had been in
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
"‘open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain’,
The two petitions for review on certiorari before us question the decision of
the Court of Appeals which declared the disputed property as forest land, not it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry had insisted on its claim all
subject to titling in favor of private persons. throughout that period of thirty (30) years and even before and applicants
and their predecessors had made implicit recognition of that; the result must
These two petitions have their genesis in an application for confirmation of be to deny all these applications; this Court stating that it had felt impelled
imperfect title and its registration filed with the Court of First Instance of notwithstanding, just the same to resolve the conflicting positions of the
Capiz. The parcel of land sought to be registered is known as Lot No. 885 of private litigants among themselves as to who of them had demonstrated a
the Cadastral Survey of Pilar, Capiz, and has an area of 645,703 square better right to possess because this Court foresees that this litigation will go
meters. all the way to the Supreme Court and it is always better that the findings be
as complete as possible to enable the Highest Court to pass final judgment;

Page 8 of 36
"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision must have to be as it is hereby reversed; In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of
the application as well as all the oppositions with the exception of that of the proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act
Director of Forestry which is hereby sustained are dismissed; no more No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the
pronouncement as to costs." presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but
that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name
A petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui because of an imperfect title such as those derived from old Spanish grants or
contending that the disputed lot had been in the possession of private that he has had continuous, open, and notorious possession and occupation
persons for over thirty years and therefore in accordance with Republic Act of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of
No. 1942, said lot could still be the subject of registration and confirmation of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of
title in the name of a private person in accordance with Act No. 496 known as his application.
the Land Registration Act. On the other hand, another petition for review on
certiorari was filed by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, contending that The decision of the appellate court is not based merely on the presumptions
the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing their implicit in Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended. The records show that
complaint against the Heirs of Jose Amunategui. The Borre complaint was Lot No. 88S never ceased to be classified as forest land of the public domain.
for the annulment of the deed of absolute sale of Lot No. 885 executed by
them in favor of the Heirs of Amunategui. The complaint was dismissed on In Republic v. Gonong (118 SCRA 729) we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
the basis of the Court of Appeals’ decision that the disputed lot is part of the
public domain. The petitioners also question the jurisdiction of the Court of "As held in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, all lands that were not
Appeals in passing upon the relative rights of the parties over the disputed lot acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
when its final decision after all is to declare said lot a part of the public public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have
domain classified as forest land.chanrobles law library : red been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in-interests
since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption
The need for resolving the questions raised by Roque Borre and Encarnacion that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a
Delfin in their petition depends on the issue raised by the Heirs of Jose private property even before the Spanish conquest."
Amunategui, that is, whether or not Lot No. 885 is public forest land, not
capable of registration in the names of the private applicants. In the instant petitions, the exception in the Oh Cho case does not apply. The
evidence is clear that Lot No. 885 had always been public land classified as
The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified forest.
as forest land because it is not thickly forested but is a "mangrove swamp."
Although conceding that a "mangrove swamp" is included in the Similarly, in Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210), we
classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in
Section 1821 of said Code as first, second and third groups are found on the ". . . The possession of public land however long the period thereof may have
land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it is a extended, never confers title thereto upon the possessor because the statute
mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because the of limitations with regard to public land does not operate against the State,
property had been in actual possession of private persons for many years, unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under
and therefore, said land was already "private land" better adapted and more claim of ownership for the required number of years to constitute a grant
valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the from the State. (Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, 195)."
public interests to be kept under forest classification.
We, therefore, affirm the finding that the disputed property Lot No. 885 is
The petition is without merit. part of the public domain, classified as public forest land. There is no need
for us to pass upon the other issues raised by petitioners Roque Borre and
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose Encarnacion Delfin, as such issues are rendered moot by this finding.
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. No. L-30035 and G. R. No. L-27873 are
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other DISMISSED for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioners.
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees SO ORDERED.
growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to ————————————
be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land
classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that effect so G.R. No. 100709 November 14, 1997
that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public
domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR OF
LANDS, petitioner,
This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muñoz (23 vs.
SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen COURT OF APPEALS, JOSEFINA L. MORATO, SPOUSES NENITA CO and
into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we ANTONIO QUILATAN AND THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF QUEZON
granted the petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent and PROVINCE, respondents.
title was not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any
patent and title to said area is void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a
positive act of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as PANGANIBAN, J.:
forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or
other purposes. Will the lease and/or mortgage of a portion of a realty acquired through free
patent constitute sufficient ground for the nullification of such land grant?
The findings of the Court of Appeals are particularly well-grounded in the Should such property revert to the State once it is invaded by the sea and thus
instant petition. becomes foreshore land?

The fact that no trees enumerated in Section 1821 of the Revised The Case
Administrative Code are found in Lot No. 885 does not divest such land of its
being classified as forest land, much less as land of the public domain. The These are the two questions raised in the petition before us assailing the
appellate court found that in 1912, the land must have been a virgin forest as Court of Appeals' 1 Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 02667 promulgated on June
stated by Emeterio Bereber’s witness Deogracias Gavacao, and that as late as 13, 1991 which answered the said questions in the negative. 2 Respondent
1926, it must have been a thickly forested area as testified by Jaime Bertolde. Court's dismissed 3 petitioner's appeal and affirmed in toto the decision of
The opposition of the Director of Forestry was strengthened by the appellate the Regional Trial Court4 of Calauag, Quezon, dated December 28, 1983 in
court’s finding that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensees and Civil Case No. C-608. In turn, the Regional Trial Court's decision dismissed
even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut petitioner's complaint for cancellation of the Torrens Certificate of Title of
timber within the area. It was only sometime in 1950 that the property was Respondent Morato and for reversion of the parcel of land subject thereof of
converted into fishpond but only after a previous warning from the District the public domain.
Forester that the same could not be done because it was classified as "public
forest." chanrobles.com:cralaw:red The Facts

Page 9 of 36
The petition of the solicitor general, representing the Republic of the Again, in Lopez vs. Court of Appeals, 169 SCRA 271, citing Iglesia ni Cristo v.
Philippines, recites the following facts: 5 Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva Ecija, Branch I, (123 SCRA 516 (1983) and
Pajomayo, et al. v. Manipon, et al. (39 SCRA 676 (1971) held that once a
Sometime in December, 1972, respondent Morato filed a Free Patent homestead patent granted in accordance with the Public Land Act is
Application No. III-3-8186-B on a parcel of land with an area of 1,265 square registered pursuant to Section 122 of Act 496, the certificate of title issued in
meters situated at Pinagtalleran, Calauag, Quezon. On January 16, 1974, the virtue of said patent has the force and effect of a Torrens Title issued under
patent was approved and the Register of Deeds of Quezon at Lucena City the Land Registration Act.
issued on February 4, 1974 Original Certificate of Title No. P-17789. Both the
free paten and the title specifically mandate that the land shall not be Indefeasibility of the title, however, may not bar the State, thru the Solicitor
alienated nor encumbered within five years from the date of the issuance of General, from filing an action for reversion, as ruled in Heirs of Gregorio
the patent (Sections 118 and 124 of CA No. 141, as amended). Tengco v. Heirs of Jose Aliwalas, (supra), as follows:

Subsequently, the District Land Officer in Lucena City, acting upon reports But, as correctly pointed out by the respondent Court of Appeals, Dr.
that respondent Morato had encumbered the land in violation of the Aliwalas' title to the property having become incontrovertible, such may no
condition of the patent, conducted an investigation. Thereafter, it was longer be collaterally attacked. If indeed there had been any fraud or
established that the subject land is a portion of the Calauag Bay, five (5) to six misrepresentation in obtaining the title, an action for reversion instituted by
(6) feet deep under water during high tide and two (2) feet deep at low tide, the Solicitor General would be the proper remedy (Sec. 101, C.A. No. 141;
and not suitable to vegetation. Moreover, on October 24, 1974, a portion of Director of Lands v. Jugado, G.R. No. L-14702, May 21, 1961, 2 SCRA 32;
the land was mortgaged by respondent Morato to respondents Nenita Co and Lopez v. Padilla, supra). (p. 204).
Antonio Quilatan for P10,000.00 (pp. 2, 25, Folder of Exhibits). The spouses
Quilatan constructed a house on the land. Another portion of the land was Petitioner contends that the grant of Free Patent (IV-3) 275 and the
leased to Perfecto Advincula on February 2, 1976 at P100.00 a month, where subsequent issuance of Original Certificate of Title No. P-17789 to
a warehouse was constructed. Respondent Josefina L. Morato were subject to the conditions provided for in
Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141. It alleges that on October 24, 1974, or nine
On November 5, 1978, petitioner filed an amended complaint against (9) months and eight (8) days after the grant of the patent, mortgaged a
respondents Morato, spouses Nenita Co and Antonio Quilatan, and the portion of the land" to Respondent Nenita Co, who thereafter constructed a
Register of Deeds of Quezon for the cancellation of title and reversion of a house thereon. Likewise, on February 2, 1976 and "within the five-year
parcel of land to the public domain, subject of a free patent in favor of prohibitory period," Respondent Morato "leased a portion of the land to
respondent Morato, on the grounds that the land is a foreshore land and was Perfecto Advincula at a monthly rent of P100.00 who, shortly thereafter,
mortgaged and leased within the five-year prohibitory period (p. 46, constructed a house of concrete materials on the subject land."9 Further,
Records). petitioner argues that the defense of indefeasibility of title is "inaccurate."
The original certificate of title issued to Respondent Morato "contains the
After trial, the lower court, on December 28, 1983, rendered a decision seeds of its own cancellation": such certificate specifically states on its face
dismissing petitioner's complaint. In finding for private respondents, the that "it is subject to the provisions of Sections 118, 119, 121, 122, 124 of CA
lower court ruled that there was no violation of the 5-year period ban against No. 141, as amended." 10
alienating or encumbering the land, because the land was merely leased and
not alienated. It also found that the mortgage to Nenita Co and Antonio Respondent Morato counters by stating that although a "portion of the land
Quilatan covered only the improvement and not the land itself. was previously leased," it resulted "from the fact that Perfecto Advincula built
a warehouse in the subject land without [her] prior consent." The mortgage
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. executed over the improvement "cannot be considered a violation of the said
Thereafter, the Republic of the Philippines filed the present petition. 6 grant since it can never affect the ownership." 11 She states further:

The Issues . . . . the appeal of the petitioner was dismissed not because of the principle of
indefeasibility of title but mainly due to failure of the latter to support and
Petitioner alleges that the following errors were committed by Respondent prove the alleged violations of respondent Morato. The records of this case
Court: 7 will readily show that although petitioner was able to establish that Morato
committed some acts during the prohibitory period of 5 years, a perusal
I thereof will also show that what petitioner was able to prove never
constituted a violation of the grant. 12
Respondent court erred in holding that the patent granted and certificate of
title issued to Respondent Morato cannot be cancelled and annulled since the Respondent-Spouses Quilatan, on the other hand, state that the mortgage
certificate of title becomes indefeasible after one year from the issuance of contract they entered into with Respondent Morato "can never be considered
the title. as [an] 'alienation' inasmuch as the ownership over the property remains
with the owner." 13 Besides, it is the director of lands and not the Republic of
II the Philippines who is the real party in interest in this case, contrary to the
provision of the Public Land Act which states that actions for reversion
Respondent Court erred in holding that the questioned land is part of a should be instituted by the solicitor general in the name of Republic of the
disposable public land and not a foreshore land. Philippines. 14

The Court's Ruling We find for petitioner.

The petition is meritorious. Quoted below are relevant sections of Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise
known as the Public Land Act:
First Issue: Indefeasibility of a Free Patent Title
Sec. 118. Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units or
In resolving the first issue against petitioner, Respondent Court held: 8 institutions, or legally constituted banking corporations, lands acquired
under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to
. . . As ruled in Heirs of Gregorio Tengco vs. Heirs of Jose Alivalas, 168 SCRA encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application
198. ". . . The rule is well-settled that an original certificate of title issued on and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent
the strength of a homestead patent partakes of the nature of a certificate of or grant nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt
title issued in a judicial proceeding, as long as the land disposed of is really contracted prior to the expiration of said period; but the improvements or
part of the disposable land of the public domain, and becomes indefeasible crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons,
and incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from the date of associations, or corporations.
promulgation of the order of the Director of Lands for the issuance of the
patent. (Republic v. Heirs of Carle, 105 Phil. 1227 (1959); Ingaran v. Ramelo, No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and
107 Phil. 498 (1960); Lopez v. Padilla, (G.R. No. L-27559, May 18, 1972, 45 before twenty-five years after issuance of title shall be valid without the
SCRA 44). A homestead patent, one registered under the Land Registration approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which
Act, becomes as indefeasible as a Torrens Title. (Pamintuan v. San Agustin, approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds. (As
43 Phil. 558 (1982); El Hogar Filipino v. Olviga, 60 Phil. 17 (1934); Duran v. amended by Com. Act No. 456, approved June 8, 1939.)
Oliva, 113 Phil. 144 (1961); Pajomayo v. Manipon, G.R. No. L-33676, June 30,
1971, 39 SCRA 676). (p. 203). xxx xxx xxx

Page 10 of 36
Sec. 121. Except with the consent of the grantee and the approval of the rules of procedure. Positive rules prevail over all abstract arguments based on
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and solely for educational, equity contra legem. 18
religious, or charitable purposes or for a right of way, no corporation,
association, or partnership may acquire or have any right, title, interest, or Respondents failed to justify their position that the mortgage should not be
property right whatsoever to any land granted under the free patent, considered an encumbrance. Indeed, we do not find any support for such
homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act or to any permanent contention. The questioned mortgage falls squarely within the term
improvement on such land. (As amended by Com. Act No. 615, approved May "encumbrance" proscribed by Section 118 of the Public Land Act. 19 Verily, a
5, 1941) mortgage constitutes a legal limitation on the estate, and the foreclosure of
such mortgage would necessarily result in the auction of the property. 20
Sec. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of
this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be Even if only part of the property has been sold or alienated within the
encumbered, alienation or transferred, except to persons, corporations, prohibited period of five years from the issuance of the patent, such
association, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain alienation is a sufficient cause for the reversion of the whole estate to the
under this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized State. As a condition for the grant of a free patent to an applicant, the law
therefore by their charters. requires that the land should not be encumbered, sold or alienated within
five years from the issuance of
Except in cases of hereditary successions, no land or any portion thereof the patent. The sale or the alienation of part of the homestead violates that
originally acquired under the free patent, homestead, or individual sale condition. 21
provisions of this Act, or any permanent improvement on such land, shall be
transferred or assigned to any individual, nor shall such land or any The prohibition against the encumbrance — lease and mortgage included —
permanent improvement thereon be leased to such individual, when the area of a homestead which, by analogy applies to a free patent, is mandated by the
of said land, added to that of this own, shall exceed one hundred and forty- rationale for the grant, viz.: 22
four hectares. Any transfer, assignment, or lease made in violation hereto
shall be null and void. (As amended by Com Act No. 615, Id.). It is well-known that the homestead laws were designed to distribute
disposable agricultural lots of the State to land-destitute citizens for their
xxx xxx xxx home and cultivation. Pursuant to such benevolent intention the State
prohibits the sale or incumbrance of the homestead (Section 116) within five
Sec. 124. Any acquisition, conveyance, alienation, transfer, or other contract years after the grant of the patent. After that five-year period the law
made or executed in violation of any of the provisions of sections one impliedly permits alienation of the homestead; but in line with the
hundred and eighteen, one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty- primordial purpose to favor the homesteader and his family the statute
one, one hundred and twenty-two, and one hundred and twenty-three of this provides that such alienation or conveyance (Section 117) shall be subject to
Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall produce the right of repurchase by the homesteader, his widow or heirs within five
the effect of annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit years. This section 117 is undoubtedly a complement of section 116. It aims to
originally issued, recognized or confirmed, actually or presumatively, and preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that portion of public
cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the State. land which the State had gratuitously given to him. It would, therefore, be in
(Emphasis supplied) keeping with this fundamental idea to hold, as we hold, that the right to
repurchase exists not only when the original homesteader makes the
The foregoing legal provisions clearly proscribe the encumbrance of a parcel conveyance, but also when it is made by his widow or heirs. This construction
of land acquired under a free patent or homestead within five years from the is clearly deducible from the terms of the statute.
grant of such patent. Furthermore, such encumbrance results in the
cancellation of the grant and the reversion of the land to the public domain. By express provision of Section 118 of Commonwealth Act 141 and in
Encumbrance has been defined as "[a]nything that impairs the use or conformity with the policy of the law, any transfer or alienation of a free
transfer of property; anything which constitutes a burden on the title; a patent or homestead within five years from the issuance of the patent is
burden or charge upon property; a claim or lien upon property." It may be a proscribed. Such transfer nullifies said alienation and constitutes a cause for
"legal claim on an estate for the discharge of which the estate is liable; and the reversion of the property to the State.
embarrassment of the estate or property so that it cannot be disposed of
without being subject to it; an estate, interest, or right in lands, diminishing The prohibition against any alienation or encumbrance of the land grant is a
their value to the general owner; a liability resting upon an estate." 15 Do the proviso attached to the approval of every application. 23 Prior to the
contracts of lease and mortgage executed within five (5) years from the fulfillment of the requirements of law, Respondent Morato had only an
issuance of the patent constitute an "encumbrance" and violate the terms and inchoate right to the property; such property remained part of the public
conditions of such patent? Respondent Court answered in the negative: 16 domain and, therefore, not susceptible to alienation or encumbrance.
Conversely, when a "homesteader has complied with all the terms and
From the evidence adduced by both parties, it has been proved that the area conditions which entitled him to a patent for [a] particular tract of public
of the portion of the land, subject matter of the lease contract (Exh. "B") land, he acquires a vested interest therein and has to be regarded an
executed by and between Perfecto Advincula and Josefina L. Morato is only equitable owner thereof." 24 However, for Respondent Morato's title of
10 x 12 square meters, where the total area of the land granted to Morato is ownership over the patented land to be perfected, she should have complied
1,265 square meters. It is clear from this that the portion of the land leased by with the requirements of the law, one of which was to keep the property for
Advincula does not significantly affect Morato's ownership and possession. herself and her family within the prescribed period of five (5) years. Prior to
Above all, the circumstances under which the lease was executed do not the fulfillment of all requirements of the law, Respondent Morato's title over
reflect a voluntary and blatant intent to violate the conditions provided for in the property was incomplete. Accordingly, if the requirements are not
the patent issued in her favor. On the contrary, Morato was compelled to complied with, the State as the grantor could petition for the annulment of
enter into that contract of lease the patent and the cancellation of the title.
out of sympathy and the goodness of her heart to accommodate a fellow man.
... Respondent Morato cannot use the doctrine of the indefeasibility of her
Torrens title to bar the state from questioning its transfer or encumbrance.
It is indisputable, however, that Respondent Morato cannot fully use or enjoy The certificate of title issued to her clearly stipulated that its award was
the land during the duration of the lease contract. This restriction on the "subject to the conditions provided for in Sections 118, 119, 121, 122 and 124
enjoyment of her property sufficiently meets the definition of an of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141." Because she violated Section 118, the
encumbrance under Section 118 of the Public Land Act, because such reversion of the property to the public domain necessarily follows, pursuant
contract "impairs the use of the property" by the grantee. In a contract of to Section 124.
lease which is consensual, bilateral, onerous and commutative, the owner
temporarily grants the use of his or her property to another who undertakes Second Issue: Foreshore Land
to pay rent therefor. 17 During the term of the lease, the grantee of the patent Revert to the Public Domain
cannot enjoy the beneficial use of the land leased. As already observed, the
Public Land Act does not permit a grantee of a free patent from encumbering There is yet another reason for granting this petition.
any portion of such land. Such encumbrance is a ground for the nullification
of the award. Although Respondent Court found that the subject land was foreshore land, it
nevertheless sustained the award thereof to Respondent Morato: 25
Morato's resort to equity, i.e. that the lease was executed allegedly out of the
goodness of her heart without any intention of violating the law, cannot help First of all, the issue here is whether the land in question, is really part of the
her. Equity, which has been aptly described as "justice outside legality," is foreshore lands. The Supreme Court defines foreshore land in the case of
applied only in the absence of, and never against, statutory law or judicial Republic vs. Alagad, 169 SCRA 455, 464, as follows:

Page 11 of 36
Respondent-Spouses Quilatan argue, however, that it is "unfair and unjust if
Otherwise, where the rise in water level is due to, the "extraordinary" action Josefina Morato will be deprived of the whole property just because a portion
of nature, rainful, for instance, the portions inundated thereby are not thereof was immersed in water for reasons not her own doing." 27
considered part of the bed or basin of the body of water in question. It cannot
therefore be said to be foreshore land but land outside of the public As a general rule, findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are binding and
dominion, and land capable of registration as private property. conclusive upon this Court, unless such factual findings are palpably
unsupported by the evidence on record or unless the judgment itself is based
A foreshore land, on the other hand has been defined as follows: on a misapprehension of facts. 28 The application for a free patent was made
in 1972. From the undisputed factual findings of the Court of Appeals,
. . . that part of (the land) which is between high however, the land has since become foreshore. Accordingly, it can no longer
and low water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides . . . . (Republic be subject of a free patent under the Public Land Act. Government of the
vs. C.A., Nos. L-43105, L-43190, August 31, 1984, 131 SCRA 532; Government Philippine Islands vs. Cabañgis 29 explained the rationale for this
vs. Colegio de San Jose, 53 Phil 423) proscription:

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is Article 339, subsection 1, of the Civil Code, reads:
alternatively wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. (Rep. vs. CA,
supra, 539). Art. 339. Property of public ownership is —

The factual findings of the lower court regarding the nature of the parcel of 1. That devoted to public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents,
land in question reads: ports and bridges constructed by the State, riverbanks, shores, roadsteads,
and that of a similar character.
Evidence disclose that the marginal area of the land radically changed
sometime in 1937 up to 1955 due to a strong earthquake followed by frequent xxx xxx xxx
storms eventually eroding the land. From 1955 to 1968, however, gradual
reclamation was undertaken by the lumber company owned by the Moratos. Article 1, case 3, of the law of Waters of August 3, 1866, provides as follows:
Having thus restored the land thru mostly human hands employed by the
lumber company, the area continued to be utilized by the owner of the Art. 1. The following are part of the national domain open to public use.
sawmill up to the time of his death in 1965. On or about March 17, 1973, there
again was a strong earthquake unfortunately causing destruction to hundreds xxx xxx xxx
of residential houses fronting the Calauag Bay including the Santiago
Building, a cinema house constructed of concrete materials. The catastrophe 3. The Shores. By the shore is understood that space covered and
totally caused the sinking of a concrete bridge at Sumulong river also in the uncovered by the movement of the tide. Its interior or terrestrial limit is the
municipality of Calauag, Quezon. line reached by the highest equinoctal tides. Where the tides are not
appreciable, the shore begins on the land side at the line reached by the sea
On November 13, 1977 a typhoon code named "Unding" wrought havoc as it during ordinary storms or tempests.
lashed the main land of Calauag, Quezon causing again great erosion this
time than that which the area suffered in 1937. The Court noted with the In the case of Aragon vs. Insular Government (19 Phil. 223), with reference to
significance of the newspaper clipping entitled "Baryo ng Mangingisda article 339 of the Civil Code just quoted, this Court said:
Kinain ng Dagat" (Exh. "11").
We should not be understood, by this decision, to hold that in a case of
xxx xxx xxx gradual encroachment or erosion by the ebb and flow of the tide, private
property may not become "property of public ownership." as defined in
Evidently this was the condition of the land when on or about December 5, article 339 of the code, where it appear that the owner has to all intents and
1972 defendant Josefina L. Morato filed with the Bureau of Lands her free purposes abandoned it and permitted it to be totally destroyed, so as to
patent application. The defendant Josefina Morato having taken possession become a part of the "playa" (shore of the sea), "rada" (roadstead), or the like.
of the land after the demise of Don Tomas Morato, she introduced ...
improvement and continued developing the area, planted it to coconut tree.
Having applied for a free patent, defendant had the land area surveyed and In the Enciclopedia Juridica Española, volume XII, page 558, we read the
an approved plan (Exh. "9") based on the cadastral survey as early as 1927 following:
(Exh. "10") was secured. The area was declared for taxation purposes in the
name of defendant Josefina Morato denominated as Tax Declaration No. With relative frequency the opposite phenomenon occurs; that is, the sea
4115 (Exh. "8") and the corresponding realty taxes religiously paid as shown advances and private properties are permanently invaded by the waves, and
by Exh. "8-A"). (pp. 12-14, DECISION). in this case they become part of the shore or breach. The then pass to the
public domain, but the owner thus dispossessed does not retain any right to
Being supported by substantial evidence and for failure of the appellant to the natural products resulting from their new nature; it is a de facto case of
show cause which would warrant disturbance, the aforecited findings of the eminent domain, and not subject to indemnity.
lower court, must be respected.
In comparison, Article 420 of the Civil Code provides:
Petitioner correctly contends, however, that Private Respondent Morato
cannot own foreshore land: Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

Through the encroachment or erosion by the ebb and flow of the tide, a (1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers,
portion of the subject land was invaded by the waves and sea advances. torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores,
During high tide, at least half of the land (632.5 square meters) is 6 feet deep roadsteads, and others of similar character;
under water and three (3) feet deep during low tide. The Calauag Bay shore
has extended up to a portion of the questioned land. (2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and
are intended for some public service or for the development of the national
While at the time of the grant of free patent to respondent Morato, the land wealth.
was not reached by the water, however, due to gradual sinking of the land
caused by natural calamities, the sea advances had permanently invaded a When the sea moved towards the estate and the tide invaded it, the invaded
portion of subject land. As disclosed at the trial, through the testimony of the property became foreshore land and passed to the realm of the public
court-appointed commissioner, Engr. Abraham B. Pili, the land was under domain. In fact, the Court in Government vs. Cabangis 30 annulled the
water during high tide in the month of August 1978. The water margin covers registration of land subject of cadastral proceedings when the parcel
half of the property, but during low tide, the water is about a kilometer (TSN, subsequently became foreshore land. 31 In another case, the Court voided the
July 19, 1979, p. 12). Also, in 1974, after the grant of the patent, the land was registration decree of a trial court and held that said court had no jurisdiction
covered with vegetation, but it disappeared in 1978 when the land was to award foreshore land to any private person or entity. 32 The subject land
reached by the tides (Exh. "E-1", "E-14"). In fact, in its decision dated in this case, being foreshore land, should therefore be returned to the public
December 28, 1983, the lower court observed that the erosion of the land was domain.
caused by natural calamities that struck the place in 1977 (Cf. Decision, pp.
17-18). 26 WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. This Court hereby REVERSES and
SETS ASIDE the assailed Decision of Respondent Court and ORDERS the
CANCELLATION of Free Patent No. (IV-3) 275 issued to Respondent Morato

Page 12 of 36
and the subsequent Original Certificate of Title No. P-17789. The subject land On April 25, 1995, PEA entered into a Joint Venture Agreement ("JVA" for
therefore REVERTS to the State. No costs. brevity) with AMARI, a private corporation, to develop the Freedom Islands.
The JVA also required the reclamation of an additional 250 hectares of
SO ORDERED. submerged areas surrounding these islands to complete the configuration in
the Master Development Plan of the Southern Reclamation Project-
——————————— MCCRRP. PEA and AMARI entered into the JVA through negotiation
without public bidding.4 On April 28, 1995, the Board of Directors of PEA, in
G.R. No. 133250 July 9, 2002 its Resolution No. 1245, confirmed the JVA.5 On June 8, 1995, then
President Fidel V. Ramos, through then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres,
FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, approved the JVA.6
vs.
PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY On November 29, 1996, then Senate President Ernesto Maceda delivered a
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. privilege speech in the Senate and denounced the JVA as the "grandmother
of all scams." As a result, the Senate Committee on Government Corporations
CARPIO, J.: and Public Enterprises, and the Committee on Accountability of Public
Officers and Investigations, conducted a joint investigation. The Senate
This is an original Petition for Mandamus with prayer for a writ of Committees reported the results of their investigation in Senate Committee
preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order. The petition seeks Report No. 560 dated September 16, 1997.7 Among the conclusions of their
to compel the Public Estates Authority ("PEA" for brevity) to disclose all facts report are: (1) the reclaimed lands PEA seeks to transfer to AMARI under the
on PEA's then on-going renegotiations with Amari Coastal Bay and JVA are lands of the public domain which the government has not classified
Development Corporation ("AMARI" for brevity) to reclaim portions of as alienable lands and therefore PEA cannot alienate these lands; (2) the
Manila Bay. The petition further seeks to enjoin PEA from signing a new certificates of title covering the Freedom Islands are thus void, and (3) the
agreement with AMARI involving such reclamation. JVA itself is illegal.

The Facts On December 5, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential
Administrative Order No. 365 creating a Legal Task Force to conduct a study
On November 20, 1973, the government, through the Commissioner of Public on the legality of the JVA in view of Senate Committee Report No. 560. The
Highways, signed a contract with the Construction and Development members of the Legal Task Force were the Secretary of Justice,8 the Chief
Corporation of the Philippines ("CDCP" for brevity) to reclaim certain Presidential Legal Counsel,9 and the Government Corporate Counsel.10 The
foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay. The contract also included the Legal Task Force upheld the legality of the JVA, contrary to the conclusions
construction of Phases I and II of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. CDCP reached by the Senate Committees.11
obligated itself to carry out all the works in consideration of fifty percent of
the total reclaimed land. On April 4 and 5, 1998, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Today published
reports that there were on-going renegotiations between PEA and AMARI
On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential under an order issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. According to these
Decree No. 1084 creating PEA. PD No. 1084 tasked PEA "to reclaim land, reports, PEA Director Nestor Kalaw, PEA Chairman Arsenio Yulo and retired
including foreshore and submerged areas," and "to develop, improve, Navy Officer Sergio Cruz composed the negotiating panel of PEA.
acquire, x x x lease and sell any and all kinds of lands."1 On the same date,
then President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 transferring to On April 13, 1998, Antonio M. Zulueta filed before the Court a Petition for
PEA the "lands reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay"2 Prohibition with Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining
under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP). Order and Preliminary Injunction docketed as G.R. No. 132994 seeking to
nullify the JVA. The Court dismissed the petition "for unwarranted disregard
On December 29, 1981, then President Marcos issued a memorandum of judicial hierarchy, without prejudice to the refiling of the case before the
directing PEA to amend its contract with CDCP, so that "[A]ll future works in proper court."12
MCCRRP x x x shall be funded and owned by PEA." Accordingly, PEA and
CDCP executed a Memorandum of Agreement dated December 29, 1981, On April 27, 1998, petitioner Frank I. Chavez ("Petitioner" for brevity) as a
which stated: taxpayer, filed the instant Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for the
Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining
"(i) CDCP shall undertake all reclamation, construction, and such other Order. Petitioner contends the government stands to lose billions of pesos in
works in the MCCRRP as may be agreed upon by the parties, to be paid the sale by PEA of the reclaimed lands to AMARI. Petitioner prays that PEA
according to progress of works on a unit price/lump sum basis for items of publicly disclose the terms of any renegotiation of the JVA, invoking Section
work to be agreed upon, subject to price escalation, retention and other terms 28, Article II, and Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution on the right
and conditions provided for in Presidential Decree No. 1594. All the financing of the people to information on matters of public concern. Petitioner assails
required for such works shall be provided by PEA. the sale to AMARI of lands of the public domain as a blatant violation of
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting the sale of
xxx alienable lands of the public domain to private corporations. Finally,
petitioner asserts that he seeks to enjoin the loss of billions of pesos in
(iii) x x x CDCP shall give up all its development rights and hereby agrees to properties of the State that are of public dominion.
cede and transfer in favor of PEA, all of the rights, title, interest and
participation of CDCP in and to all the areas of land reclaimed by CDCP in After several motions for extension of time,13 PEA and AMARI filed their
the MCCRRP as of December 30, 1981 which have not yet been sold, Comments on October 19, 1998 and June 25, 1998, respectively. Meanwhile,
transferred or otherwise disposed of by CDCP as of said date, which areas on December 28, 1998, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion: (a) to require
consist of approximately Ninety-Nine Thousand Four Hundred Seventy PEA to submit the terms of the renegotiated PEA-AMARI contract; (b) for
Three (99,473) square meters in the Financial Center Area covered by land issuance of a temporary restraining order; and (c) to set the case for hearing
pledge No. 5 and approximately Three Million Three Hundred Eighty Two on oral argument. Petitioner filed a Reiterative Motion for Issuance of a TRO
Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty Eight (3,382,888) square meters of dated May 26, 1999, which the Court denied in a Resolution dated June 22,
reclaimed areas at varying elevations above Mean Low Water Level located 1999.
outside the Financial Center Area and the First Neighborhood Unit."3
In a Resolution dated March 23, 1999, the Court gave due course to the
On January 19, 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent petition and required the parties to file their respective memoranda.
No. 3517, granting and transferring to PEA "the parcels of land so reclaimed
under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP) On March 30, 1999, PEA and AMARI signed the Amended Joint Venture
containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight Agreement ("Amended JVA," for brevity). On May 28, 1999, the Office of the
hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters." Subsequently, on April 9, President under the administration of then President Joseph E. Estrada
1988, the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Parañaque issued Transfer approved the Amended JVA.
Certificates of Title Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312, in the name of PEA, covering
the three reclaimed islands known as the "Freedom Islands" located at the Due to the approval of the Amended JVA by the Office of the President,
southern portion of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Parañaque City. The petitioner now prays that on "constitutional and statutory grounds the
Freedom Islands have a total land area of One Million Five Hundred Seventy renegotiated contract be declared null and void."14
Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Forty One (1,578,441) square meters or
157.841 hectares. The Issues

Page 13 of 36
The issues raised by petitioner, PEA15 and AMARI16 are as follows: judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles19 under Title II of
Commonwealth Act. 141 ("CA No. 141" for brevity). In the instant case,
I. WHETHER THE PRINCIPAL RELIEFS PRAYED FOR IN THE PETITION AMARI seeks to acquire from PEA, a public corporation, reclaimed lands and
ARE MOOT AND ACADEMIC BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT EVENTS; submerged areas for non-agricultural purposes by purchase under PD No.
1084 (charter of PEA) and Title III of CA No. 141. Certain undertakings by
II. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR FAILING TO AMARI under the Amended JVA constitute the consideration for the
OBSERVE THE PRINCIPLE GOVERNING THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS; purchase. Neither AMARI nor PEA can claim judicial confirmation of their
titles because the lands covered by the Amended JVA are newly reclaimed or
III. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR NON- still to be reclaimed. Judicial confirmation of imperfect title requires open,
EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES; continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain for at least thirty years since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Besides,
IV. WHETHER PETITIONER HAS LOCUS STANDI TO BRING THIS SUIT; the deadline for filing applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect title
expired on December 31, 1987.20
V. WHETHER THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO INFORMATION
INCLUDES OFFICIAL INFORMATION ON ON-GOING NEGOTIATIONS Lastly, there is a need to resolve immediately the constitutional issue raised
BEFORE A FINAL AGREEMENT; in this petition because of the possible transfer at any time by PEA to AMARI
of title and ownership to portions of the reclaimed lands. Under the
VI. WHETHER THE STIPULATIONS IN THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE Amended JVA, PEA is obligated to transfer to AMARI the latter's seventy
AGREEMENT FOR THE TRANSFER TO AMARI OF CERTAIN LANDS, percent proportionate share in the reclaimed areas as the reclamation
RECLAIMED AND STILL TO BE RECLAIMED, VIOLATE THE 1987 progresses. The Amended JVA even allows AMARI to mortgage at any time
CONSTITUTION; AND the entire reclaimed area to raise financing for the reclamation project.21

VII. WHETHER THE COURT IS THE PROPER FORUM FOR RAISING THE Second issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for failing to observe the
ISSUE OF WHETHER THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT IS principle governing the hierarchy of courts.
GROSSLY DISADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT.
PEA and AMARI claim petitioner ignored the judicial hierarchy by seeking
The Court's Ruling relief directly from the Court. The principle of hierarchy of courts applies
generally to cases involving factual questions. As it is not a trier of facts, the
First issue: whether the principal reliefs prayed for in the petition are moot Court cannot entertain cases involving factual issues. The instant case,
and academic because of subsequent events. however, raises constitutional issues of transcendental importance to the
public.22 The Court can resolve this case without determining any factual
The petition prays that PEA publicly disclose the "terms and conditions of the issue related to the case. Also, the instant case is a petition for mandamus
on-going negotiations for a new agreement." The petition also prays that the which falls under the original jurisdiction of the Court under Section 5,
Court enjoin PEA from "privately entering into, perfecting and/or executing Article VIII of the Constitution. We resolve to exercise primary jurisdiction
any new agreement with AMARI." over the instant case.

PEA and AMARI claim the petition is now moot and academic because Third issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for non-exhaustion of
AMARI furnished petitioner on June 21, 1999 a copy of the signed Amended administrative remedies.
JVA containing the terms and conditions agreed upon in the renegotiations.
Thus, PEA has satisfied petitioner's prayer for a public disclosure of the PEA faults petitioner for seeking judicial intervention in compelling PEA to
renegotiations. Likewise, petitioner's prayer to enjoin the signing of the disclose publicly certain information without first asking PEA the needed
Amended JVA is now moot because PEA and AMARI have already signed the information. PEA claims petitioner's direct resort to the Court violates the
Amended JVA on March 30, 1999. Moreover, the Office of the President has principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. It also violates the rule
approved the Amended JVA on May 28, 1999. that mandamus may issue only if there is no other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
Petitioner counters that PEA and AMARI cannot avoid the constitutional
issue by simply fast-tracking the signing and approval of the Amended JVA PEA distinguishes the instant case from Tañada v. Tuvera23 where the Court
before the Court could act on the issue. Presidential approval does not resolve granted the petition for mandamus even if the petitioners there did not
the constitutional issue or remove it from the ambit of judicial review. initially demand from the Office of the President the publication of the
presidential decrees. PEA points out that in Tañada, the Executive
We rule that the signing of the Amended JVA by PEA and AMARI and its Department had an affirmative statutory duty under Article 2 of the Civil
approval by the President cannot operate to moot the petition and divest the Code24 and Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 63825 to publish the
Court of its jurisdiction. PEA and AMARI have still to implement the presidential decrees. There was, therefore, no need for the petitioners in
Amended JVA. The prayer to enjoin the signing of the Amended JVA on Tañada to make an initial demand from the Office of the President. In the
constitutional grounds necessarily includes preventing its implementation if instant case, PEA claims it has no affirmative statutory duty to disclose
in the meantime PEA and AMARI have signed one in violation of the publicly information about its renegotiation of the JVA. Thus, PEA asserts
Constitution. Petitioner's principal basis in assailing the renegotiation of the that the Court must apply the principle of exhaustion of administrative
JVA is its violation of Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, which remedies to the instant case in view of the failure of petitioner here to
prohibits the government from alienating lands of the public domain to demand initially from PEA the needed information.
private corporations. If the Amended JVA indeed violates the Constitution, it
is the duty of the Court to enjoin its implementation, and if already The original JVA sought to dispose to AMARI public lands held by PEA, a
implemented, to annul the effects of such unconstitutional contract. government corporation. Under Section 79 of the Government Auditing
Code,26 the disposition of government lands to private parties requires
The Amended JVA is not an ordinary commercial contract but one which public bidding. PEA was under a positive legal duty to disclose to the public
seeks to transfer title and ownership to 367.5 hectares of reclaimed lands and the terms and conditions for the sale of its lands. The law obligated PEA to
submerged areas of Manila Bay to a single private corporation. It now make this public disclosure even without demand from petitioner or from
becomes more compelling for the Court to resolve the issue to insure the anyone. PEA failed to make this public disclosure because the original JVA,
government itself does not violate a provision of the Constitution intended to like the Amended JVA, was the result of a negotiated contract, not of a public
safeguard the national patrimony. Supervening events, whether intended or bidding. Considering that PEA had an affirmative statutory duty to make the
accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a public disclosure, and was even in breach of this legal duty, petitioner had the
grave violation of the Constitution. In the instant case, if the Amended JVA right to seek direct judicial intervention.
runs counter to the Constitution, the Court can still prevent the transfer of
title and ownership of alienable lands of the public domain in the name of Moreover, and this alone is determinative of this issue, the principle of
AMARI. Even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply when the issue
the Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised involved is a purely legal or constitutional question.27 The principal issue in
to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar, and the public.17 the instant case is the capacity of AMARI to acquire lands held by PEA in
view of the constitutional ban prohibiting the alienation of lands of the public
Also, the instant petition is a case of first impression. All previous decisions domain to private corporations. We rule that the principle of exhaustion of
of the Court involving Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, or its administrative remedies does not apply in the instant case.
counterpart provision in the 1973 Constitution,18 covered agricultural lands
sold to private corporations which acquired the lands from private parties. Fourth issue: whether petitioner has locus standi to bring this suit
The transferors of the private corporations claimed or could claim the right to

Page 14 of 36
PEA argues that petitioner has no standing to institute mandamus diffusion of natural resources - matters of transcendental public importance,
proceedings to enforce his constitutional right to information without a the petitioner has the requisite locus standi.
showing that PEA refused to perform an affirmative duty imposed on PEA by
the Constitution. PEA also claims that petitioner has not shown that he will Fifth issue: whether the constitutional right to information includes official
suffer any concrete injury because of the signing or implementation of the information on on-going negotiations before a final agreement.
Amended JVA. Thus, there is no actual controversy requiring the exercise of
the power of judicial review. Section 7, Article III of the Constitution explains the people's right to
information on matters of public concern in this manner:
The petitioner has standing to bring this taxpayer's suit because the petition
seeks to compel PEA to comply with its constitutional duties. There are two "Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern
constitutional issues involved here. First is the right of citizens to information shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers
on matters of public concern. Second is the application of a constitutional pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government
provision intended to insure the equitable distribution of alienable lands of research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the
the public domain among Filipino citizens. The thrust of the first issue is to citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law." (Emphasis
compel PEA to disclose publicly information on the sale of government lands supplied)
worth billions of pesos, information which the Constitution and statutory law
mandate PEA to disclose. The thrust of the second issue is to prevent PEA The State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public
from alienating hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain interest reinforces the people's right to information on matters of public
in violation of the Constitution, compelling PEA to comply with a concern. This State policy is expressed in Section 28, Article II of the
constitutional duty to the nation. Constitution, thus:

Moreover, the petition raises matters of transcendental importance to the "Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts
public. In Chavez v. PCGG,28 the Court upheld the right of a citizen to bring and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions
a taxpayer's suit on matters of transcendental importance to the public, thus - involving public interest." (Emphasis supplied)

"Besides, petitioner emphasizes, the matter of recovering the ill-gotten These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in
wealth of the Marcoses is an issue of 'transcendental importance to the policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide
public.' He asserts that ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional
prosecute actions questioning the validity of acts or orders of government rights. These twin provisions are essential to the exercise of freedom of
agencies or instrumentalities, if the issues raised are of 'paramount public expression. If the government does not disclose its official acts, transactions
interest,' and if they 'immediately affect the social, economic and moral well and decisions to citizens, whatever citizens say, even if expressed without any
being of the people.' restraint, will be speculative and amount to nothing. These twin provisions
are also essential to hold public officials "at all times x x x accountable to the
Moreover, the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of people,"29 for unless citizens have the proper information, they cannot hold
personal interest, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public public officials accountable for anything. Armed with the right information,
right, such as in this case. He invokes several decisions of this Court which citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation of
have set aside the procedural matter of locus standi, when the subject of the government policies and their effective implementation. An informed
case involved public interest. citizenry is essential to the existence and proper functioning of any
democracy. As explained by the Court in Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr.30 –
xxx
"An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing
In Tañada v. Tuvera, the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a public dialogue or process of communication between the government and the
right and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement of a public people. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free political
duty, the people are regarded as the real parties in interest; and because it is discussion be maintained to the end that the government may perceive and
sufficient that petitioner is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution be responsive to the people's will. Yet, this open dialogue can be effective only
of the laws, he need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the to the extent that the citizenry is informed and thus able to formulate its will
result of the action. In the aforesaid case, the petitioners sought to enforce intelligently. Only when the participants in the discussion are aware of the
their right to be informed on matters of public concern, a right then issues and have access to information relating thereto can such bear fruit."
recognized in Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, in connection
with the rule that laws in order to be valid and enforceable must be published PEA asserts, citing Chavez v. PCGG,31 that in cases of on-going negotiations
in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. In ruling for the the right to information is limited to "definite propositions of the
petitioners' legal standing, the Court declared that the right they sought to be government." PEA maintains the right does not include access to "intra-
enforced 'is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of agency or inter-agency recommendations or communications during the
the land.' stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or
are in the 'exploratory stage'."
Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, while reiterating Tañada, further
declared that 'when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a Also, AMARI contends that petitioner cannot invoke the right at the pre-
public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact decisional stage or before the closing of the transaction. To support its
that petitioner is a citizen and, therefore, part of the general 'public' which contention, AMARI cites the following discussion in the 1986 Constitutional
possesses the right.' Commission:

Further, in Albano v. Reyes, we said that while expenditure of public funds "Mr. Suarez. And when we say 'transactions' which should be distinguished
may not have been involved under the questioned contract for the from contracts, agreements, or treaties or whatever, does the Gentleman
development, management and operation of the Manila International refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the contract, or does he
Container Terminal, 'public interest [was] definitely involved considering the refer to the contract itself?
important role [of the subject contract] . . . in the economic development of
the country and the magnitude of the financial consideration involved.' We Mr. Ople: The 'transactions' used here, I suppose is generic and therefore, it
concluded that, as a consequence, the disclosure provision in the can cover both steps leading to a contract and already a consummated
Constitution would constitute sufficient authority for upholding the contract, Mr. Presiding Officer.
petitioner's standing.
Mr. Suarez: This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the
Similarly, the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to consummation of the transaction.
information and access to official records, documents and papers — a right
guaranteed under Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner, a Mr. Ople: Yes, subject only to reasonable safeguards on the national interest.
former solicitor general, is a Filipino citizen. Because of the satisfaction of the
two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to sustain petitioner's legal Mr. Suarez: Thank you."32 (Emphasis supplied)
standing, i.e. (1) the enforcement of a public right (2) espoused by a Filipino
citizen, we rule that the petition at bar should be allowed." AMARI argues there must first be a consummated contract before petitioner
can invoke the right. Requiring government officials to reveal their
We rule that since the instant petition, brought by a citizen, involves the deliberations at the pre-decisional stage will degrade the quality of decision-
enforcement of constitutional rights - to information and to the equitable making in government agencies. Government officials will hesitate to express
their real sentiments during deliberations if there is immediate public

Page 15 of 36
dissemination of their discussions, putting them under all kinds of pressure
before they decide. The right to information, however, does not extend to matters recognized as
privileged information under the separation of powers.36 The right does not
We must first distinguish between information the law on public bidding also apply to information on military and diplomatic secrets, information
requires PEA to disclose publicly, and information the constitutional right to affecting national security, and information on investigations of crimes by
information requires PEA to release to the public. Before the consummation law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused, which courts
of the contract, PEA must, on its own and without demand from anyone, have long recognized as confidential.37 The right may also be subject to other
disclose to the public matters relating to the disposition of its property. These limitations that Congress may impose by law.
include the size, location, technical description and nature of the property
being disposed of, the terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties There is no claim by PEA that the information demanded by petitioner is
qualified to bid, the minimum price and similar information. PEA must privileged information rooted in the separation of powers. The information
prepare all these data and disclose them to the public at the start of the does not cover Presidential conversations, correspondences, or discussions
disposition process, long before the consummation of the contract, because during closed-door Cabinet meetings which, like internal deliberations of the
the Government Auditing Code requires public bidding. If PEA fails to make Supreme Court and other collegiate courts, or executive sessions of either
this disclosure, any citizen can demand from PEA this information at any house of Congress,38 are recognized as confidential. This kind of information
time during the bidding process. cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government. A frank exchange
of exploratory ideas and assessments, free from the glare of publicity and
Information, however, on on-going evaluation or review of bids or proposals pressure by interested parties, is essential to protect the independence of
being undertaken by the bidding or review committee is not immediately decision-making of those tasked to exercise Presidential, Legislative and
accessible under the right to information. While the evaluation or review is Judicial power.39 This is not the situation in the instant case.
still on-going, there are no "official acts, transactions, or decisions" on the
bids or proposals. However, once the committee makes its official We rule, therefore, that the constitutional right to information includes
recommendation, there arises a "definite proposition" on the part of the official information on on-going negotiations before a final contract. The
government. From this moment, the public's right to information attaches, information, however, must constitute definite propositions by the
and any citizen can access all the non-proprietary information leading to government and should not cover recognized exceptions like privileged
such definite proposition. In Chavez v. PCGG,33 the Court ruled as follows: information, military and diplomatic secrets and similar matters affecting
national security and public order.40 Congress has also prescribed other
"Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution, we believe that it limitations on the right to information in several legislations.41
is incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers, as well as other government
representatives, to disclose sufficient public information on any proposed Sixth issue: whether stipulations in the Amended JVA for the transfer to
settlement they have decided to take up with the ostensible owners and AMARI of lands, reclaimed or to be reclaimed, violate the Constitution.
holders of ill-gotten wealth. Such information, though, must pertain to
definite propositions of the government, not necessarily to intra-agency or The Regalian Doctrine
inter-agency recommendations or communications during the stage when
common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in the The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas is
"exploratory" stage. There is need, of course, to observe the same restrictions rooted in the Regalian doctrine which holds that the State owns all lands and
on disclosure of information in general, as discussed earlier – such as on waters of the public domain. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines,
matters involving national security, diplomatic or foreign relations, ownership of all "lands, territories and possessions" in the Philippines passed
intelligence and other classified information." (Emphasis supplied) to the Spanish Crown.42 The King, as the sovereign ruler and representative
of the people, acquired and owned all lands and territories in the Philippines
Contrary to AMARI's contention, the commissioners of the 1986 except those he disposed of by grant or sale to private individuals.
Constitutional Commission understood that the right to information
"contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine
transaction." Certainly, a consummated contract is not a requirement for the substituting, however, the State, in lieu of the King, as the owner of all lands
exercise of the right to information. Otherwise, the people can never exercise and waters of the public domain. The Regalian doctrine is the foundation of
the right if no contract is consummated, and if one is consummated, it may the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all lands that were not
be too late for the public to expose its defects.1âwphi1.nêt acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
public domain."43 Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889, which is now Article
Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the 420 of the Civil Code of 1950, incorporated the Regalian doctrine.
contract, which may be grossly disadvantageous to the government or even
illegal, becomes a fait accompli. This negates the State policy of full Ownership and Disposition of Reclaimed Lands
transparency on matters of public concern, a situation which the framers of
the Constitution could not have intended. Such a requirement will prevent The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 was the first statutory law governing the
the citizenry from participating in the public discussion of any proposed ownership and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. On May 18,
contract, effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. 1907, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 1654 which provided for
We can allow neither an emasculation of a constitutional right, nor a retreat the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to
by the State of its avowed "policy of full disclosure of all its transactions corporations and individuals. Later, on November 29, 1919, the Philippine
involving public interest." Legislature approved Act No. 2874, the Public Land Act, which authorized
the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to
The right covers three categories of information which are "matters of public corporations and individuals. On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly
concern," namely: (1) official records; (2) documents and papers pertaining passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, which
to official acts, transactions and decisions; and (3) government research data authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government
used in formulating policies. The first category refers to any document that is to corporations and individuals. CA No. 141 continues to this day as the
part of the public records in the custody of government agencies or officials. general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public
The second category refers to documents and papers recording, evidencing, domain.
establishing, confirming, supporting, justifying or explaining official acts,
transactions or decisions of government agencies or officials. The third The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 and the Civil Code of 1889
category refers to research data, whether raw, collated or processed, owned
by the government and used in formulating government policies. Under the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, the shores, bays, coves, inlets and
all waters within the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to the
The information that petitioner may access on the renegotiation of the JVA public domain for public use.44 The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 allowed
includes evaluation reports, recommendations, legal and expert opinions, the reclamation of the sea under Article 5, which provided as follows:
minutes of meetings, terms of reference and other documents attached to
such reports or minutes, all relating to the JVA. However, the right to "Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed
information does not compel PEA to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries and by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private persons, with proper
the like relating to the renegotiation of the JVA.34 The right only affords permission, shall become the property of the party constructing such works,
access to records, documents and papers, which means the opportunity to unless otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority."
inspect and copy them. One who exercises the right must copy the records,
documents and papers at his expense. The exercise of the right is also subject Under the Spanish Law of Waters, land reclaimed from the sea belonged to
to reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the public records and to the party undertaking the reclamation, provided the government issued the
minimize disruption to government operations, like rules specifying when necessary permit and did not reserve ownership of the reclaimed land to the
and how to conduct the inspection and copying.35 State.

Page 16 of 36
the sea by private parties with government permission remained private
Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889 defined property of public dominion as lands.
follows:
Act No. 2874 of the Philippine Legislature
"Art. 339. Property of public dominion is –
On November 29, 1919, the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. 2874, the
1. That devoted to public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and Public Land Act.46 The salient provisions of Act No. 2874, on reclaimed
bridges constructed by the State, riverbanks, shores, roadsteads, and that of a lands, were as follows:
similar character;
"Sec. 6. The Governor-General, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of
2. That belonging exclusively to the State which, without being of general Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands
public use, is employed in some public service, or in the development of the of the public domain into –
national wealth, such as walls, fortresses, and other works for the defense of
the territory, and mines, until granted to private individuals." (a) Alienable or disposable,

Property devoted to public use referred to property open for use by the (b) Timber, and
public. In contrast, property devoted to public service referred to property
used for some specific public service and open only to those authorized to use (c) Mineral lands, x x x.
the property.
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the government and disposition of alienable or
Property of public dominion referred not only to property devoted to public disposable public lands, the Governor-General, upon recommendation by the
use, but also to property not so used but employed to develop the national Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time
wealth. This class of property constituted property of public dominion declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act."
although employed for some economic or commercial activity to increase the
national wealth. Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession
which have been officially delimited or classified x x x.
Article 341 of the Civil Code of 1889 governed the re-classification of property
of public dominion into private property, to wit: xxx

"Art. 341. Property of public dominion, when no longer devoted to public use Sec. 55. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being neither timber
or to the defense of the territory, shall become a part of the private property nor mineral land, shall be classified as suitable for residential purposes or for
of the State." commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural
purposes, and shall be open to disposition or concession, shall be disposed of
This provision, however, was not self-executing. The legislature, or the under the provisions of this chapter, and not otherwise.
executive department pursuant to law, must declare the property no longer
needed for public use or territorial defense before the government could lease Sec. 56. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows:
or alienate the property to private parties.45
(a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filling, or other means;
Act No. 1654 of the Philippine Commission
(b) Foreshore;
On May 8, 1907, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 1654 which
regulated the lease of reclaimed and foreshore lands. The salient provisions (c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or
of this law were as follows: banks of navigable lakes or rivers;

"Section 1. The control and disposition of the foreshore as defined in existing (d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes.
law, and the title to all Government or public lands made or reclaimed by the
Government by dredging or filling or otherwise throughout the Philippine x x x.
Islands, shall be retained by the Government without prejudice to vested
rights and without prejudice to rights conceded to the City of Manila in the Sec. 58. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of section fifty-six
Luneta Extension. shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise, as
soon as the Governor-General, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
Section 2. (a) The Secretary of the Interior shall cause all Government or Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall declare that the same are not
public lands made or reclaimed by the Government by dredging or filling or necessary for the public service and are open to disposition under this
otherwise to be divided into lots or blocks, with the necessary streets and chapter. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by sale or lease
alleyways located thereon, and shall cause plats and plans of such surveys to under the provisions of this Act." (Emphasis supplied)
be prepared and filed with the Bureau of Lands.
Section 6 of Act No. 2874 authorized the Governor-General to "classify lands
(b) Upon completion of such plats and plans the Governor-General shall give of the public domain into x x x alienable or disposable"47 lands. Section 7 of
notice to the public that such parts of the lands so made or reclaimed as are the Act empowered the Governor-General to "declare what lands are open to
not needed for public purposes will be leased for commercial and business disposition or concession." Section 8 of the Act limited alienable or
purposes, x x x. disposable lands only to those lands which have been "officially delimited
and classified."
xxx
Section 56 of Act No. 2874 stated that lands "disposable under this title48
(e) The leases above provided for shall be disposed of to the highest and best shall be classified" as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands, as
bidder therefore, subject to such regulations and safeguards as the Governor- well as other lands. All these lands, however, must be suitable for residential,
General may by executive order prescribe." (Emphasis supplied) commercial, industrial or other productive non-agricultural purposes. These
provisions vested upon the Governor-General the power to classify
Act No. 1654 mandated that the government should retain title to all lands inalienable lands of the public domain into disposable lands of the public
reclaimed by the government. The Act also vested in the government control domain. These provisions also empowered the Governor-General to classify
and disposition of foreshore lands. Private parties could lease lands further such disposable lands of the public domain into government
reclaimed by the government only if these lands were no longer needed for reclaimed, foreshore or marshy lands of the public domain, as well as other
public purpose. Act No. 1654 mandated public bidding in the lease of non-agricultural lands.
government reclaimed lands. Act No. 1654 made government reclaimed lands
sui generis in that unlike other public lands which the government could sell Section 58 of Act No. 2874 categorically mandated that disposable lands of
to private parties, these reclaimed lands were available only for lease to the public domain classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy
private parties. lands "shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise."
The Governor-General, before allowing the lease of these lands to private
Act No. 1654, however, did not repeal Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters parties, must formally declare that the lands were "not necessary for the
of 1866. Act No. 1654 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of public service." Act No. 2874 reiterated the State policy to lease and not to
the sea under Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters. Lands reclaimed from sell government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain,
a policy first enunciated in 1907 in Act No. 1654. Government reclaimed,

Page 17 of 36
foreshore and marshy lands remained sui generis, as the only alienable or
disposable lands of the public domain that the government could not sell to Commonwealth Act No. 141 of the Philippine National Assembly
private parties.
On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act
The rationale behind this State policy is obvious. Government reclaimed, No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, which compiled the then existing
foreshore and marshy public lands for non-agricultural purposes retain their laws on lands of the public domain. CA No. 141, as amended, remains to this
inherent potential as areas for public service. This is the reason the day the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of
government prohibited the sale, and only allowed the lease, of these lands to lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands.51
private parties. The State always reserved these lands for some future public
service. Section 6 of CA No. 141 empowers the President to classify lands of the public
domain into "alienable or disposable"52 lands of the public domain, which
Act No. 2874 did not authorize the reclassification of government reclaimed, prior to such classification are inalienable and outside the commerce of man.
foreshore and marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section Section 7 of CA No. 141 authorizes the President to "declare what lands are
56 (d). Lands falling under Section 56 (d) were the only lands for non- open to disposition or concession." Section 8 of CA No. 141 states that the
agricultural purposes the government could sell to private parties. Thus, government can declare open for disposition or concession only lands that
under Act No. 2874, the government could not sell government reclaimed, are "officially delimited and classified." Sections 6, 7 and 8 of CA No. 141 read
foreshore and marshy lands to private parties, unless the legislature passed a as follows:
law allowing their sale.49
"Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of
Act No. 2874 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time classify the lands of the
pursuant to Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Lands reclaimed public domain into –
from the sea by private parties with government permission remained private
lands. (a) Alienable or disposable,

Dispositions under the 1935 Constitution (b) Timber, and

On May 14, 1935, the 1935 Constitution took effect upon its ratification by the (c) Mineral lands,
Filipino people. The 1935 Constitution, in adopting the Regalian doctrine,
declared in Section 1, Article XIII, that – and may at any time and in like manner transfer such lands from one class to
another,53 for the purpose of their administration and disposition.
"Section 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain,
waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or
potential energy and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the disposable public lands, the President, upon recommendation by the
State, and their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time declare what
limited to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations at lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act.
least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens,
subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of the Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession
inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural which have been officially delimited and classified and, when practicable,
resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses,
alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, nor appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become private
development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by
for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five this Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been
years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so. x x x."
industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases
beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant." (Emphasis Thus, before the government could alienate or dispose of lands of the public
supplied) domain, the President must first officially classify these lands as alienable or
disposable, and then declare them open to disposition or concession. There
The 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources except must be no law reserving these lands for public or quasi-public uses.
public agricultural lands, which were the only natural resources the State
could alienate. Thus, foreshore lands, considered part of the State's natural The salient provisions of CA No. 141, on government reclaimed, foreshore
resources, became inalienable by constitutional fiat, available only for lease and marshy lands of the public domain, are as follows:
for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The government could alienate
foreshore lands only after these lands were reclaimed and classified as "Sec. 58. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being neither timber
alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. Government reclaimed and nor mineral land, is intended to be used for residential purposes or for
marshy lands of the public domain, being neither timber nor mineral lands, commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural,
fell under the classification of public agricultural lands.50 However, and is open to disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under the
government reclaimed and marshy lands, although subject to classification as provisions of this chapter and not otherwise.
disposable public agricultural lands, could only be leased and not sold to
private parties because of Act No. 2874. Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows:

The prohibition on private parties from acquiring ownership of government (a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filling, or other means;
reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain was only a statutory
prohibition and the legislature could therefore remove such prohibition. The (b) Foreshore;
1935 Constitution did not prohibit individuals and corporations from
acquiring government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain that (c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or
were classified as agricultural lands under existing public land laws. Section banks of navigable lakes or rivers;
2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution provided as follows:
(d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes.
"Section 2. No private corporation or association may acquire, lease, or hold
public agricultural lands in excess of one thousand and twenty four hectares, Sec. 60. Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or sold, as
nor may any individual acquire such lands by purchase in excess of one the case may be, to any person, corporation, or association authorized to
hundred and forty hectares, or by lease in excess of one thousand and twenty- purchase or lease public lands for agricultural purposes. x x x.
four hectares, or by homestead in excess of twenty-four hectares. Lands
adapted to grazing, not exceeding two thousand hectares, may be leased to an Sec. 61. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of section fifty-nine
individual, private corporation, or association." (Emphasis supplied) shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise, as
soon as the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture,
Still, after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, the legislature did not shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public service and are
repeal Section 58 of Act No. 2874 to open for sale to private parties open to disposition under this chapter. The lands included in class (d) may be
government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain. On the disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of this Act." (Emphasis
contrary, the legislature continued the long established State policy of supplied)
retaining for the government title and ownership of government reclaimed
and marshy lands of the public domain.

Page 18 of 36
Section 61 of CA No. 141 readopted, after the effectivity of the 1935 alienated, encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its
Constitution, Section 58 of Act No. 2874 prohibiting the sale of government title, except when authorized by Congress: x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands of the public domain. All
these lands are intended for residential, commercial, industrial or other non- The congressional authority required in Section 60 of CA No. 141 mirrors the
agricultural purposes. As before, Section 61 allowed only the lease of such legislative authority required in Section 56 of Act No. 2874.
lands to private parties. The government could sell to private parties only
lands falling under Section 59 (d) of CA No. 141, or those lands for non- One reason for the congressional authority is that Section 60 of CA No. 141
agricultural purposes not classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and exempted government units and entities from the maximum area of public
marshy disposable lands of the public domain. Foreshore lands, however, lands that could be acquired from the State. These government units and
became inalienable under the 1935 Constitution which only allowed the lease entities should not just turn around and sell these lands to private parties in
of these lands to qualified private parties. violation of constitutional or statutory limitations. Otherwise, the transfer of
lands for non-agricultural purposes to government units and entities could be
Section 58 of CA No. 141 expressly states that disposable lands of the public used to circumvent constitutional limitations on ownership of alienable or
domain intended for residential, commercial, industrial or other productive disposable lands of the public domain. In the same manner, such transfers
purposes other than agricultural "shall be disposed of under the provisions of could also be used to evade the statutory prohibition in CA No. 141 on the sale
this chapter and not otherwise." Under Section 10 of CA No. 141, the term of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain to private
"disposition" includes lease of the land. Any disposition of government parties. Section 60 of CA No. 141 constitutes by operation of law a lien on
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands for non-agricultural these lands.57
purposes must comply with Chapter IX, Title III of CA No. 141,54 unless a
subsequent law amended or repealed these provisions. In case of sale or lease of disposable lands of the public domain falling under
Section 59 of CA No. 141, Sections 63 and 67 require a public bidding.
In his concurring opinion in the landmark case of Republic Real Estate Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. 141 provide as follows:
Corporation v. Court of Appeals,55 Justice Reynato S. Puno summarized
succinctly the law on this matter, as follows: "Sec. 63. Whenever it is decided that lands covered by this chapter are not
needed for public purposes, the Director of Lands shall ask the Secretary of
"Foreshore lands are lands of public dominion intended for public use. So too Agriculture and Commerce (now the Secretary of Natural Resources) for
are lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or other means. authority to dispose of the same. Upon receipt of such authority, the Director
Act 1654 mandated that the control and disposition of the foreshore and of Lands shall give notice by public advertisement in the same manner as in
lands under water remained in the national government. Said law allowed the case of leases or sales of agricultural public land, x x x.
only the 'leasing' of reclaimed land. The Public Land Acts of 1919 and 1936
also declared that the foreshore and lands reclaimed by the government were Sec. 67. The lease or sale shall be made by oral bidding; and adjudication
to be "disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise." Before shall be made to the highest bidder. x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
leasing, however, the Governor-General, upon recommendation of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, had first to determine that Thus, CA No. 141 mandates the Government to put to public auction all leases
the land reclaimed was not necessary for the public service. This requisite or sales of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain.58
must have been met before the land could be disposed of. But even then, the
foreshore and lands under water were not to be alienated and sold to private Like Act No. 1654 and Act No. 2874 before it, CA No. 141 did not repeal
parties. The disposition of the reclaimed land was only by lease. The land Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Private parties could still
remained property of the State." (Emphasis supplied) reclaim portions of the sea with government permission. However, the
reclaimed land could become private land only if classified as alienable
As observed by Justice Puno in his concurring opinion, "Commonwealth Act agricultural land of the public domain open to disposition under CA No. 141.
No. 141 has remained in effect at present." The 1935 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources
except public agricultural lands.
The State policy prohibiting the sale to private parties of government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain, first The Civil Code of 1950
implemented in 1907 was thus reaffirmed in CA No. 141 after the 1935
Constitution took effect. The prohibition on the sale of foreshore lands, The Civil Code of 1950 readopted substantially the definition of property of
however, became a constitutional edict under the 1935 Constitution. public dominion found in the Civil Code of 1889. Articles 420 and 422 of the
Foreshore lands became inalienable as natural resources of the State, unless Civil Code of 1950 state that –
reclaimed by the government and classified as agricultural lands of the public
domain, in which case they would fall under the classification of government "Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:
reclaimed lands.
(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports
After the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, government reclaimed and and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of
marshy disposable lands of the public domain continued to be only leased similar character;
and not sold to private parties.56 These lands remained sui generis, as the
only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain the government could (2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are
not sell to private parties. intended for some public service or for the development of the national
wealth.
Since then and until now, the only way the government can sell to private
parties government reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public x x x.
domain is for the legislature to pass a law authorizing such sale. CA No. 141
does not authorize the President to reclassify government reclaimed and Art. 422. Property of public dominion, when no longer intended for public
marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 59 (d). Lands use or for public service, shall form part of the patrimonial property of the
classified under Section 59 (d) are the only alienable or disposable lands for State."
non-agricultural purposes that the government could sell to private parties.
Again, the government must formally declare that the property of public
Moreover, Section 60 of CA No. 141 expressly requires congressional dominion is no longer needed for public use or public service, before the
authority before lands under Section 59 that the government previously same could be classified as patrimonial property of the State.59 In the case of
transferred to government units or entities could be sold to private parties. government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain, the
Section 60 of CA No. 141 declares that – declaration of their being disposable, as well as the manner of their
disposition, is governed by the applicable provisions of CA No. 141.
"Sec. 60. x x x The area so leased or sold shall be such as shall, in the
judgment of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, be Like the Civil Code of 1889, the Civil Code of 1950 included as property of
reasonably necessary for the purposes for which such sale or lease is public dominion those properties of the State which, without being for public
requested, and shall not exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares: use, are intended for public service or the "development of the national
Provided, however, That this limitation shall not apply to grants, donations, wealth." Thus, government reclaimed and marshy lands of the State, even if
or transfers made to a province, municipality or branch or subdivision of the not employed for public use or public service, if developed to enhance the
Government for the purposes deemed by said entities conducive to the public national wealth, are classified as property of public dominion.
interest; but the land so granted, donated, or transferred to a province,
municipality or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be Dispositions under the 1973 Constitution

Page 19 of 36
The 1973 Constitution, which took effect on January 17, 1973, likewise (a)To prescribe its by-laws.
adopted the Regalian doctrine. Section 8, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution
stated that – xxx

"Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and (i) To hold lands of the public domain in excess of the area permitted to
other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other private corporations by statute.
natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of
agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of (j) To reclaim lands and to construct work across, or otherwise, any stream,
the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, watercourse, canal, ditch, flume x x x.
concession, or lease for the exploration, development, exploitation, or
utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period xxx
exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years,
except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial (o) To perform such acts and exercise such functions as may be necessary for
uses other than the development of water power, in which cases, beneficial the attainment of the purposes and objectives herein specified." (Emphasis
use may be the measure and the limit of the grant." (Emphasis supplied) supplied)

The 1973 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources with PD No. 1084 authorizes PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas
the exception of "agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, and of the public domain. Foreshore areas are those covered and uncovered by
resettlement lands of the public domain." In contrast, the 1935 Constitution the ebb and flow of the tide.61 Submerged areas are those permanently under
barred the alienation of all natural resources except "public agricultural water regardless of the ebb and flow of the tide.62 Foreshore and submerged
lands." However, the term "public agricultural lands" in the 1935 areas indisputably belong to the public domain63 and are inalienable unless
Constitution encompassed industrial, commercial, residential and reclaimed, classified as alienable lands open to disposition, and further
resettlement lands of the public domain.60 If the land of public domain were declared no longer needed for public service.
neither timber nor mineral land, it would fall under the classification of
agricultural land of the public domain. Both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, The ban in the 1973 Constitution on private corporations from acquiring
therefore, prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except alienable lands of the public domain did not apply to PEA since it was then,
agricultural lands of the public domain. and until today, a fully owned government corporation. The constitutional
ban applied then, as it still applies now, only to "private corporations and
The 1973 Constitution, however, limited the alienation of lands of the public associations." PD No. 1084 expressly empowers PEA "to hold lands of the
domain to individuals who were citizens of the Philippines. Private public domain" even "in excess of the area permitted to private corporations
corporations, even if wholly owned by Philippine citizens, were no longer by statute." Thus, PEA can hold title to private lands, as well as title to lands
allowed to acquire alienable lands of the public domain unlike in the 1935 of the public domain.
Constitution. Section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution declared that –
In order for PEA to sell its reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable
"Sec. 11. The Batasang Pambansa, taking into account conservation, lands of the public domain, there must be legislative authority empowering
ecological, and development requirements of the natural resources, shall PEA to sell these lands. This legislative authority is necessary in view of
determine by law the size of land of the public domain which may be Section 60 of CA No.141, which states –
developed, held or acquired by, or leased to, any qualified individual,
corporation, or association, and the conditions therefor. No private "Sec. 60. x x x; but the land so granted, donated or transferred to a province,
corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be
except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area nor may any alienated, encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its
citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares or acquire title, except when authorized by Congress; x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
by purchase, homestead or grant, in excess of twenty-four hectares. No
private corporation or association may hold by lease, concession, license or Without such legislative authority, PEA could not sell but only lease its
permit, timber or forest lands and other timber or forest resources in excess reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain.
of one hundred thousand hectares. However, such area may be increased by Nevertheless, any legislative authority granted to PEA to sell its reclaimed
the Batasang Pambansa upon recommendation of the National Economic alienable lands of the public domain would be subject to the constitutional
and Development Authority." (Emphasis supplied) ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public
domain. Hence, such legislative authority could only benefit private
Thus, under the 1973 Constitution, private corporations could hold alienable individuals.
lands of the public domain only through lease. Only individuals could now
acquire alienable lands of the public domain, and private corporations Dispositions under the 1987 Constitution
became absolutely barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the
public domain. The constitutional ban extended to all kinds of alienable lands The 1987 Constitution, like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it, has
of the public domain, while the statutory ban under CA No. 141 applied only adopted the Regalian doctrine. The 1987 Constitution declares that all
to government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public natural resources are "owned by the State," and except for alienable
domain. agricultural lands of the public domain, natural resources cannot be
alienated. Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution state that –
PD No. 1084 Creating the Public Estates Authority
"Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum
On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or
Decree No. 1084 creating PEA, a wholly government owned and controlled timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by
corporation with a special charter. Sections 4 and 8 of PD No. 1084, vests the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources
PEA with the following purposes and powers: shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of
natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State.
"Sec. 4. Purpose. The Authority is hereby created for the following purposes: x x x.

(a) To reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas, by dredging, Section 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, forest
filling or other means, or to acquire reclaimed land; or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of the public
domain may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may
(b) To develop, improve, acquire, administer, deal in, subdivide, dispose, be devoted. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to
lease and sell any and all kinds of lands, buildings, estates and other forms of agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such
real property, owned, managed, controlled and/or operated by the alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a period not
government; exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years,
and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. Citizens of the Philippines
(c) To provide for, operate or administer such service as may be necessary for may lease not more than five hundred hectares, or acquire not more than
the efficient, economical and beneficial utilization of the above properties. twelve hectares thereof by purchase, homestead, or grant.

Sec. 5. Powers and functions of the Authority. The Authority shall, in carrying Taking into account the requirements of conservation, ecology, and
out the purposes for which it is created, have the following powers and development, and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform, the
functions: Congress shall determine, by law, the size of lands of the public domain

Page 20 of 36
which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the conditions public domain only to individuals. This, it would seem, is the practical benefit
therefor." (Emphasis supplied) arising from the constitutional ban.

The 1987 Constitution continues the State policy in the 1973 Constitution The Amended Joint Venture Agreement
banning private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the
public domain. Like the 1973 Constitution, the 1987 Constitution allows The subject matter of the Amended JVA, as stated in its second Whereas
private corporations to hold alienable lands of the public domain only clause, consists of three properties, namely:
through lease. As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the general law
governing the lease to private corporations of reclaimed, foreshore and 1. "[T]hree partially reclaimed and substantially eroded islands along Emilio
marshy alienable lands of the public domain is still CA No. 141. Aguinaldo Boulevard in Paranaque and Las Pinas, Metro Manila, with a
combined titled area of 1,578,441 square meters;"
The Rationale behind the Constitutional Ban
2. "[A]nother area of 2,421,559 square meters contiguous to the three
The rationale behind the constitutional ban on corporations from acquiring, islands;" and
except through lease, alienable lands of the public domain is not well
understood. During the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, 3. "[A]t AMARI's option as approved by PEA, an additional 350 hectares
the commissioners probed the rationale behind this ban, thus: more or less to regularize the configuration of the reclaimed area."65

"FR. BERNAS: Mr. Vice-President, my questions have reference to page 3, PEA confirms that the Amended JVA involves "the development of the
line 5 which says: Freedom Islands and further reclamation of about 250 hectares x x x," plus
an option "granted to AMARI to subsequently reclaim another 350 hectares x
`No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public x x."66
domain except by lease, not to exceed one thousand hectares in area.'
In short, the Amended JVA covers a reclamation area of 750 hectares. Only
If we recall, this provision did not exist under the 1935 Constitution, but this 157.84 hectares of the 750-hectare reclamation project have been reclaimed,
was introduced in the 1973 Constitution. In effect, it prohibits private and the rest of the 592.15 hectares are still submerged areas forming part of
corporations from acquiring alienable public lands. But it has not been very Manila Bay.
clear in jurisprudence what the reason for this is. In some of the cases
decided in 1982 and 1983, it was indicated that the purpose of this is to Under the Amended JVA, AMARI will reimburse PEA the sum of
prevent large landholdings. Is that the intent of this provision? P1,894,129,200.00 for PEA's "actual cost" in partially reclaiming the
Freedom Islands. AMARI will also complete, at its own expense, the
MR. VILLEGAS: I think that is the spirit of the provision. reclamation of the Freedom Islands. AMARI will further shoulder all the
reclamation costs of all the other areas, totaling 592.15 hectares, still to be
FR. BERNAS: In existing decisions involving the Iglesia ni Cristo, there were reclaimed. AMARI and PEA will share, in the proportion of 70 percent and
instances where the Iglesia ni Cristo was not allowed to acquire a mere 313- 30 percent, respectively, the total net usable area which is defined in the
square meter land where a chapel stood because the Supreme Court said it Amended JVA as the total reclaimed area less 30 percent earmarked for
would be in violation of this." (Emphasis supplied) common areas. Title to AMARI's share in the net usable area, totaling 367.5
hectares, will be issued in the name of AMARI. Section 5.2 (c) of the
In Ayog v. Cusi,64 the Court explained the rationale behind this Amended JVA provides that –
constitutional ban in this way:
"x x x, PEA shall have the duty to execute without delay the necessary deed of
"Indeed, one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against purchases of transfer or conveyance of the title pertaining to AMARI's Land share based
public agricultural lands by private corporations is to equitably diffuse land on the Land Allocation Plan. PEA, when requested in writing by AMARI,
ownership or to encourage 'owner-cultivatorship and the economic family- shall then cause the issuance and delivery of the proper certificates of title
size farm' and to prevent a recurrence of cases like the instant case. Huge covering AMARI's Land Share in the name of AMARI, x x x; provided, that if
landholdings by corporations or private persons had spawned social unrest." more than seventy percent (70%) of the titled area at any given time pertains
to AMARI, PEA shall deliver to AMARI only seventy percent (70%) of the
However, if the constitutional intent is to prevent huge landholdings, the titles pertaining to AMARI, until such time when a corresponding
Constitution could have simply limited the size of alienable lands of the proportionate area of additional land pertaining to PEA has been
public domain that corporations could acquire. The Constitution could have titled." (Emphasis supplied)
followed the limitations on individuals, who could acquire not more than 24
hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the 1973 Constitution, Indisputably, under the Amended JVA AMARI will acquire and own a
and not more than 12 hectares under the 1987 Constitution. maximum of 367.5 hectares of reclaimed land which will be titled in its name.

If the constitutional intent is to encourage economic family-size farms, To implement the Amended JVA, PEA delegated to the unincorporated PEA-
placing the land in the name of a corporation would be more effective in AMARI joint venture PEA's statutory authority, rights and privileges to
preventing the break-up of farmlands. If the farmland is registered in the reclaim foreshore and submerged areas in Manila Bay. Section 3.2.a of the
name of a corporation, upon the death of the owner, his heirs would inherit Amended JVA states that –
shares in the corporation instead of subdivided parcels of the farmland. This
would prevent the continuing break-up of farmlands into smaller and smaller "PEA hereby contributes to the joint venture its rights and privileges to
plots from one generation to the next. perform Rawland Reclamation and Horizontal Development as well as own
the Reclamation Area, thereby granting the Joint Venture the full and
In actual practice, the constitutional ban strengthens the constitutional exclusive right, authority and privilege to undertake the Project in accordance
limitation on individuals from acquiring more than the allowed area of with the Master Development Plan."
alienable lands of the public domain. Without the constitutional ban,
individuals who already acquired the maximum area of alienable lands of the The Amended JVA is the product of a renegotiation of the original JVA dated
public domain could easily set up corporations to acquire more alienable April 25, 1995 and its supplemental agreement dated August 9, 1995.
public lands. An individual could own as many corporations as his means
would allow him. An individual could even hide his ownership of a The Threshold Issue
corporation by putting his nominees as stockholders of the corporation. The
corporation is a convenient vehicle to circumvent the constitutional The threshold issue is whether AMARI, a private corporation, can acquire
limitation on acquisition by individuals of alienable lands of the public and own under the Amended JVA 367.5 hectares of reclaimed foreshore and
domain. submerged areas in Manila Bay in view of Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the
1987 Constitution which state that:
The constitutional intent, under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, is to
transfer ownership of only a limited area of alienable land of the public "Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum,
domain to a qualified individual. This constitutional intent is safeguarded by and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or
the provision prohibiting corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by
public domain, since the vehicle to circumvent the constitutional intent is the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources
removed. The available alienable public lands are gradually decreasing in the shall not be alienated. x x x.
face of an ever-growing population. The most effective way to insure faithful
adherence to this constitutional intent is to grant or sell alienable lands of the xxx

Page 21 of 36
No. 1529 authorizing the issuance of certificates of title corresponding to land
Section 3. x x x Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to patents. To this day, these certificates of title are still in the name of PEA.
agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such
alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, x x x."(Emphasis PD No. 1085, coupled with President Aquino's actual issuance of a special
supplied) patent covering the Freedom Islands, is equivalent to an official proclamation
classifying the Freedom Islands as alienable or disposable lands of the public
Classification of Reclaimed Foreshore and Submerged Areas domain. PD No. 1085 and President Aquino's issuance of a land patent also
constitute a declaration that the Freedom Islands are no longer needed for
PEA readily concedes that lands reclaimed from foreshore or submerged public service. The Freedom Islands are thus alienable or disposable lands of
areas of Manila Bay are alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. In the public domain, open to disposition or concession to qualified parties.
its Memorandum,67 PEA admits that –
At the time then President Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517, PEA had
"Under the Public Land Act (CA 141, as amended), reclaimed lands are already reclaimed the Freedom Islands although subsequently there were
classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain: partial erosions on some areas. The government had also completed the
necessary surveys on these islands. Thus, the Freedom Islands were no
'Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: longer part of Manila Bay but part of the land mass. Section 3, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into "agricultural,
(a) Lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or other means; forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks." Being neither timber,
mineral, nor national park lands, the reclaimed Freedom Islands necessarily
x x x.'" (Emphasis supplied) fall under the classification of agricultural lands of the public domain. Under
the 1987 Constitution, agricultural lands of the public domain are the only
Likewise, the Legal Task Force68 constituted under Presidential natural resources that the State may alienate to qualified private parties. All
Administrative Order No. 365 admitted in its Report and Recommendation other natural resources, such as the seas or bays, are "waters x x x owned by
to then President Fidel V. Ramos, "[R]eclaimed lands are classified as the State" forming part of the public domain, and are inalienable pursuant to
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain."69 The Legal Task Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Force concluded that –
AMARI claims that the Freedom Islands are private lands because CDCP,
"D. Conclusion then a private corporation, reclaimed the islands under a contract dated
November 20, 1973 with the Commissioner of Public Highways. AMARI,
Reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain. However, by statutory citing Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, argues that "if the
authority, the rights of ownership and disposition over reclaimed lands have ownership of reclaimed lands may be given to the party constructing the
been transferred to PEA, by virtue of which PEA, as owner, may validly works, then it cannot be said that reclaimed lands are lands of the public
convey the same to any qualified person without violating the Constitution or domain which the State may not alienate."75 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of
any statute. Waters reads as follows:

The constitutional provision prohibiting private corporations from holding "Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed
public land, except by lease (Sec. 3, Art. XVII,70 1987 Constitution), does not by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private persons, with proper
apply to reclaimed lands whose ownership has passed on to PEA by statutory permission, shall become the property of the party constructing such works,
grant." unless otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority." (Emphasis
supplied)
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, the foreshore and
submerged areas of Manila Bay are part of the "lands of the public domain, Under Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, private parties could
waters x x x and other natural resources" and consequently "owned by the reclaim from the sea only with "proper permission" from the State. Private
State." As such, foreshore and submerged areas "shall not be alienated," parties could own the reclaimed land only if not "otherwise provided by the
unless they are classified as "agricultural lands" of the public domain. The terms of the grant of authority." This clearly meant that no one could reclaim
mere reclamation of these areas by PEA does not convert these inalienable from the sea without permission from the State because the sea is property of
natural resources of the State into alienable or disposable lands of the public public dominion. It also meant that the State could grant or withhold
domain. There must be a law or presidential proclamation officially ownership of the reclaimed land because any reclaimed land, like the sea
classifying these reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable and open to from which it emerged, belonged to the State. Thus, a private person
disposition or concession. Moreover, these reclaimed lands cannot be reclaiming from the sea without permission from the State could not acquire
classified as alienable or disposable if the law has reserved them for some ownership of the reclaimed land which would remain property of public
public or quasi-public use.71 dominion like the sea it replaced.76 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of
1866 adopted the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all lands
Section 8 of CA No. 141 provides that "only those lands shall be declared open that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant,
to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited and belong to the public domain."77
classified."72 The President has the authority to classify inalienable lands of
the public domain into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters must be read together with laws
pursuant to Section 6 of CA No. 141. In Laurel vs. Garcia,73 the Executive subsequently enacted on the disposition of public lands. In particular, CA No.
Department attempted to sell the Roppongi property in Tokyo, Japan, which 141 requires that lands of the public domain must first be classified as
was acquired by the Philippine Government for use as the Chancery of the alienable or disposable before the government can alienate them. These lands
Philippine Embassy. Although the Chancery had transferred to another must not be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes.78 Moreover, the
location thirteen years earlier, the Court still ruled that, under Article 42274 contract between CDCP and the government was executed after the effectivity
of the Civil Code, a property of public dominion retains such character until of the 1973 Constitution which barred private corporations from acquiring
formally declared otherwise. The Court ruled that – any kind of alienable land of the public domain. This contract could not have
converted the Freedom Islands into private lands of a private corporation.
"The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for actual
Embassy service does not automatically convert it to patrimonial property. Presidential Decree No. 3-A, issued on January 11, 1973, revoked all laws
Any such conversion happens only if the property is withdrawn from public authorizing the reclamation of areas under water and revested solely in the
use (Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. v. Bercilles, 66 SCRA 481 [1975]. A National Government the power to reclaim lands. Section 1 of PD No. 3-A
property continues to be part of the public domain, not available for private declared that –
appropriation or ownership 'until there is a formal declaration on the part of
the government to withdraw it from being such' (Ignacio v. Director of Lands, "The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the reclamation
108 Phil. 335 [1960]." (Emphasis supplied) of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the
National Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract.
PD No. 1085, issued on February 4, 1977, authorized the issuance of special (Emphasis supplied)
land patents for lands reclaimed by PEA from the foreshore or submerged
areas of Manila Bay. On January 19, 1988 then President Corazon C. Aquino x x x."
issued Special Patent No. 3517 in the name of PEA for the 157.84 hectares
comprising the partially reclaimed Freedom Islands. Subsequently, on April PD No. 3-A repealed Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 because
9, 1999 the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Paranaque issued TCT reclamation of areas under water could now be undertaken only by the
Nos. 7309, 7311 and 7312 in the name of PEA pursuant to Section 103 of PD National Government or by a person contracted by the National Government.
Private parties may reclaim from the sea only under a contract with the

Page 22 of 36
National Government, and no longer by grant or permission as provided in (4) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands, alienable and
Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. disposable public lands, mineral resources and, in the process of exercising
such control, impose appropriate taxes, fees, charges, rentals and any such
Executive Order No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979, designated PEA as the form of levy and collect such revenues for the exploration, development,
National Government's implementing arm to undertake "all reclamation utilization or gathering of such resources;
projects of the government," which "shall be undertaken by the PEA or
through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity." Under xxx
such contract, a private party receives compensation for reclamation services
rendered to PEA. Payment to the contractor may be in cash, or in kind (14) Promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines on the issuance of licenses,
consisting of portions of the reclaimed land, subject to the constitutional ban permits, concessions, lease agreements and such other privileges concerning
on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. the development, exploration and utilization of the country's marine,
The reclaimed land can be used as payment in kind only if the reclaimed land freshwater, and brackish water and over all aquatic resources of the country
is first classified as alienable or disposable land open to disposition, and then and shall continue to oversee, supervise and police our natural resources;
declared no longer needed for public service. cancel or cause to cancel such privileges upon failure, non-compliance or
violations of any regulation, order, and for all other causes which are in
The Amended JVA covers not only the Freedom Islands, but also an furtherance of the conservation of natural resources and supportive of the
additional 592.15 hectares which are still submerged and forming part of national interest;
Manila Bay. There is no legislative or Presidential act classifying these
submerged areas as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open (15) Exercise exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all
to disposition. These submerged areas are not covered by any patent or lands of the public domain and serve as the sole agency responsible for
certificate of title. There can be no dispute that these submerged areas form classification, sub-classification, surveying and titling of lands in consultation
part of the public domain, and in their present state are inalienable and with appropriate agencies."80 (Emphasis supplied)
outside the commerce of man. Until reclaimed from the sea, these submerged
areas are, under the Constitution, "waters x x x owned by the State," forming As manager, conservator and overseer of the natural resources of the State,
part of the public domain and consequently inalienable. Only when actually DENR exercises "supervision and control over alienable and disposable
reclaimed from the sea can these submerged areas be classified as public public lands." DENR also exercises "exclusive jurisdiction on the
agricultural lands, which under the Constitution are the only natural management and disposition of all lands of the public domain." Thus, DENR
resources that the State may alienate. Once reclaimed and transformed into decides whether areas under water, like foreshore or submerged areas of
public agricultural lands, the government may then officially classify these Manila Bay, should be reclaimed or not. This means that PEA needs
lands as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition. Thereafter, the authorization from DENR before PEA can undertake reclamation projects in
government may declare these lands no longer needed for public service. Manila Bay, or in any part of the country.
Only then can these reclaimed lands be considered alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain and within the commerce of man. DENR also exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the disposition of all lands of
the public domain. Hence, DENR decides whether reclaimed lands of PEA
The classification of PEA's reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands into should be classified as alienable under Sections 681 and 782 of CA No. 141.
alienable or disposable lands open to disposition is necessary because PEA is Once DENR decides that the reclaimed lands should be so classified, it then
tasked under its charter to undertake public services that require the use of recommends to the President the issuance of a proclamation classifying the
lands of the public domain. Under Section 5 of PD No. 1084, the functions of lands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open to
PEA include the following: "[T]o own or operate railroads, tramways and disposition. We note that then DENR Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr.
other kinds of land transportation, x x x; [T]o construct, maintain and countersigned Special Patent No. 3517 in compliance with the Revised
operate such systems of sanitary sewers as may be necessary; [T]o construct, Administrative Code and Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141.
maintain and operate such storm drains as may be necessary." PEA is
empowered to issue "rules and regulations as may be necessary for the proper In short, DENR is vested with the power to authorize the reclamation of areas
use by private parties of any or all of the highways, roads, utilities, buildings under water, while PEA is vested with the power to undertake the physical
and/or any of its properties and to impose or collect fees or tolls for their reclamation of areas under water, whether directly or through private
use." Thus, part of the reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands held by the contractors. DENR is also empowered to classify lands of the public domain
PEA would actually be needed for public use or service since many of the into alienable or disposable lands subject to the approval of the President. On
functions imposed on PEA by its charter constitute essential public services. the other hand, PEA is tasked to develop, sell or lease the reclaimed alienable
lands of the public domain.
Moreover, Section 1 of Executive Order No. 525 provides that PEA "shall be
primarily responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all Clearly, the mere physical act of reclamation by PEA of foreshore or
reclamation projects for and on behalf of the National Government." The submerged areas does not make the reclaimed lands alienable or disposable
same section also states that "[A]ll reclamation projects shall be approved by lands of the public domain, much less patrimonial lands of PEA. Likewise,
the President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be undertaken by the mere transfer by the National Government of lands of the public domain
the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or to PEA does not make the lands alienable or disposable lands of the public
entity; x x x." Thus, under EO No. 525, in relation to PD No. 3-A and PD No. domain, much less patrimonial lands of PEA.
1084, PEA became the primary implementing agency of the National
Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged lands of the public domain. Absent two official acts – a classification that these lands are alienable or
EO No. 525 recognized PEA as the government entity "to undertake the disposable and open to disposition and a declaration that these lands are not
reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in promoting needed for public service, lands reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands
public welfare and interests."79 Since large portions of these reclaimed lands of the public domain. Only such an official classification and formal
would obviously be needed for public service, there must be a formal declaration can convert reclaimed lands into alienable or disposable lands of
declaration segregating reclaimed lands no longer needed for public service the public domain, open to disposition under the Constitution, Title I and
from those still needed for public service.1âwphi1.nêt Title III83 of CA No. 141 and other applicable laws.84

Section 3 of EO No. 525, by declaring that all lands reclaimed by PEA "shall PEA's Authority to Sell Reclaimed Lands
belong to or be owned by the PEA," could not automatically operate to
classify inalienable lands into alienable or disposable lands of the public PEA, like the Legal Task Force, argues that as alienable or disposable lands of
domain. Otherwise, reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands of the public the public domain, the reclaimed lands shall be disposed of in accordance
domain would automatically become alienable once reclaimed by PEA, with CA No. 141, the Public Land Act. PEA, citing Section 60 of CA No. 141,
whether or not classified as alienable or disposable. admits that reclaimed lands transferred to a branch or subdivision of the
government "shall not be alienated, encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in
The Revised Administrative Code of 1987, a later law than either PD No. 1084 a manner affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress: x x x."85
or EO No. 525, vests in the Department of Environment and Natural (Emphasis by PEA)
Resources ("DENR" for brevity) the following powers and functions:
In Laurel vs. Garcia,86 the Court cited Section 48 of the Revised
"Sec. 4. Powers and Functions. The Department shall: Administrative Code of 1987, which states that –

(1) x x x "Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real
property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the deed of
xxx conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by the following: x
x x."

Page 23 of 36
legislative authority benefits only individuals. Private corporations remain
Thus, the Court concluded that a law is needed to convey any real property barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain,
belonging to the Government. The Court declared that - including government reclaimed lands.

"It is not for the President to convey real property of the government on his The provision in PD No. 1085 stating that portions of the reclaimed lands
or her own sole will. Any such conveyance must be authorized and approved could be transferred by PEA to the "contractor or his assignees" (Emphasis
by a law enacted by the Congress. It requires executive and legislative supplied) would not apply to private corporations but only to individuals
concurrence." (Emphasis supplied) because of the constitutional ban. Otherwise, the provisions of PD No. 1085
would violate both the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
PEA contends that PD No. 1085 and EO No. 525 constitute the legislative
authority allowing PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085, issued on The requirement of public auction in the sale of reclaimed lands
February 4, 1977, provides that –
Assuming the reclaimed lands of PEA are classified as alienable or disposable
"The land reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore area of Manila Bay lands open to disposition, and further declared no longer needed for public
pursuant to the contract for the reclamation and construction of the Manila- service, PEA would have to conduct a public bidding in selling or leasing
Cavite Coastal Road Project between the Republic of the Philippines and the these lands. PEA must observe the provisions of Sections 63 and 67 of CA No.
Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines dated 141 requiring public auction, in the absence of a law exempting PEA from
November 20, 1973 and/or any other contract or reclamation covering the holding a public auction.88 Special Patent No. 3517 expressly states that the
same area is hereby transferred, conveyed and assigned to the ownership and patent is issued by authority of the Constitution and PD No. 1084,
administration of the Public Estates Authority established pursuant to PD "supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended." This is an
No. 1084; Provided, however, That the rights and interests of the acknowledgment that the provisions of CA No. 141 apply to the disposition of
Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines pursuant to reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain unless otherwise provided by
the aforesaid contract shall be recognized and respected. law. Executive Order No. 654,89 which authorizes PEA "to determine the
kind and manner of payment for the transfer" of its assets and properties,
Henceforth, the Public Estates Authority shall exercise the rights and assume does not exempt PEA from the requirement of public auction. EO No. 654
the obligations of the Republic of the Philippines (Department of Public merely authorizes PEA to decide the mode of payment, whether in kind and
Highways) arising from, or incident to, the aforesaid contract between the in installment, but does not authorize PEA to dispense with public auction.
Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and Development
Corporation of the Philippines. Moreover, under Section 79 of PD No. 1445, otherwise known as the
Government Auditing Code, the government is required to sell valuable
In consideration of the foregoing transfer and assignment, the Public Estates government property through public bidding. Section 79 of PD No. 1445
Authority shall issue in favor of the Republic of the Philippines the mandates that –
corresponding shares of stock in said entity with an issued value of said
shares of stock (which) shall be deemed fully paid and non-assessable. "Section 79. When government property has become unserviceable for any
cause, or is no longer needed, it shall, upon application of the officer
The Secretary of Public Highways and the General Manager of the Public accountable therefor, be inspected by the head of the agency or his duly
Estates Authority shall execute such contracts or agreements, including authorized representative in the presence of the auditor concerned and, if
appropriate agreements with the Construction and Development Corporation found to be valueless or unsaleable, it may be destroyed in their presence. If
of the Philippines, as may be necessary to implement the above. found to be valuable, it may be sold at public auction to the highest bidder
under the supervision of the proper committee on award or similar body in
Special land patent/patents shall be issued by the Secretary of Natural the presence of the auditor concerned or other authorized representative of
Resources in favor of the Public Estates Authority without prejudice to the the Commission, after advertising by printed notice in the Official Gazette, or
subsequent transfer to the contractor or his assignees of such portion or for not less than three consecutive days in any newspaper of general
portions of the land reclaimed or to be reclaimed as provided for in the circulation, or where the value of the property does not warrant the expense
above-mentioned contract. On the basis of such patents, the Land of publication, by notices posted for a like period in at least three public
Registration Commission shall issue the corresponding certificate of places in the locality where the property is to be sold. In the event that the
title." (Emphasis supplied) public auction fails, the property may be sold at a private sale at such price as
may be fixed by the same committee or body concerned and approved by the
On the other hand, Section 3 of EO No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979, Commission."
provides that -
It is only when the public auction fails that a negotiated sale is allowed, in
"Sec. 3. All lands reclaimed by PEA shall belong to or be owned by the PEA which case the Commission on Audit must approve the selling price.90 The
which shall be responsible for its administration, development, utilization or Commission on Audit implements Section 79 of the Government Auditing
disposition in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. Code through Circular No. 89-29691 dated January 27, 1989. This circular
1084. Any and all income that the PEA may derive from the sale, lease or use emphasizes that government assets must be disposed of only through public
of reclaimed lands shall be used in accordance with the provisions of auction, and a negotiated sale can be resorted to only in case of "failure of
Presidential Decree No. 1084." public auction."

There is no express authority under either PD No. 1085 or EO No. 525 for At the public auction sale, only Philippine citizens are qualified to bid for
PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085 merely transferred "ownership PEA's reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public
and administration" of lands reclaimed from Manila Bay to PEA, while EO domain. Private corporations are barred from bidding at the auction sale of
No. 525 declared that lands reclaimed by PEA "shall belong to or be owned by any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
PEA." EO No. 525 expressly states that PEA should dispose of its reclaimed
lands "in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084," PEA originally scheduled a public bidding for the Freedom Islands on
the charter of PEA. December 10, 1991. PEA imposed a condition that the winning bidder should
reclaim another 250 hectares of submerged areas to regularize the shape of
PEA's charter, however, expressly tasks PEA "to develop, improve, acquire, the Freedom Islands, under a 60-40 sharing of the additional reclaimed areas
administer, deal in, subdivide, dispose, lease and sell any and all kinds of in favor of the winning bidder.92 No one, however, submitted a bid. On
lands x x x owned, managed, controlled and/or operated by the December 23, 1994, the Government Corporate Counsel advised PEA it could
government."87 (Emphasis supplied) There is, therefore, legislative authority sell the Freedom Islands through negotiation, without need of another public
granted to PEA to sell its lands, whether patrimonial or alienable lands of the bidding, because of the failure of the public bidding on December 10, 1991.93
public domain. PEA may sell to private parties its patrimonial properties in
accordance with the PEA charter free from constitutional limitations. The However, the original JVA dated April 25, 1995 covered not only the Freedom
constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of Islands and the additional 250 hectares still to be reclaimed, it also granted
the public domain does not apply to the sale of PEA's patrimonial lands. an option to AMARI to reclaim another 350 hectares. The original JVA, a
negotiated contract, enlarged the reclamation area to 750 hectares.94 The
PEA may also sell its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain to failure of public bidding on December 10, 1991, involving only 407.84
private individuals since, with the legislative authority, there is no longer any hectares,95 is not a valid justification for a negotiated sale of 750 hectares,
statutory prohibition against such sales and the constitutional ban does not almost double the area publicly auctioned. Besides, the failure of public
apply to individuals. PEA, however, cannot sell any of its alienable or bidding happened on December 10, 1991, more than three years before the
disposable lands of the public domain to private corporations since Section 3, signing of the original JVA on April 25, 1995. The economic situation in the
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits such sales. The country had greatly improved during the intervening period.

Page 24 of 36
and a certificate of title is issued, the land ceases to be part of the public
Reclamation under the BOT Law and the Local Government Code domain and becomes private property over which the Director of Lands has
neither control nor jurisdiction."
The constitutional prohibition in Section 3, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution is absolute and clear: "Private corporations or associations may 4. Manalo v. Intermediate Appellate Court,100 where the Court held –
not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, x x x."
Even Republic Act No. 6957 ("BOT Law," for brevity), cited by PEA and "When the lots in dispute were certified as disposable on May 19, 1971, and
AMARI as legislative authority to sell reclaimed lands to private parties, free patents were issued covering the same in favor of the private
recognizes the constitutional ban. Section 6 of RA No. 6957 states – respondents, the said lots ceased to be part of the public domain and,
therefore, the Director of Lands lost jurisdiction over the same."
"Sec. 6. Repayment Scheme. - For the financing, construction, operation and
maintenance of any infrastructure projects undertaken through the build- 5.Republic v. Court of Appeals,101 where the Court stated –
operate-and-transfer arrangement or any of its variations pursuant to the
provisions of this Act, the project proponent x x x may likewise be repaid in "Proclamation No. 350, dated October 9, 1956, of President Magsaysay
the form of a share in the revenue of the project or other non-monetary legally effected a land grant to the Mindanao Medical Center, Bureau of
payments, such as, but not limited to, the grant of a portion or percentage of Medical Services, Department of Health, of the whole lot, validly sufficient
the reclaimed land, subject to the constitutional requirements with respect to for initial registration under the Land Registration Act. Such land grant is
the ownership of the land: x x x." (Emphasis supplied) constitutive of a 'fee simple' title or absolute title in favor of petitioner
Mindanao Medical Center. Thus, Section 122 of the Act, which governs the
A private corporation, even one that undertakes the physical reclamation of a registration of grants or patents involving public lands, provides that
government BOT project, cannot acquire reclaimed alienable lands of the 'Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to the
public domain in view of the constitutional ban. Government of the United States or to the Government of the Philippines are
alienated, granted or conveyed to persons or to public or private
Section 302 of the Local Government Code, also mentioned by PEA and corporations, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this
AMARI, authorizes local governments in land reclamation projects to pay the Act (Land Registration Act, Act 496) and shall become registered lands.'"
contractor or developer in kind consisting of a percentage of the reclaimed
land, to wit: The first four cases cited involve petitions to cancel the land patents and the
corresponding certificates of titles issued to private parties. These four cases
"Section 302. Financing, Construction, Maintenance, Operation, and uniformly hold that the Director of Lands has no jurisdiction over private
Management of Infrastructure Projects by the Private Sector. x x x lands or that upon issuance of the certificate of title the land automatically
comes under the Torrens System. The fifth case cited involves the registration
xxx under the Torrens System of a 12.8-hectare public land granted by the
National Government to Mindanao Medical Center, a government unit under
In case of land reclamation or construction of industrial estates, the the Department of Health. The National Government transferred the 12.8-
repayment plan may consist of the grant of a portion or percentage of the hectare public land to serve as the site for the hospital buildings and other
reclaimed land or the industrial estate constructed." facilities of Mindanao Medical Center, which performed a public service. The
Court affirmed the registration of the 12.8-hectare public land in the name of
Although Section 302 of the Local Government Code does not contain a Mindanao Medical Center under Section 122 of Act No. 496. This fifth case is
proviso similar to that of the BOT Law, the constitutional restrictions on land an example of a public land being registered under Act No. 496 without the
ownership automatically apply even though not expressly mentioned in the land losing its character as a property of public dominion.
Local Government Code.
In the instant case, the only patent and certificates of title issued are those in
Thus, under either the BOT Law or the Local Government Code, the the name of PEA, a wholly government owned corporation performing public
contractor or developer, if a corporate entity, can only be paid with as well as proprietary functions. No patent or certificate of title has been
leaseholds on portions of the reclaimed land. If the contractor or developer is issued to any private party. No one is asking the Director of Lands to cancel
an individual, portions of the reclaimed land, not exceeding 12 hectares96 of PEA's patent or certificates of title. In fact, the thrust of the instant petition is
non-agricultural lands, may be conveyed to him in ownership in view of the that PEA's certificates of title should remain with PEA, and the land covered
legislative authority allowing such conveyance. This is the only way these by these certificates, being alienable lands of the public domain, should not
provisions of the BOT Law and the Local Government Code can avoid a direct be sold to a private corporation.
collision with Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Registration of land under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 does not vest in the
Registration of lands of the public domain registrant private or public ownership of the land. Registration is not a mode
of acquiring ownership but is merely evidence of ownership previously
Finally, PEA theorizes that the "act of conveying the ownership of the conferred by any of the recognized modes of acquiring ownership.
reclaimed lands to public respondent PEA transformed such lands of the Registration does not give the registrant a better right than what the
public domain to private lands." This theory is echoed by AMARI which registrant had prior to the registration.102 The registration of lands of the
maintains that the "issuance of the special patent leading to the eventual public domain under the Torrens system, by itself, cannot convert public
issuance of title takes the subject land away from the land of public domain lands into private lands.103
and converts the property into patrimonial or private property." In short,
PEA and AMARI contend that with the issuance of Special Patent No. 3517 Jurisprudence holding that upon the grant of the patent or issuance of the
and the corresponding certificates of titles, the 157.84 hectares comprising certificate of title the alienable land of the public domain automatically
the Freedom Islands have become private lands of PEA. In support of their becomes private land cannot apply to government units and entities like PEA.
theory, PEA and AMARI cite the following rulings of the Court: The transfer of the Freedom Islands to PEA was made subject to the
provisions of CA No. 141 as expressly stated in Special Patent No. 3517 issued
1. Sumail v. Judge of CFI of Cotabato,97 where the Court held – by then President Aquino, to wit:

"Once the patent was granted and the corresponding certificate of title was "NOW, THEREFORE, KNOW YE, that by authority of the Constitution of the
issued, the land ceased to be part of the public domain and became private Philippines and in conformity with the provisions of Presidential Decree No.
property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor 1084, supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, there are
jurisdiction." hereby granted and conveyed unto the Public Estates Authority the aforesaid
tracts of land containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen
2. Lee Hong Hok v. David,98 where the Court declared - thousand eight hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters; the technical
description of which are hereto attached and made an integral part
"After the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate hereof." (Emphasis supplied)
of title based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically
comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards Thus, the provisions of CA No. 141 apply to the Freedom Islands on matters
provided therein."3. Heirs of Gregorio Tengco v. Heirs of Jose Aliwalas,99 not covered by PD No. 1084. Section 60 of CA No. 141 prohibits, "except
where the Court ruled - when authorized by Congress," the sale of alienable lands of the public
domain that are transferred to government units or entities. Section 60 of CA
"While the Director of Lands has the power to review homestead patents, he No. 141 constitutes, under Section 44 of PD No. 1529, a "statutory lien
may do so only so long as the land remains part of the public domain and affecting title" of the registered land even if not annotated on the certificate
continues to be under his exclusive control; but once the patent is registered of title.104 Alienable lands of the public domain held by government entities

Page 25 of 36
under Section 60 of CA No. 141 remain public lands because they cannot be to PEA and issued land patents or certificates of title in PEA's name does not
alienated or encumbered unless Congress passes a law authorizing their automatically make such lands private.
disposition. Congress, however, cannot authorize the sale to private
corporations of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain because of the To allow vast areas of reclaimed lands of the public domain to be transferred
constitutional ban. Only individuals can benefit from such law. to PEA as private lands will sanction a gross violation of the constitutional
ban on private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the
The grant of legislative authority to sell public lands in accordance with public domain. PEA will simply turn around, as PEA has now done under the
Section 60 of CA No. 141 does not automatically convert alienable lands of Amended JVA, and transfer several hundreds of hectares of these reclaimed
the public domain into private or patrimonial lands. The alienable lands of and still to be reclaimed lands to a single private corporation in only one
the public domain must be transferred to qualified private parties, or to transaction. This scheme will effectively nullify the constitutional ban in
government entities not tasked to dispose of public lands, before these lands Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which was intended to diffuse
can become private or patrimonial lands. Otherwise, the constitutional ban equitably the ownership of alienable lands of the public domain among
will become illusory if Congress can declare lands of the public domain as Filipinos, now numbering over 80 million strong.
private or patrimonial lands in the hands of a government agency tasked to
dispose of public lands. This will allow private corporations to acquire This scheme, if allowed, can even be applied to alienable agricultural lands of
directly from government agencies limitless areas of lands which, prior to the public domain since PEA can "acquire x x x any and all kinds of lands."
such law, are concededly public lands. This will open the floodgates to corporations and even individuals acquiring
hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the guise
Under EO No. 525, PEA became the central implementing agency of the that in the hands of PEA these lands are private lands. This will result in
National Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged areas of the public corporations amassing huge landholdings never before seen in this country -
domain. Thus, EO No. 525 declares that – creating the very evil that the constitutional ban was designed to prevent.
This will completely reverse the clear direction of constitutional development
"EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 525 in this country. The 1935 Constitution allowed private corporations to
acquire not more than 1,024 hectares of public lands.105 The 1973
Designating the Public Estates Authority as the Agency Primarily Constitution prohibited private corporations from acquiring any kind of
Responsible for all Reclamation Projects public land, and the 1987 Constitution has unequivocally reiterated this
prohibition.
Whereas, there are several reclamation projects which are ongoing or being
proposed to be undertaken in various parts of the country which need to be The contention of PEA and AMARI that public lands, once registered under
evaluated for consistency with national programs; Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529, automatically become private lands is contrary
to existing laws. Several laws authorize lands of the public domain to be
Whereas, there is a need to give further institutional support to the registered under the Torrens System or Act No. 496, now PD No. 1529,
Government's declared policy to provide for a coordinated, economical and without losing their character as public lands. Section 122 of Act No. 496, and
efficient reclamation of lands; Section 103 of PD No. 1529, respectively, provide as follows:

Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 3-A requires that all reclamation of areas Act No. 496
shall be limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it
under proper contract; "Sec. 122. Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to the x
x x Government of the Philippine Islands are alienated, granted, or conveyed
Whereas, a central authority is needed to act on behalf of the National to persons or the public or private corporations, the same shall be brought
Government which shall ensure a coordinated and integrated approach in the forthwith under the operation of this Act and shall become registered lands."
reclamation of lands;
PD No. 1529
Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1084 creates the Public Estates Authority
as a government corporation to undertake reclamation of lands and ensure "Sec. 103. Certificate of Title to Patents. Whenever public land is by the
their maximum utilization in promoting public welfare and interests; and Government alienated, granted or conveyed to any person, the same shall be
brought forthwith under the operation of this Decree." (Emphasis supplied)
Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1416 provides the President with
continuing authority to reorganize the national government including the Based on its legislative history, the phrase "conveyed to any person" in
transfer, abolition, or merger of functions and offices. Section 103 of PD No. 1529 includes conveyances of public lands to public
corporations.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the
Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and Alienable lands of the public domain "granted, donated, or transferred to a
pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1416, do hereby order and direct the province, municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government," as
following: provided in Section 60 of CA No. 141, may be registered under the Torrens
System pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. 1529. Such registration, however,
Section 1. The Public Estates Authority (PEA) shall be primarily responsible is expressly subject to the condition in Section 60 of CA No. 141 that the land
for integrating, directing, and coordinating all reclamation projects for and "shall not be alienated, encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner
on behalf of the National Government. All reclamation projects shall be affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress." This provision refers
approved by the President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be to government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain
undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any that have been titled but still cannot be alienated or encumbered unless
person or entity; Provided, that, reclamation projects of any national expressly authorized by Congress. The need for legislative authority prevents
government agency or entity authorized under its charter shall be undertaken the registered land of the public domain from becoming private land that can
in consultation with the PEA upon approval of the President. be disposed of to qualified private parties.

x x x ." The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 also recognizes that lands of the
public domain may be registered under the Torrens System. Section 48,
As the central implementing agency tasked to undertake reclamation projects Chapter 12, Book I of the Code states –
nationwide, with authority to sell reclaimed lands, PEA took the place of
DENR as the government agency charged with leasing or selling reclaimed "Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real
lands of the public domain. The reclaimed lands being leased or sold by PEA property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the deed of
are not private lands, in the same manner that DENR, when it disposes of conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by the following:
other alienable lands, does not dispose of private lands but alienable lands of
the public domain. Only when qualified private parties acquire these lands (1) x x x
will the lands become private lands. In the hands of the government agency
tasked and authorized to dispose of alienable of disposable lands of the public (2) For property belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, but titled in the
domain, these lands are still public, not private lands. name of any political subdivision or of any corporate agency or
instrumentality, by the executive head of the agency or
Furthermore, PEA's charter expressly states that PEA "shall hold lands of the instrumentality." (Emphasis supplied)
public domain" as well as "any and all kinds of lands." PEA can hold both
lands of the public domain and private lands. Thus, the mere fact that Thus, private property purchased by the National Government for expansion
alienable lands of the public domain like the Freedom Islands are transferred of a public wharf may be titled in the name of a government corporation

Page 26 of 36
regulating port operations in the country. Private property purchased by the disposable lands open to disposition and declared no longer needed for
National Government for expansion of an airport may also be titled in the public service. The government can make such classification and declaration
name of the government agency tasked to administer the airport. Private only after PEA has reclaimed these submerged areas. Only then can these
property donated to a municipality for use as a town plaza or public school lands qualify as agricultural lands of the public domain, which are the only
site may likewise be titled in the name of the municipality.106 All these natural resources the government can alienate. In their present state, the
properties become properties of the public domain, and if already registered 592.15 hectares of submerged areas are inalienable and outside the
under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529, remain registered land. There is no commerce of man.
requirement or provision in any existing law for the de-registration of land
from the Torrens System. 3. Since the Amended JVA seeks to transfer to AMARI, a private corporation,
ownership of 77.34 hectares110 of the Freedom Islands, such transfer is void
Private lands taken by the Government for public use under its power of for being contrary to Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which
eminent domain become unquestionably part of the public domain. prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of
Nevertheless, Section 85 of PD No. 1529 authorizes the Register of Deeds to the public domain.
issue in the name of the National Government new certificates of title
covering such expropriated lands. Section 85 of PD No. 1529 states – 4. Since the Amended JVA also seeks to transfer to AMARI ownership of
290.156 hectares111 of still submerged areas of Manila Bay, such transfer is
"Sec. 85. Land taken by eminent domain. Whenever any registered land, or void for being contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution
interest therein, is expropriated or taken by eminent domain, the National which prohibits the alienation of natural resources other than agricultural
Government, province, city or municipality, or any other agency or lands of the public domain. PEA may reclaim these submerged areas.
instrumentality exercising such right shall file for registration in the proper Thereafter, the government can classify the reclaimed lands as alienable or
Registry a certified copy of the judgment which shall state definitely by an disposable, and further declare them no longer needed for public service.
adequate description, the particular property or interest expropriated, the Still, the transfer of such reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain to
number of the certificate of title, and the nature of the public use. A AMARI will be void in view of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution
memorandum of the right or interest taken shall be made on each certificate which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable
of title by the Register of Deeds, and where the fee simple is taken, a new land of the public domain.
certificate shall be issued in favor of the National Government, province, city,
municipality, or any other agency or instrumentality exercising such right for Clearly, the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of
the land so taken. The legal expenses incident to the memorandum of the 1987 Constitution. Under Article 1409112 of the Civil Code, contracts
registration or issuance of a new certificate of title shall be for the account of whose "object or purpose is contrary to law," or whose "object is outside the
the authority taking the land or interest therein." (Emphasis supplied) commerce of men," are "inexistent and void from the beginning." The Court
must perform its duty to defend and uphold the Constitution, and therefore
Consequently, lands registered under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 are not declares the Amended JVA null and void ab initio.
exclusively private or patrimonial lands. Lands of the public domain may also
be registered pursuant to existing laws. Seventh issue: whether the Court is the proper forum to raise the issue of
whether the Amended JVA is grossly disadvantageous to the government.
AMARI makes a parting shot that the Amended JVA is not a sale to AMARI
of the Freedom Islands or of the lands to be reclaimed from submerged areas Considering that the Amended JVA is null and void ab initio, there is no
of Manila Bay. In the words of AMARI, the Amended JVA "is not a sale but a necessity to rule on this last issue. Besides, the Court is not a trier of facts,
joint venture with a stipulation for reimbursement of the original cost and this last issue involves a determination of factual matters.
incurred by PEA for the earlier reclamation and construction works
performed by the CDCP under its 1973 contract with the Republic." Whether WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Public Estates Authority and
the Amended JVA is a sale or a joint venture, the fact remains that the Amari Coastal Bay Development Corporation are PERMANENTLY
Amended JVA requires PEA to "cause the issuance and delivery of the ENJOINED from implementing the Amended Joint Venture Agreement
certificates of title conveying AMARI's Land Share in the name of which is hereby declared NULL and VOID ab initio.
AMARI."107
SO ORDERED.
This stipulation still contravenes Section 3, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution which provides that private corporations "shall not hold such Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban,
alienable lands of the public domain except by lease." The transfer of title and Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, and
ownership to AMARI clearly means that AMARI will "hold" the reclaimed Corona, JJ., concur.
lands other than by lease. The transfer of title and ownership is a
"disposition" of the reclaimed lands, a transaction considered a sale or ———————————
alienation under CA No. 141,108 the Government Auditing Code,109 and
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. G.R. No. 103882 November 25, 1998

The Regalian doctrine is deeply implanted in our legal system. Foreshore and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
submerged areas form part of the public domain and are inalienable. Lands vs.
reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas also form part of the public THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE
domain and are also inalienable, unless converted pursuant to law into CORPORATION, respondents, CULTURAL CENTER OF THE
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Historically, lands PHILIPPINES, intervenor.
reclaimed by the government are sui generis, not available for sale to private
parties unlike other alienable public lands. Reclaimed lands retain their G.R. No. 105276 November 25, 1998
inherent potential as areas for public use or public service. Alienable lands of
the public domain, increasingly becoming scarce natural resources, are to be PASAY CITY AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, petitioners,
distributed equitably among our ever-growing population. To insure such vs.
equitable distribution, the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions have barred private COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
Those who attempt to dispose of inalienable natural resources of the State, or
seek to circumvent the constitutional ban on alienation of lands of the public PURISIMA, J.:
domain to private corporations, do so at their own risk.
At bar are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45
We can now summarize our conclusions as follows: of the Revised Rules of Court. Here, the Court is confronted with a case
commenced before the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial
1. The 157.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands, Court) of Rizal in Pasay City, in 1961, more than 3 decades back, that has
now covered by certificates of title in the name of PEA, are alienable lands of spanned six administrations of the Republic and outlasted the tenure of ten
the public domain. PEA may lease these lands to private corporations but (10) Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.
may not sell or transfer ownership of these lands to private corporations.
PEA may only sell these lands to Philippine citizens, subject to the ownership In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines, as petitioner, assails the
limitations in the 1987 Constitution and existing laws. Decision, dated January 29, 1992 and Amended Decision, dated April 28,
1992, of the Court of Appeals1 which affirmed with modification the Decision
2. The 592.15 hectares of submerged areas of Manila Bay remain inalienable of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) in Civil
natural resources of the public domain until classified as alienable or

Page 27 of 36
Case No. 2229-P, entitled "Republic of the Philippines vs. Pasay City and xxx xxx xxx
Republic Real Estate Corporation".
m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from
The facts that matter are, as follows: the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and
from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of
Republic Act No. 1899 ("RA 1899"), which was approved on June 22, 1957, Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the
authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction
municipalities. Section I of said law, reads: of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shall be given to
any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own
Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may,
cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by after competitive didding, award contracts for the construction of such
dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and project, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be
to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty
docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full
determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law
Public Works and Communications. concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary
notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of
On May 6, 1958, invoking the a forecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay City other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary
Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three Hundred notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or
(300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the City Mayor municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged
to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and prescribing terms and lands shall be respected. . . . . (emphasis ours).
conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was amended on April 21, 1959 by
Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the Republic Real Estate Corporation Since the aforecited law provides that existing contracts shall be respected,
("RREC") to reclaim foreshore lands of Pasay City under certain terms and movants contended that the issues raised by the pleadings have become
conditions. "moot, academic and of no further validity or effect."

On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement 2 for the Meanwhile, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. ("PLCU") moved to
reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City. intervene 11, alleging as legal interest in the matter in litigation the avowed
purpose of the organization for the promotion of good government in Pasay
On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines ("Republic") filed a City. In its Order of June 10, 1969, the lower court of origin allowed the said
Complaint 3 for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of intervention 12.
Preliminary Preventive injunction and Mandatory Injunction, docketed as
Civil Case No. 2229-P before the former Court of First Instance of Rizal, On March 24, 1972, the trial court of origin came out with a Decision,
(Branch 7, Pasay City). disposing, thus:

On March 5, 1962, the Republic of the Philippines filed an Amended WHEREFORE, after carefully considering (1) the original complaint, (2) the
Complaint 4 questioning subject Agreement between Pasay City and RREC first Amended Complaint, (3) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate
(Exhibit "P") on the grounds that the subject-matter of such Agreement is Corporation to the first Amended Complaint, (4) the Answer of Defendant
outside the commerce of man, that its terms and conditions are violative of Pasay City to the first Amended Complaint, (5) the Second Amended
RA 1899, and that the said Agreement was executed without any public Complaint, (6) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to
bidding. the Second Amended Complaint, (7) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to
the Second Amended Complaint, (8) the Memorandum in Support of
The Answers 5 of RREC and Pasay City, dated March 10 and March 14, 1962, Preliminary Injunction of Plaintiff, (9) the Memorandum In Support of the
respectively, averred that the subject-matter of said Agreement is within the Opposition to the Issuance of Preliminary Injunction of Defendant Pasay City
commerce of man, that the phrase "foreshore lands" within the and Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (10) the Answer in
contemplation of RA 1899 has a broader meaning than the cited definition of Intervention of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (11) Plaintiff's Opposition to
the term in the Words and Phrases and in the Webster's Third New Motion to Intervene, (12) the Reply to Opposition to Motion to Intervene of
International Dictionary and the plans and specifications of the reclamation Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (13) the Stipulation of Facts by all the parties,
involved were approved by the authorities concerned. (14) the Motion for Leave to Intervene of Intervenor Pasay Law and
Conscience Union, Inc., (15) the Opposition to Motion For Leave to Intervene
On April 26,1962, Judge Angel H. Mojica, (now deceased) of the former of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (16) the Reply of Intervenor Pasay Law and
Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) issued an Order6 the Conscience Union, Inc., (17) the Supplement to Opposition to Motion to
dispositive portion of which was to the following effect: Intervene of Defendant Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation (18)
the Complain in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience
WHEREFORE, the court hereby orders the defendants, their agents, and all Union, Inc., (19) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation,
persons claiming under them, to refrain from "further reclaiming or (20) the Answer of Intervenor Jose L. Bautista, et. al., to Complaint in
committing acts of dispossession or dispoilation over any area within the Intervention, (21) the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Republic Real Estate
Manila Bay or the Manila Bay Beach Resort", until further orders of the Corporation, and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (22) the Opposition of Plaintiff
court. to said Motion to Dismiss, (23) the Opposition of Intervenor Pasay Law and
Conscience Union, Inc., (24) the Memorandum of the Defendant Republic
On the following day, the same trial court issued a writ of preliminary Real Estate Corporation, (25) the Memorandum for the Intervenor Pasay
injunction 7 which enjoined the defendants, RREC and Pasay City, their Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (26) the Manifestation of Plaintiff filed by
agents, and all persons claiming under them "from further reclaiming or the Office of the Solicitor General, and all the documentary evidence by the
committing acts of dispossession." parties to wit: (a) Plaintiff's Exhibits "A" to "YYY- 4", (b) Defendant Republic
Real Estate Corporation's Exhibits "1-RREC" to "40-a" and (c) Intervenor
Thereafter, a Motion to Intervene8, dated June 27, 1962, was filed by Jose L. Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc's., Exhibits "A-PLACU" to "C-PLACU",
Bautista, Emiliano Custodio, Renato Custodio, Roger de la Rosa, Belen the Court hereby:
Gonzales, Norma Martiner, Emilia E. Paez, Ambrosio R. Parreno, Antolin M.
Oreta, Sixto L. Orosa, Pablo S. Sarmiento, Jesus Yujuico, Zamora (1) Denies the "Motion to Dismiss" filed on January 10, 1968, by
Enterprises, Inc., Industrial and Commercial Factors, Inc., Metropolitan Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Intervenors Bautista, et. al.,
Distributors of the Philippines, and Bayview Hotel, Inc. stating inter alia that as it is the finding of this Court that Republic Act No. 5187 was not passed by
they were buyers of lots in the Manila Bay area being reclaimed by RREC, Congress to cure any defect in the ordinance and agreement in question and
whose rights would be affected by whatever decision to be rendered in the that the passage of said Republic Act No. 5187 did not make the legal issues
case. The Motion was granted by the trial court and the Answer attached raised in the pleadings "moot, academic and of no further validity or effect;"
thereto admitted.9 and

The defendants and the intervenors then moved to dismiss 10 the Complaint (2) Renders judgment:
of the Republic, placing reliance on Section 3 of Republic Act No. 5187, which
reads: (a) dismissing the Plaintiff's Complaint;

Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects (b) Dismissing the Complaint in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law
and Conscience Union, Inc.,

Page 28 of 36
On February 14, 1992, Pasay City and RREC presented a Motion for
(c) Enjoining Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Reconsideration of such Decision of the Court of Appeals, contending, among
Defendant Pasay City to have all the plans and specifications in the others, that RREC had actually reclaimed Fifty-Five (55) hectares, and not
reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works and to have all the only Twenty-one (21) hectares, and the respondent Court of Appeals erred in
contracts and sub-contracts for said reclamation awarded by means of, and not awarding damages to them, movants.
only after, public bidding; and
On April 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals acted favorably on the said Motion
(d) Lifting the preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on April 26, for Reconsideration, by amending the dispositive portion of its judgment of
1962, as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant January 28, 1992, to read as follows:
Pasay City shall have submitted the corresponding plans and specifications to
the Director of Public Works, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and WHEREFORE, the dispositive portion of our Decision dated January 28,
as soon as the corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor 1992 is hereby AMENDED to read as follows:
and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project shall have
been effected. 1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the
submission of the RREC's plans and specification to the Department of
No pronouncement as to costs. Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the
implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and
SO ORDERED. (See Court of Appeals' Decision dated January 28, 1992; pp. academic.
6-8)
2. Ordering plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the
Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the Republic appealed therefrom to the ownership and possession of the above enumerated lots (1 to 9).
Court of Appeals. However, on January 11, 1973, before the appeal could be
resolved, Presidential Decree No. 3-A issued, amending Presidential Decree 3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%)
No. 3, thus: percent of the land referred to in No. 2 of this dispositive portion, to be
exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this Decision, at the same
Sec. 1. Section 7 of Presidential Decree No. 3, dated September 26, 1972, terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract,
is hereby amended by the addition of the following paragraphs: and enjoining Pasay City to respect RREC's irrevocable option.

The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the reclamation of SO ORDERED.
areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the
National Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract. From the Decision and Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals
aforementioned, the Republic of the Philippines, as well as Pasay City and
All reclamations made in violation of this provision shall be forfeited to the RREC, have come to this Court to seek relief, albeit with different prayers.
State without need of judicial action.
On September 10, 1997, the Court commissioned the former thirteenth
Contracts for reclamation still legally existing or whose validity has been Division of Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy.
accepted by the National Government shall be taken over by the National The corresponding Commissioner's Report, dated November 25, 1997, was
Government on the basis of quantum meruit, for proper prosecution of the submitted and now forms part of the records.
project involved by administration.
On October 11, 1997, the Cultural Center of the Philippines ("CCP") filed a
On November 20, 1973, the Republic and the Construction Development Petition in Intervention, theorizing that it has a direct interest in the case
Corporation of the Philippines ("CDCP") signed a Contract13 for the Manila- being the owner of subject nine (9) lots titled in its (CCP) name, which the
Cavite Coastal Road Project (Phases I and II) which contract included the respondent Court of Appeals ordered to be turned over to Pasay City. The
reclamation and development of areas covered by the Agreement between CCP, as such intervenor, was allowed to present its evidence, as it did, before
Pasay City and RREC. Then, there was issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 the Court of Appeals, which evidence has been considered in the formulation
which transferred to the Public Estate Authority ("PEA") the rights and of this disposition.
obligations of the Republic of the Philippines under the contract between the
Republic and CDCP. In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines theorizes, by way of
assignment of errors, that:
Attempts to settle amicably the dispute between representatives of the
Republic, on the one hand, and those of Pasay City and RREC, on the other, I
did not work out. The parties involved failed to hammer out a compromise.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY OF
On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals came out with a Decision 14 PASAY CITY ORDINANCE NO. 158 DATED APRIL 21, 1959 AND THE
dismissing the appeal of the Republic and holding, thus: RECLAMATION CONTRACT ENTERED INTO BETWEEN PASAY CITY
AND RREC;
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the
following modifications: II

1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT RREC HAD
submission of RREC's plans specification to the Department Public Works RECLAIMED 55 HECTARES AND IN ORDERING THE TURN-OVER TO
and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the PASAY CITY OF THE OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION OF NINE (9) LOTS
reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic; TITLED IN THE NAME OF CCP.

2. Ordering the plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the In G.R. No. 105276, the petitioners, Pasay City and RREC, contend, that:
ownership and possession over all vacant spaces in the twenty-one hectare
area already reclaimed by Pasay City and RREC at the time it took over the I
same. Areas thereat over which permanent structures has (sic) been
introduced shall, including the structures, remain in the possession of the THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING PRESIDENTIAL
present possessor, subject to any negotiation between Pasay City and the said DECREE NO. 3-A UNCONSTITUTIONAL;
present possessor, as regards the continued possession and ownership of the
latter area. II

3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%) THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT AWARDING DAMAGES IN
percent of the Twenty-One (21) hectares of land already reclaimed by it, to be FAVOR OF PASAY CITY AND RREC.
exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this decision, at the same
terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, Let us first tackle the issues posed in G.R. No. 103882.
and enjoining appellee Pasay City to respect RREC's option.
On the first question regarding the validity of Pasay City Ordinance No. 158
SO ORDERED. dated April 21, 1959 and the Agreement dated April 24, 1959 between Pasay
City and RREC, we rule in the negative.

Page 29 of 36
Sec. 1 of RA 1899, reads: the general tenor of the whole statute and thus obscurities end ambiguities
may often be cleared up by the most direct and natural means. Secondly
Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered effect must be given, if it is possible, to every word and clause of the statute,
cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by so that nothing shall be left devoid of meaning or destitute of force. To this
dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and end, each provision of the statute should be read in the light of the whole. For
to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate the general meaning of the legislature, as gathered from the entire act, may
docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may often prevail over the construction which would appear to be the most
determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of natural and obvious on the face of a particular clause. If is by this means that
Public Works and Communications. contradiction and repugnance between the different parts of the statute may
be avoided. (See Black, Interpretation of Laws, 2nd Ed., pp. 317-319).
It is the submission of the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, that there
are no foreshore lands along the seaside of Pasay City 15; that what Pasay Resorting to extrinsic aids, the "Explanatory Note" to House Bill No. 3830,
City has are submerged or offshore areas outside the commerce of man which which was subsequently enacted as Republic Act No. 1899, reads:
could not be a proper subject matter of the Agreement between Pasay City
and RREC in question as the area affected is within the National Park, known In order to develop and expand the Maritime Commerce of the Philippines, it
as Manila Bay Beach Resort, established under Proclamation No. 41, dated is necessary that harbor facilities be correspondingly improved and, where
July 5, 1954, pursuant to Act No. 3915, of which area it (Republic) has been in necessary, expanded and developed. The national government is not in a
open, continuous and peaceful possession since time immemorial. financial position to handle all this work. On the other hand, with a greater
autonomy many chartered cities and provinces are financially able to have
Petitioner faults the respondent court for unduly expanding what may be credit position which will allow them to undertake these projects. Some
considered "foreshore land" through the following disquisition: cities, such as the City of Bacolod under R.A. 161, has been authorized to
reclaim foreshore lands bordering it.
The former Secretary of Justice Alejo Mabanag, in response to a request for
an opinion from the then Secretary of Public Works and Communications as Other cities end provinces have continuously been requesting for authority to
to whether the term, "foreshore areas" as used in Section I of the immediately reclaim foreshore lands on the basis of the Bacolod City pattern, and to
aforequoted law is that defined in Webster's Dictionary and the Law of undertake work to establish, construct on the reclaimed area and maintain
Waters so as to make any dredging or filling beyond its prescribed limit such port facilities as may be necessary. In order not to unduly delay the
illegal, opined: undertaking of these projects, and inorder to obviate the passage of
individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and province, it is
According to the basic letter of the Director of Public Works, the law of hereby recommended that the accompanying bill be approved. It covers
Waters speaks of "shore" and defines it thus: "that space movement of the Authority for All chartered cities and provinces to undertake this work. . . .
tide. Its interior or terrestrial limit in the line reached by highest equinoctial (emphasis supplied)
tides."
Utilizing the above explanatory note in interpreting and construing the
Webster's definition of foreshore reads as follows: provisions of R.A. 1899, then Secretary of Justice Mabanag opined:

That part of the shore between high water and low-water marks usually fixed It is clear that the "Bacolod City pattern" was the basis of the enactment of
at the line to which the ordinary means tide flows: also, by extension, the the aforementioned bill of general application. This so-called "Bacolod City
beach, the shore near the water's edge. pattern" appears to be composed of 3 parts, namely: Republic Ad No. 161,
which grants authority to Bacolod City to undertake or carry out . . . the
If we were to be strictly literal the term foreshore or foreshore lands should reclamation . . . of any [sic] carry out the reclamation project conformably
be confined to but a portion of the shore, in itself a very limited area. (p. 6, with Republic Act No. 161; and Republic Act No. 1132 authorizing Bacolod
Intervenors-appellees' brief). City to contract indebtedness or to issue bonds in the amount not exceeding
six million pesos to finance the reclamation of land in said city.
Bearing in mind the (Webster's and Law of Waters) definitions of "shore" and
of foreshore lands, one is struck with the apparent inconsistency between the Republic Act No. 161 did not in itself specify the precise space therein
areas thus described and the purpose to which that area, when reclaimed referred to as "foreshore" lands, but it provided that docking and harbor
under the provision of Republic Act No. 1899, shall be devoted. Section I (of facilities should be erected on the reclaimed portions thereof, while not
said Law) authorizes the construction thereat of "adequate docking and conclusive would indicate that Congress used the word "foreshore" in its
harbor facilities". This purpose is repeated in Sections 3 and 4 of the Act. broadest sense. Significantly, the plan of reclamation of foreshore drawn up
by the Bureau of Public Works maps out an area of approximately 1,600,000
And yet, it is well known fact that foreshore lands normally extend only from square meters, the boundaries of which clearly extend way beyond Webster's
10 to 20 meters along the coast. Not very much more if at all. In fact certain limited concept of the term "foreshore". As a contemporaneous construction
parts in Manila bordering on Manila Bay, has no foreshore to speak of since by that branch of the Government empowered to oversee at least, the conduct
the sea washes the sea wall. of the work, such an interpretation deserves great weight. Finally, Congress
in enacting Republic Act No. 1132 (supplement to RA 161), tacitly confirmed
It does not seem logical, then, that Congress had in mind. Webster's limited and approved the Bureau's interpretation of the term 'foreshore' when
concept of foreshore when it enacted Republic Act No. 1899, unless it intends instead of taking the occasion to correct the Bureau of over extending its
that the wharves, piers, docks, etc. should be constructed parallel to the plan, it authorized the city of Bacolod to raise the full estimated cost of
shore, which is impractical. reclaiming the total area covered by the plan. The explanatory note to House
Bill No. 1249 which became Republic Act No. 1132 states among the things:
Since it is to be presumed that Congress could not have intended to enact an
ineffectual measure not one that would lead to absurd consequences, it would The Bureau of Public Works already prepared a plan for the reclamation of
seem that it used "foreshore" in a sense wider in scope that defined by about 1,600,000 square meters of land at an estimated costs of about
Webster. . . . P6,000,000.00. The project is self-supporting because the proceeds from the
sales or leases of lands so reclaimed will be more than sufficient to cover the
To said opinion on the interpretation of the R.A. 1899, plaintiff-appellant cost of the project.
could not offer any refutation or contrary opinion. Neither can we. In fact, the
above construction is consistent with the "rule on context" in statutory Consequently, when Congress passed Republic Act No. 1899 in order to
construction which provides that in construing a statute, the same must be facilitate the reclamation by local governments of foreshore lands on the
construed as a whole. The particular words, clauses and phrases should not basis of the Bacolod City pattern and in order to obviate the passage of
be studied as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and provinces
of the statute must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in requesting authority to undertake such projects, the lawmaking body could
order to produce a harmonious whole (see Araneta vs. Concepcion, 99 Phil. not have had in mind the limited area described by Webster as "foreshore"
709). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the force and significance of lands. . . . .
particular expressions will largely depend upon the connection in which they
are found and their relation to the general subject-matter of the law. The If it was really the intention of Congress to limit the area to the strict literal
legislature must be understood to have expressed its whole mind on the meaning of "foreshore" lands which may be reclaimed by chartered cities and
special object to which the legislative act is directed but the vehicle for the municipalities, Congress would have excluded the cities of Manila, Iloilo,
expressions of that meaning is the statute, considered as one entire and Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao from the operation of RA 1899 as suggested by
continuous act, and not as an agglomeration of unrelated clauses. Each Senator Cuenco during the deliberation of the bill considering that these
clause or provision will be illuminated by those which are cognate to it and by cities do not have 'foreshore' lands in the strict meaning of the term. Yet,

Page 30 of 36
Congress did not approve the proposed amendment of Senator Cuenco, The duty of the court is to interpret the enabling Act, RA 1899. In so doing,
implying therefore, that Congress intended not to limit the area that may be we cannot broaden its meaning, much less widen the coverage thereof. If the
reclaimed to the strict definition of "foreshore" lands. intention of Congress were to include submerged areas, it should have
provided expressly. That Congress did not so provide could only signify the
The opinion of the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag, who was at that time exclusion of submerged areas from the term "foreshore lands".
the chief law officer and legal adviser of the government and whose office is
required by law to issue opinions for the guidance of the various departments Neither is there any valid ground to disregard the Resolution of this Court
of the government, there being then no judicial interpretation to the contrary, dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of
is entitled to respect (see Bengzon vs. Secretary of Justice and Insular Cebu (L-22669) despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 5187 ("RA 5187"),
Auditor, 68 Phil. 912). the relevant portion of which, reads:

We are not unmindful of the Supreme Court Resolution dated February 3, Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects
1965 in Ponce vs. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce vs. City of Cebu (L-2266), by a
unanimous vote of six (6) justices (the other five (5) members deemed it xxx xxx xxx
unnecessary to express their view because in their opinion the questions
raised were not properly brought before the court), which in essence applied m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from
the strict dictionary meaning of "foreshore lands" as used in RA 1899 in the the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and
case of the city of Cebu. But this was promulgated long after the then from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of
Secretary of Justice Mabanag rendered the above opinion on November 16, Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the
1959 and long after RREC has started the subject reclamation project. foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction
of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shell be given to
Furthermore, as held by the lower court, Congress, after the Supreme Court any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own
issued the aforementioned Resolution, enacted RA 5187. In Sec. 3 (m) of said expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may,
law, Congress appropriated money "for the construction of the seawall and after competitive bidding, award contracts for the construction of such
limited access highway from the South boundary of the city of Manila to projects, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be
Cavite City, to the South, and from the North boundary of the city of Manila paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty
to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the North (including percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full
the reclamation of foreshore and submerged areas . . . provided . . . that . . . compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law
existing projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary
reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected . . ." This is notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of
a clear manifestation that Congress in enacting RA 1899, did not intend to other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary
limit the interpretation of the term "foreshore land" to its dictionary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or
meaning. municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged
lands shall be respected. . . . .
It is presumed that the legislature was acquainted with and had in mind the
judicial construction given to a former statute on the subject, and that the There is nothing in the foregoing provision of RA 5187 which can be
statute on the subject, and that the statute was enacted having in mind the interpreted to broaden the scope of "foreshore lands." The said law is not
judicial construction that the prior enactment had received, or in the light of amendatory to RA 1899. It is an Appropriations Act, entitled — "AN ACT
such existing judicial decisions as have direct bearing upon it (see 50 Am. APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR PUBLIC WORKS, SYNCHRONIZING THE
Jur., Sec. 321, pp. 312-313). But notwithstanding said interpretation by the SAME WITH PREVIOUS PUBLIC WORKS APPROPRIATIONS."
Supreme Court of RA 1899 in the Ponce cases, Congress enacted a law
covering the same areas previously embraced in a RA 1899 (as mentioned All things viewed in proper perspective, we reiterate what was said in Ponce
earlier, cities without foreshore lands which were sought to be excluded from v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) that the term
the operation of RA 1899 were not excluded), providing that respect be given "foreshore" refers to "that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is
the reclamation of not only foreshore lands but also of submerged lands alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides." As opined
signifying its non-conformity to the judicial construction given to RA 1899. If by this Court in said cases:
Congress was in accord with the interpretation and construction made by the
Supreme Court on RA 1899, it would have mentioned reclamation of WHEREAS, six (6) members of the Court (Justices Bautista Angelo,
"foreshore lands" only in RA 5187, but Congress included "submerged lands" Concepcion, Reyes, Barrera, Dizon and Jose P. Bengzon) opine that said city
in order to clarify the intention on the grant of authority to cities and ordinance and contracts are ultra vires and hence, null and void, insofar as
municipalities in the reclamation of lands bordering them as provided in RA the remaining 60% of the area aforementioned, because the term "foreshore
1899. It is, therefore, our opinion that it is actually the intention of Congress lands" as used in Republic Act No. 1899 should be understood in the sense
in RA 1899 not to limit the authority granted to cities and municipalities to attached thereto by common parlance; (emphasis ours)
reclaim foreshore lands in its strict dictionary meaning but rather in its wider
scope as to include submerged lands. The aforesaid ruling was applied by then Secretary of Justice Claudio
Teehankee, in his opinion dated December 22, 1966, in a case with analogous
The Petition is impressed with merit. facts as the present one, to wit:

To begin with, erroneous and unsustainable is the opinion of respondent December 22, 1966
court that under RA 1899, the term "foreshore lands" includes submerged
areas. As can be gleaned from its disquisition and rationalization The Secretary of Agriculture
aforequoted, the respondent court unduly stretched and broadened the
meaning of "foreshore lands", beyond the intentment of the law, and against and Natural Resources
the recognized legal connotation of "foreshore lands". Well entrenched, to the
point of being elementary, is the rule that when the law speaks in clear and Diliman, Quezon City
categorical language, there is no reason for interpretation or construction,
but only for application. 16 So also, resort to extrinsic aids, like the records of Sir:
the constitutional convention, is unwarranted, the language of the law being
plain and unambiguous. 17 Then, too, opinions of the Secretary of Justice are xxx xxx xxx
unavailing to supplant or rectify any mistake or omission in the law. 18 To
repeat, the term "foreshore lands" refers to: I. Facts —

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is 1. On January 19, 1961, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act
alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. (Words and Phrases, No. 1899, the Municipality of Navotas enacted Ordinance No. 1 authorizing
"Foreshore") the Municipal Mayor to enter into a reclamation contract with Mr. Chuanico.

A strip of land margining a body of water (as a lake or stream); the part of a 2. On March 15, 1961, a reclamation contract was concluded between
seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a low- the Municipality of Navotas, represented by the Municipal Mayor, and Mr.
tide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high tide usually marked by a Chuanico in accordance with the above ordinance. Thereunder, Mr. Chuanico
beach scarp or berm. (Webster's Third New International Dictionary) shall be the attorney-in-fact of the Municipality in prosecuting the
reclamation project and shall advance the money needed therefor; that the
actual expenses incurred shall be deemed a loan to the Municipality; that Mr.

Page 31 of 36
Chuanico shall have the irrevocable option to buy 70% of the reclaimed area Obviously, there is a complete dearth of evidence to prove that RREC had
at P7.00 per square meter; that he shall have the full and irrevocable powers really reclaimed 55 hectares. The letter of Minister Baltazar Aquino relied
to do any and all things necessary and proper in and about the premises," upon by RREC is no proof at all that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares. Said
including the power to hire necessary personnel for the prosecution of the letter was just referring to a tentative schedule of work to be done by RREC,
work, purchase materials and supplies, and purchase or lease construction even as it required RREC to submit the pertinent papers to show its supposed
machineries and equipment, but any and all contracts to be concluded by him accomplishment, to secure approval by the Ministry of Public Works and
in behalf of the Municipality shall be submitted to public bidding. Highways to the reclamation plan, and to submit to a public bidding all
contracts and sub-contracts for subject reclamation project but RREC never
xxx xxx xxx complied with such requirements and conditions sine qua non.

3. On March 16, 1961, the Municipal Council of Navotas passed No contracts or sub-contracts or agreements, plans, designs, and/or
Resolution No. 22 approving and ratifying the contract. specifications of the reclamation project were presented to reflect any
accomplishment. Not even any statement or itemization of works
xxx xxx xxx accomplished by contractors or subcontractors or vouchers and other
relevant papers were introduced to describe the extent of RREC's
III. Comments — accomplishment. Neither was the requisite certification from the City
Engineer concerned that "portions of the reclamation project not less than 50
1. The above reclamation contract was concluded on the basis of hectares in area shall have been accomplished or completed" obtained and
Navotas Ordinance No. 1 which, in turn, had been enacted avowedly presented by RREC.
pursuant to Republic Act No. 1899. This being so, the contract, in order to be
valid, must conform to the provisions of the said law. As a matter of fact, no witness ever testified on any reclamation work done by
RREC, and extent thereof, as of April 26, 1962. Not a single contractor, sub-
By authorizing local governments "to execute by administration any contractor, engineer, surveyor, or any other witness involved in the alleged
reclamation work," (Republic Act No. 1899 impliedly forbids the execution of reclamation work of RREC testified on the 55 hectares supposedly reclaimed
said project by contract. Thus, in the case or Ponce et al. vs. Gomez (February by RREC. What work was done, who did the work, where was it commenced,
3, 1966), five justices of the Supreme Court voted to annul the contract and when was it completed, was never brought to light by any witness before
between Cebu Development Corporation and Cebu City for the reclamation of the court. Certainly, onus probandi was on RREC and Pasay City to show and
foreshore lands because "the provisions of said . . . contract are not . . . in point out the as yet unidentified 55 hectares they allegedly reclaimed. But
accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No. 1899," as against one this burden of proof RREC and Pasay City miserably failed to discharge.
Justice who opined that the contract substantially complied with the
provisions of the said law. (Five Justices expressed no opinion on this point.) So also, in the decision of the Pasay Court of First Instance dismissing the
complaint of plaintiff-appellant, now petitioner Republic of the Philippines,
Inasmuch as the Navotas reclamation contract is substantially similar to the the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction issued on April 26, 1962
Cebu reclamation contract, it is believed that the former is likewise fatally would become effective only "as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate
defective. Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the
corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Work, and
2. The Navotas reclamation project envisages the construction of a shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as corresponding public
channel along the Manila Bay periphery of that town and the reclamation of bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will
approximately 650 hectares of land from said channel to a seaward distance undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected." (Rollo, pp.
of one kilometer. In the basic letter it is stated that "practically, all the 650 127-129, G.R. No. 103882)
hectares of lands proposed to be reclaimed under the agreement" do not
constitute foreshore lands and that "the greater portion of the area . . . is in From the records on hand, it is abundantly clear that RREC and Pasay City
fact navigable and presently being used as a fishing harbor by deep-sea never complied with such prerequisites for the lifting of the writ of
fishing operators as well as a fishing ground of sustenance fisherman. Preliminary Injunction. Consequently, RREC had no authority to resume its
Assuming the correctness of these averments, the Navotas reclamation reclamation work which was stopped by said writ of preliminary injunction
contract evidently transcends the authority granted under Republic Act No. issued on April 26, 1962.
1899, which empowers the local governments to reclaim nothing more than
"foreshore lands, i.e., "that part of the land adjacent to the see which is From the Contract for Dredging Work, dated November 26, 1960, marked
alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides." (26 C.J. Exhibit "21-A" for RREC before the lower court, and Exhibit "EE" for CCP
890.) It was for this reason that in the cited case Ponce case, the Supreme before the Court of Appeals, it can be deduced that only on November 26,
Court, by a vote of 6-0 with five Justices abstaining, declared ultra vires and 1960 did RREC contract out the dredging work to C and A Construction
void the contractual stipulation for the reclamation of submerged lands off Company, Inc., for the reclamation of the 55 hectares initially programmed to
Cebu City, and permanently enjoined its execution under Republic Act No. be reclaimed by it. But, as stated by RREC itself in the position paper filed
1899. with this Court on July 15, 1997, with reference to CDCP's reclamation work,
mobilization of the reclamation team would take one year before a
xxx xxx xxx reclamation work could actually begin. Therefore, the reclamation work
undertaker by RREC could not have started before November 26, 1961.
In accordance with the foregoing, I have the honor to submit the view that
the Navotas reclamation contract is not binding and should be disregarded Considering that on April 26, 1962 RREC was enjoined from proceeding any
for non-compliance with law. further with its reclamation work, it had barely five (5) months, from
November, 1961 to April, 1962, to work on subject reclamation project. It was
Very truly yours, thus physically impossible for RREC to reclaim 55 hectares, with the
stipulated specifications and elevation, in such a brief span of time. In the
(SGD) CLAUDIO TEEHANKEE report of RREC (Exhibit "DD" for CCP), it was conceded that due to the writ
of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962, C and A Construction Co.,
Secretary of Justice Inc. had suspended its dredging operation since May, 1962.

The said opinion of Justice Secretary Teehankee who became Associate The "graphical report" on the Pasay Reclamation project, as of April 30, 1962,
Justice, and later Chief Justice, of this Court, did, in our considered view, attached to the Progress Report marked Exhibit "DD", is a schematic
supersede the earlier opinion of former justice Secretary Alejo Mabanag, representation of the work accomplishment referred to in such Progress
aforestated, as the cases, in connection with which subject opinions were Report, indicating the various elevations of the land surface it embraced,
sought, were with similar facts. The said Teehankee opinion accords with RA ranging from 0.00 meters to the highest elevation of 2.5 meters above
1899. MLLW. Such portrayal of work accomplished is crucial in our determination
of whether or not RREC had actually "reclaimed" any land as under its
It bears stressing that the subject matter of Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, as Contract for Dredging Work with C and A Construction Company (Exhibit
amended by Ordinance No. 158, and the Agreement under attack, have been "EE", the required final elevation for a completely reclaimed land was 3.5
found to be outside the intendment and scope of RA 1899, and therefore ultra meters above MLLW, as explicitly provided in said Contract for Dredging
vires and null and void. Work. So, the irresistible conclusion is — when the work on subject RREC-
Pasay City reclamation project stopped in April, 1962 in compliance with the
What is worse, the same Agreement was vitiated by the glaring absence of a writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court of origin, no portion of
public bidding. the reclamation project worked on by RREC had reached the stipulated
elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW. The entire area it worked on was only

Page 32 of 36
at sea level or 0.00 meter above MLLW. In short, RREC had not yet Artists-site of
reclaimed any area when the writ of preliminary injunction issued in April
1962. Boom na Boom

On this point, the testimonies of Architect Ruben M. Protacio, Architect and 23 open space, back 34,346 sq.m. TCT 75677 in the
Managing partner of Leandro V. Locsin and partners, Architect and City
Planner Manuel T. Mañoza, Jr. of Planning Resources and Operation System, of Philcite name of CCP
Inc., Rose D. Cruz, Executive Assistant, Office of the President, from 1966 to
1970, and Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag, National Artist and member of CCP Advisory 24 Parking space for 10,352 sq.m. TCT 75678 in the
Committee, come to the fore. These credible, impartial and knowledgeable
witnesses recounted on the witness stand that when the construction of the Star City, CCP, name of CCP
Main Building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) began in 1966,
the only surface land available was the site for the said building (TSN, Sept. Philcite
29, 1997, pages 8, 14 and 50), what could be seen in front of and behind it
was all water (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997 pages 127-128). When the CCP Main 25 open space 11,323 sq.m. TCT 75679 in the
Building was being constructed, from 1968 to 1969, the land above sea level
thereat was only where the CCP Main Building was erected and the rest of the occupied by Star name of CCP
surroundings were all under water, particularly the back portion fronting the
bay. (TSN, Sept. 13, 1997, pp. 181, 182, 185, 186, 188). Dr. Lucrecia R. Kasilag City
stressed that on April 16, 1966, during the ground breaking for the CCP Main
Building, it was water all around (TSN, Sept. 30, 1997, pp. 320, 324, 325). 28 open space, 27,689 sq.m. TCT 75684 in the

There was indeed no legal and factual basis for the Court of Appeals to order beside PICC name of CCP
and declare that "the requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the
submission of RREC's plans and specification to the Department of Public 29 open space, 106,067 sq.m. TCT 75681 in the
Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation
of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic." Said leased by El name of CCP
requirement has never become moot and academic. It has remained
indispensable, as ever, and non-compliance therewith restrained RREC from Shaddai
lawfully resuming the reclamation work under controversy, notwithstanding
the rendition below of the decision in its favor. We discern no factual basis nor any legal justification therefor. In the first
place, in their answer to the Complaint and Amended Complaint below,
Verily, contrary to what the Court of Appeals found, RREC had not reclaimed RREC and Pasay City never prayed for the transfer to Pasay City of subject
any area with the prescribed elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW, so much lots, title to which had long become indefeasible in favor of the rightful title
so that in 1978, it (RREC) opted to file with the former Ministry of Public holders, CCP and GSIS, respectively.
Highways, a claim for compensation of P30,396,878.20, for reclamation
work allegedly done before the CDCP started working on the reclamation of The annotation of a notice of lis pendens on the certificates of title covering
the CCP grounds. On September 7, 1979, RREC asked the Solicitor General to the said lots is of no moment. It did not vest in Pasay City and RREC any real
settle its subject claim for compensation at the same amount of right superior to the absolute ownership thereover of CCP and GSIS. Besides,
P30,396,878.20. But on June 10, 1981, guided by the cost data, work volume the nature of the action did not really warrant the issuance of a notice of lis
accomplished and other relevant information gathered by the former pendens.
Ministry of Public Highways, the Solicitor General informed RREC that the
value of what it had accomplished, based on 1962 price levels, was only Sec. 14 of Rule 13, Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, reads:
P8,344,741.29, and the expenses for mobilization of equipment amounted to
P2,581,330.00. The aforesaid evaluation made by the government, through Sec. 14. Notice of lis pendens. — In an action affecting the title or the right
the then Minister of Public Highways, is factual and realistic, so much so that of possession of real properly, the plaintiff and the defendant, when
on June 25, 1981, RREC, in its reply letter to the Solicitor General, stated: affirmative relief is claimed in his answer, may record in the office of the
registry of deeds of the province in which the property is situated a notice of
We regret that we are not agreeable to the amount of P10,926,071.29, based the pendency of the action. Said notice shall contain the names of the parties
on 1962 cost data, etc., as compensation based on quantum meruit. The least and the object of the action or defense, and a description of the property in
we would consider is the amount of P10,926,071.29 plus interest at the rate that province affected thereby. Only from the time of filing such notice for
of 6% per annum from 1962 to the time of payment. We feel that 6% is very record shall a purchaser, or encumbrancer of the property affected thereby,
much less than the accepted rate of inflation that has supervened since 1962 be deemed to have constructive notice of the pendency of the action, and only
to the present, and even less than the present legal rate of 12% per annum. 19 of its pendency against the parties designated by their real names.

Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was compensation for what it had The notice of lis pendens herein above mentioned may be cancelled only
done, and for the dredge fill of 1,558,395 cubic meters it used, on subject upon order of the court, after proper showing that the notice is for the
reclamation project. purpose of molesting the adverse party, or that it is not necessary to protect
the rights of the party who caused it to be recorded.
Respondent Court likewise erred in ordering the turn-over to Pasay City of
the following titled lots, to wit: Under the aforecited provision of law in point, a notice of lis pendens is
necessary when the action is for recovery of possession or ownership of a
LOT NO. BUILDING AREA OCT/TCT parcel of land. In the present litigation, RREC and Pasay City, as defendants
in the main case, did not counterclaim for the turnover to Pasay City of the
42 Gloria Maris 9,516 sq.m. OCT 159 in the titled lots aforementioned.

Restaurant name of GSIS What is more, a torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of
validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed
3 Asean Garden 76,299 sq.m. OCT 10251 in the only in an action brought to impugn or annul it. (Halili vs. National Labor
Relations Commission, 257 SCRA 174, Cimafranca vs. Intermediate Appellate
name of CCP Court, 147 SCRA 611.) Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane
provision of Section 48 of P.D. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be the
12 Folk Arts Theater 1.7503 hec. TCT 18627 in the subject of a collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled
except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law.
and PICC parking name of CCP
Although Pasay City and RREC did not succeed in their undertaking to
space reclaim any area within subject reclamation project, it appearing that
something compensable was accomplished by them, following the applicable
22 landscaped with 132,924 sq.m. TCT 75676 in the provision of law and hearkening to the dictates of equity, that no one, not
even the government, shall unjustly enrich oneself/itself at the expense of
sculpture of Asean name of CCP another 20, we believe; and so hold, that Pasay City and RREC should be
paid for the said actual work done and dredge-fill poured in, worth

Page 33 of 36
P10,926,071.29, as verified by the former Ministry of Public Highways, and thence S. 16 deg. 19’W., 33.36 m. to point. 4;
as claimed by RREC itself in its aforequoted letter dated June 25, 1981.
thence N. 73 deg. 57’W., 44.76 m. to point. of;
It is fervently hoped that long after the end of our sojourn in this valley of
tears, the court, for its herein historic disposition, will be exalted by the beginning; containing an area of ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED
future generations of Filipinos, for the preservation of the national patrimony SEVENTY-FIVE (1,475) square meters. All points referred to are indicated on
and promotion of our cultural heritage. As writer Channing rightly puts it: the plan and are marked on the ground by P.S. cyl. conc. mons. 15 x 40 cms.
"Whatever expands the affections, or enlarges the sphere of our sympathies Bearings; true; date of original survey; Sept. 1927-July 1928 and that of the
— Whatever makes us feel our relation to the universe and all that it inherits subdivision survey; July 22, 1999 and was approved on Jan. 20, 2000.3
in time and in eternity, and to the great and beneficent cause of all, must
unquestionably refine our nature, and elevate us in the scale of being." The respondent averred, inter alia, that he acquired title to the said lot by
virtue of an extrajudicial settlement of estate and quitclaim on March 15,
WHEREFORE: 1999; the said property is not tenanted or occupied by any person other than
the respondent and his family who are in actual physical possession of the
In G.R. No. 103882, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision, dated January same; and the respondent and his predecessors-in-interest have been in
28, 1992, and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of continuous, peaceful, open, notorious, uninterrupted and adverse possession
Appeals, are both SET ASIDE; and Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, dated May of the land in the concept of an owner for not less than 30 years immediately
6, 1958, and Ordinance No. 158, dated April 21, 1959, as well as the preceding the filing of the application.4
Reclamation Agreements entered into by Pasay City and Republic Real Estate
Corporation (RREC) as authorized by said city ordinances, are declared Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor
NULL and VOID for being ultra vires, and contrary to Rep. Act 1899. General (OSG), opposed the application on the following grounds: (a) neither
the respondent nor his predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
The writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962 by the trial court continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the
a quo in Civil Case No. 2229-P is made permanent and the notice of lis subject land since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (b) the respondent failed to
pendens issued by the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 51349 ordered adduce any muniment of title and/or the tax declaration with the application
CANCELLED. The Register of Deeds of Pasay City is directed to take note of to prove bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or its open, continuous,
and annotate on the certificates of title involved, the cancellation of subject exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of
notice of lis pendens. owner since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (c) the alleged tax declaration
adverted to in the application does not appear to be genuine and the tax
The petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, is hereby ordered to pay Pasay declarations indicate such possession to be of recent vintage; (d) the claim of
City and Republic Real Estate Corporation the sum of TEN MILLION NINE ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant can no longer be
HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND SEVENTY-ONE AND TWENTY- availed of by the respondent considering that he failed to file an appropriate
NINE CENTAVOS (P10,926,071.29) PESOS, plus interest thereon of six (6%) application for registration within the period of six months from February 16,
percent per annum from May 1, 1962 until full payment, which amount shall 1976 as required by P.D. No. 892; and (e) the subject land is a portion of the
be divided by Pasay City and RREC, share and share alike. public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines which is not
subject to private appropriation.5
In G.R. No. 105276, the Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.
After ascertaining that the jurisdictional requirements for the application
No pronouncement as to costs. were done in accordance with the law during the initial hearing6 on
November 9, 2000, the trial court issued an Order of Default7 on January 3,
SO ORDERED. 2001 against all persons with the exception of the government.

———————————— The respondent presented tax receipts to show that the property was declared
for taxation purposes in his name. He also testified that he acquired the
G.R. No. 160145 November 11, 2005 property by inheritance from his deceased father, Vicente Enciso, who died
on May 18, 1991. He then immediately took possession of the property and
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, constructed a house thereon in 1991. On March 15, 1999, he and his siblings
vs. executed an extrajudicial settlement of estate where the land was adjudicated
PEDRO O. ENCISO, Respondent. in his favor.

DECISION The respondent further narrated that the property was originally owned by
the Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales. On October 5, 1968, the
CALLEJO, SR., J.: municipality passed Resolution No. 71,8 undertaking to construct a road
along the shoreline of the poblacion, but requiring landowners adjoining the
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of roads to share in the expenses for an inner wall adjacent to their lots. In view
Court, as amended, assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) of this, the same resolution provided that:
dated September 26, 2003, which affirmed the Decision2 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Iba, Zambales, Branch 71, promulgated on July 31, 2001 in WHEREAS, where the above landowners share in the construction of the
LRC Case No. RTC-N-75-I. The CA and the trial court adjudicated Lot No. roads, the same may be given the priority to acquire such additional available
2278-A, Cad. 652-D, Masinloc Cadastre in favor of respondent Pedro O. areas by purchase, if such additional areas are not needed by the government
Enciso, pursuant to Section 29 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529. for public use, the advances of the landowners as a result of his [sic]
construction (inner wall) be considered as price of the land, provided that the
The facts, as culled from the records of the case, show that on April 24, 2000, cost and value of the inner wall exceeds the assessed value of the land, and if
the respondent, alleging to be the owner in fee simple of a parcel of the cost of the inner wall is less than the assessed value of the land, the
residential land located in Barangay South Poblacion, Masinloc, Zambales, landowners will have to pay the corresponding balance to the government; …
filed a petition for land registration before the RTC of Iba, Zambales. The lot 9
is described as follows:
On March 8, 1969, the Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales passed
A parcel of land (Lot 2278-A of the subdivision plan Csd-03-012562-D being supplementary Resolution No. 102,10 which stated that in consideration of
a portion of Lot 2278, Cad. 652-D L.R.C. Rec. No.), situated in the Barrio of the financial assistance extended by the abutting property owners, and
South Poblacion, Municipality of Masinloc, Province of Zambales. Bounded because the government no longer needed the additional areas for public use,
on the NW., along line 1-2 by Sta. Lucia Street; on the NE., along line 2-3 by the municipality was authorizing the Municipal Mayor to enter into and sign
Capt. Albright Street; on the SE. & SW. along line 3-4-1 by Lot 2278-B of the deeds of purchase between the municipality and the landowners concerned.
subd. plan. Beginning at a point marked "1" on plan being N. 39 deg. 35’E., Consequently, the Municipal Council of Masinloc, Zambales unanimously
12.05 m. from BLLM.1, approved Resolution No. 102-A11 dated March 15, 1969, authorizing its
mayor to execute a deed of sale in favor of Honorato Edaño, covering a
Cad. 652-D. portion of the reclaimed lots no longer needed for public use. Honorato was
thus entitled to buy the lot for his help in carrying out the project envisioned
thence N. 16 deg. 13’E., 32.48 m. to point. 2; in Resolution No. 71, and after the submission of an itemized statement of the
cost of the construction of the inner wall along Sta. Lucia Street.
thence S. 75 deg. 05’E., 44.83 m. to point. 3;

Page 34 of 36
Immediately thereafter, the Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales, represented
by its Mayor, P.A. Edaño, executed a Deed of Absolute Sale12 covering a piece The OSG assigned the following error to the appellate court:
of reclaimed land containing more or less 2,790 square meters in favor of
Honorato Edaño. The deed stated that the vendee constructed the inner wall THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN
needed to facilitate the fabrication of a portion of Sta. Lucia Street, which was GRANTING RESPONDENT’S PETITION FOR REGISTRATION SANS ANY
opposite his lot, and the extensions of Magsaysay and Capt. Albright Streets SHOWING THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY WAS PREVIOUSLY
at a total expense of ₱1,683.80. Considering that the assessed value of the lot DECLARED ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LANDS OF THE PUBLIC
was ₱2,092.50, or ₱408.70 DOMAIN.21
more than the vendee spent for the construction of the inner wall, the vendee
paid ₱408.70 to the vendor. The petitioner contends that the first and primordial element in order to
warrant the registration of title is to show that the land must be an alienable
The respondent admitted that Honorato was his uncle, being his father’s half- and disposable land of the public domain. On this note, the petitioner
brother.13 He further narrated that on December 9, 1980, the spouses believes that the respondent failed to adduce any evidence to show that the
Honorato and Esperanza Edaño sold the lot to Vicente B. Enciso for subject land was already previously declared part of such alienable and
disposable land of the public domain. Furthermore, the petitioner adds that
₱2,092.50 via a Deed of Absolute Sale.14 On January 17, 1981, Vicente
under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the
Enciso, Natividad Edaño Asuncion and Thelma A. Edaño entered into a Deed
State, and those not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private
of Partition15 involving the same parcel of land. Vicente was awarded one-
ownership are presumed to belong to it.
half of the total area of the property, 1,398 square meters, more or less;
Natividad and Thelma got one-fourth each, or approximately 697.5 square
In his comment to the petition, the respondent asserts that the CA was
meters individually.
correct in affirming the decision of the land registration court. The
respondent cites the following justification of the CA in supporting his claim
No cross-examination was conducted and no evidence was adduced by the
over Lot No. 2278-A:
government to controvert the application for registration.
Records reveal that subject land is a residential land owned by the
On May 8, 2001, Director Felino M. Cortez of the Department on
Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales. The Municipality of Masinloc, through
Registration submitted the Report16 of the Land Registration Authority,
Resolutions 71, 102 and 102-A-29 sold the subject land to Honorato Edaño as
informing the trial court that it was not in a position to verify whether the
evidenced by the Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 31, 1969 executed by the
parcel of land subject of registration was already covered by a land patent
Municipal Mayor.
and previously approved isolated survey. Acting on this report, the trial court
directed the Lands Management Bureau, the Community Environment and
Article 423 of the Civil Code provides that:
Natural Resources Office of Iba, Zambales, and the
"Art. 423. The property of provinces, cities, and municipalities is divided into
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Executive
property for public use and patrimonial property."
Director for Region III, San Fernando, Pampanga, to submit a report on the
status of the parcel of land.17
Properties of political subdivision[s] which are patrimonial in character may
be alienated. By analogy, when a municipality’s properties for public use are
Without waiting for the final report, the trial court granted the application for
no longer intended for such use, the same become patrimonial and may be
registration on July 31, 2001, the dispositive portion of the decision reads:
the subject of a contract. Thus, the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and
between the Municipal Mayor of Masinloc and Honorato Edaño was a valid
WHEREFORE, this Court, after confirming the Order of General Default
contract. Subject land was likewise sold by Honorato Edaño to petitioner-
entered into the record of this case on January 3, 2001 hereby adjudicates
appellee’s father, Vicente Enciso, by virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale. From
Lot No. 2278-A, Cad. 652-D, Masinloc Cadastre, containing an area of 1,475
then, subject land changed hand until it was acquired by petitioner-appellee
square meters, situated at Brgy. South Poblacion, Masinloc, Zambales,
when his siblings executed an Extrajudicial Partition assigning said land to
Philippines, as appearing on the approved Plan No. Csd-03-012562-D
him. It was declared for taxation purposes in his name under Tax Declaration
(Exhibit "M") and also in the Technical Description of said lot (Exhibit "K")
No. 007-0700R. …
in favor of the applicant whose address is at Brgy. South Poblacion, Masinloc,
Zambales, Philippines, in accordance with Section 29 of Presidential Decree

No. 1529. This adjudication however is subject to the various easements/
reservations provided for under pertinent laws, Presidential Decree and/or
Subject land was reclassified as residential. It was already segregated from
Presidential Letters of Instruction, which should be annotated/projected in
the public domain and assumed the character of private ownership. It was
the title to be issued.
reclaimed by the Municipality of Masinloc and eventually adjudicated to
Honorato Edaño. The Municipality of Masinloc must have been in possession
Once this decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree and title be
of the subject land even before 1969 considering that it was originally
issued.
surveyed way back in 1927-1928. In the exercise of its proprietary right, the
Municipality of Masinloc validly conveyed the subject land to petitioner-
SO ORDERED.18
appellee’s predecessors-in-interest. Petitioner-appellee’s possession and
occupation of the subject land is continuous, public, adverse and
The trial court ruled that the respondent satisfactorily proved his ownership
uninterrupted and in the concept an owner and no other person claimed
in fee simple, as well as the identity of the land sought to be titled. Likewise,
possession and ownership of the same. Article 1137 of the Civil Code
the trial court found that the respondent, as well as his predecessors-in-
provides:
interest, had been in open, peaceful, continuous, public, adverse, and under a
bona fide claim of ownership. According to the trial court, there was no
"Art. 1137. Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribed
evidence that the subject parcel of land was within any government
(sic) through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years,
reservation, or that the applicant was disqualified from owning real property
without need of titles or of good faith."
under the Constitution.19
Parenthetically, petitioner-appellee’s possession tacked with that of his
The Republic of the Philippines appealed the case before the CA, contending
predecessors-in-interest already complied with the thirty (30)-year
that the trial court erred in granting the application despite his failure to
requirement of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
prove registrable title over Lot No. 2278-A.
required under the law.
The CA disposed of the appeal on September 26, 2003 and affirmed the
Prescinding from the foregoing, petitioner-appellee sufficiently and
decision of the trial court. The fallo of the decision reads:
satisfactorily proved his real and absolute ownership in fee simple; that he
has a registrable title over the subject land and that he complied with the
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed decision dated July 31,
requirements under the law to warrant registration of title over the subject
2001 of the RTC, Branch 71 of Iba, Zambales in LRC Case No. RTC-N-75-1 is
land.22
hereby AFFIRMED.
The petition is meritorious.
SO ORDERED.20
While it is the rule that findings of fact of appellate courts are conclusive
The petitioner dispensed with the filing of a motion for reconsideration and
upon this Court, among the recognized exceptions is where the findings of
forthwith filed the instant petition.

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fact are not supported by the record or are conspicuously erroneous as to The evidence on record shows that a house was constructed on the subject
constitute a serious abuse of discretion.23 This is the situation in this case. property only in 1991. Certain discrepancies likewise surround the
application for registration: Honorato Edaño sold a parcel of land consisting
Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration of 2,790 square meters on December 9, 1980 to Vicente Enciso alone; on
Decree, provides: January 17, 1981, Vicente Enciso, Natividad Edaño Asuncion and Thelma
Edaño executed a deed of partition covering the same lot. Why was there a
SEC. 14. Who may apply. –The following persons may file in the proper Court need to partition the property if the entire land had already been sold to
of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether Vicente? The Court also notes that in the said deed of partition, one-half of
personally or through their duly authorized representatives: the total area of the land, which was 1,398 square meters, was adjudicated in
favor of Vicente; however, in the respondent’s application for registration,
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have the land sought to be registered consists of 1,475 square meters.
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide Well-entrenched is the rule that the burden of proof in land registration cases
claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. rests on the applicant who must show clear, positive and convincing evidence
that his alleged possession and occupation were of the nature and duration
Applicants for registration of title must therefore prove the following: (a) that required by law. Bare allegations, without more, do not amount to
the land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public preponderant evidence that would shift the burden to the oppositor.28
domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
Evidently, the respondent failed to prove that (1) Lot No. 2278-A was
and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim classified as part of the disposable and alienable land of the public domain;
of ownership either since time immemorial, or since June 12, 1945. It is not and (2) he and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
disputed that the land sought to be registered was originally part of the exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of
reclamation project undertaken by the Municipality of Masinloc, Zambales. owners since time immemorial, or from June 12, 1945.
The prevailing rule is that reclaimed disposable lands of the public domain
may only be leased and not sold to private parties. These lands remained sui WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
generis, as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain which Appeals dated September 26, 2003 in CA-G.R. CV No. 72859 is REVERSED
the government could not sell to private parties except if the legislature and SET ASIDE. Respondent Pedro O. Enciso’s application for registration
passes a law authorizing such sale. Reclaimed lands retain their inherent and issuance of title to Lot No. 2278-A, Cad. 652-D, Masinloc Cadastre, is
potential as areas for public use or public service.24 The ownership of lands hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.
reclaimed from foreshore areas is rooted in the Regalian doctrine, which
declares that all lands and waters of the public domain belong to the State.25 SO ORDERED.
On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act
No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, compiling all the existing laws on
lands of the public domain. This remains to this day the existing and
applicable general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of
the public domain. The State policy prohibiting the sale of government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain to
private individuals continued under the 1935 Constitution.

Indeed, there is nothing to support the respondent’s claim that the property
"was reclassified as residential … already segregated from the public domain
and assumed the character of private ownership." At the

moment, it is not clear as to when the proper authorities classified the subject
as alienable and disposable. It must be stressed that incontrovertible
evidence must be presented to establish that the land subject of the
application is alienable or disposable.26

According to the CA, "the Municipality of Masinloc must have been in


possession of the subject land even before 1969 considering that it was
originally surveyed way back in 1927-1928." This is not the kind of possession
and occupation contemplated under the law. While the subject property was
still in the hands of the municipality, it was undeniably part of the public
domain. The municipality cannot then be considered a predecessor-in-
interest of the applicant from whom the period of possession and occupation
required by law may be reckoned with. Any other interpretation would be
dangerously detrimental to our national patrimony.

Even assuming that Honorato Edaño, the respondent’s earliest predecessor-


in-interest, possessed the property as early as 1969, the respondent’s claim
must still fail, as he was unable to prove open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership. As the Court ruled in Republic v. Alconaba:
27

The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are
separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to
make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation
because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds
the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect of
constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that
for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction. Actual
possession of a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it
of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own property.

The respondent’s possession and that of his "predecessors-in-interest" will


not suffice for purposes of judicial confirmation of title. What is categorically
required by law is open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.

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