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Instituting good governance in the land administration system - The

Philippines' perspective

Article · January 2006


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Danilo Ramos Antonio

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Instaurer une bonne gouvernance dans le
système d’administration des terres: la
situation des Philippines

Le système d’administration des terres des Philippines, comme celui d’autres pays en
développement, constitue un actif important et un élément catalytique du programme de lutte
contre la pauvreté et de développement économique du pays. Toutefois, une gouvernance
faible, y compris le manque d’efforts sérieux visant à réformer le secteur, minent non
seulement le très grand potentiel de ce secteur, mais menacent aussi la compétitivité
globale du pays. Le présent article analyse ce système complexe, décrit de plus près les
lois, institutions et processus qui affectent l’ensemble de la population, notamment les
pauvres, et suggère des principes de bonne gouvernance pour l’avenir. L’instauration d’une
bonne gouvernance dans l’administration des terres d’un pays ayant un système juridique
et politique très compliqué représente un défi énorme, qui n’est toutefois pas impossible à

Instituir el buen gobierno en el sistema de

administración de tierras: la perspectiva de
Al igual que en otros países en desarrollo, el sistema de administración de tierras de
Filipinas es un activo importante y un catalizador del programa de reducción de la pobreza
y desarrollo económico del país. Sin embargo, una gobernanza deficiente, en particular por
la ausencia de esfuerzos serios por promover la reforma del sector, no solo menoscaba su
enorme potencial sino que amenaza también la competitividad del país a nivel mundial. Este
artículo aclara la compleja estructura del sistema, ofrece una visión detallada de las leyes,
instituciones y procesos pertinentes y de cómo afectan a toda la población, en especial la
más pobre, y propone principios de buen gobierno como camino por seguir. Instituir el buen
gobierno en la administración de tierras de un país donde el entorno jurídico y político es tan
complejo supone muchas dificultades, pero esto no significa que sea imposible.

72 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

Instituting good governance in the
land administration system – the
Philippines’ perspective
Danilo R. Antonio
Former Deputy Executive Director, Philippines’ Land Administration and Management Project (LAMP), Phase 1, and
currently Master’s candidate in Land Management and Land Tenure at Munich Technical University.

The land administration system in the Philippines, as in other developing countries, serves
as an important asset and a catalyst for the country’s poverty reduction and economic
development agenda. However, weak governance, including the lack of serious efforts
for instituting reform in the sector, not only undermines its huge potential but threatens
the country’s global competitiveness. This article untangles the complexity of the system;
provides a closer look at the laws, institutions and processes as they affect all people,
especially the poor; and suggests good governance principles as the way forward. Instituting
good governance in land administration within a country with a highly complicated legal and
political environment comes with enormous challenges, but is not without hope.

Introduction in government, the country’s low score

The absence of good governance is the of Corruption Perception Index (based on
reason why many countries – especially Transparency International) has continued,
developing countries – continue to fail in since 2000, to slip, which indicates an
their efforts at poverty reduction and in their increasing perception of corruption.
quest for economic and human development Against this backdrop, it is essential
(ADB, 2005). Such a situation breeds to accept that weak or bad governance
inefficiency and corruption and further exists, understand its complexities and
undermines government development efforts. address the questions relating to how
The Philippines is not an exception. Weak such a phenomenon occurs. However,
governance is a factor that contributes this article will not address the gigantic
to the country’s slow economic growth task of solving governance and corruption
and undermines its dream of becoming issues in the Philippines, but rather
one of the economic “tigers” in East Asia. will try to contribute to the discussion
According to the Office of the Ombudsman, on the land administration sector. The
the government has lost an estimated article has five sections. First, it defines
US$48 billion to corrupt practices over land administration and describes its
the last twenty years and, as estimated by importance within the Philippine context.
the Commission on Audit, about US$40 The second part provides an overview of
million are lost to governmental corruption the existing system, and the third delves
every year (World Bank, 2001). In early into the specific details of how the system
2001, allegations of corruption and weak works in key areas and the roles of key
governance were the primary cause of the “players”. The fourth part will attempt to
second “People Power” revolution (the point the way forward by introducing good
first one occurred in 1986, toppling the governance principles and some concrete
Marcos dictatorship) that changed the recommendations. The closing section
national leadership. But despite the change provides some concluding remarks.

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 73

Potential role of land administration beneficiaries, indigenous peoples and
Until recently, land administration in informal settlers in urban areas. It has the
the Philippines as a concept has been potential to speed up the whole process
intertwined with the broad aspects of land through identification of programme areas,
management. Its definition is limited as adoption of appropriate and low-cost land
to the activities and functions related to surveys, identification and demarcation of
land classification, mapping, land surveys, boundaries, implementation of alternative
first registration of titles and land rights, dispute resolution mechanisms and
subsequent registration of land transactions adoption of appropriate fee structures and
and transfers, settlement of land disputes land valuation. Land administration also
and land valuation and taxation. protects the rights of the poor through an
A wealth of literature and empirical effective land registration system, and has
findings have pointed out that a good land the potential to provide control mechanisms
administration system aids in the social, (e.g. land ceilings), detection of violations
economic and ecological development of and real-time information to the land
a society. Indeed, it is a precondition for market.
economic progress, social stability and
sustainable development. The challenge Land administration transforms dead
is to make it efficient and effective, so capital into live capital. Hernando
as to unleash its potential contribution De Soto, a well-known Peruvian economist,
to the country’s development. In terms valued the dead capital in the Philippines
of the Philippines, the facts and figures at US$132.9 million in 2000, which is
enumerated below illustrate the importance approximately P5.855 trillion (De Soto,
of a well-functioning land administration 2000). A land markets study undertaken in
system for the country and underscore the 2004 has confirmed the findings of De Soto,
urgent need to introduce good governance although with lower estimates. It was
in the system. calculated that the true negotiable value
of the Philippine land market in 2000 was
Facts and figures about P4.925 trillion at current prices, and
Land administration provides security is expected to increase to P11.552 trillion by
of tenure. The Philippines has a total land 2010. About 60 percent are in the informal
area of 30 million hectares, 50 percent land market (Urbis Philippines, 2004).
of which are considered forest lands,
47 percent are classified as alienable and Land administration boosts the economy.
disposable lands and about 3 percent The Philippine land market, as mirrored by
are unclassified lands. It is estimated gross value added (GVA) in real estate and
that there are about 24.2 million parcels ownership of dwellings, is a key component
within alienable and disposable lands with of the Philippine economy. Between 1990
13.1 million parcels already titled and and 2000, it contributed an average of
11.1 million parcels untitled (DENR-LAMP, US$2.728 billion a year, and accounted for
2004a). Moreover, most of the forest lands 6.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic
in the Philippines are occupied and used by product (GDP). The land market is also a key
people without secure rights, while Metro economic growth engine. For every percent
Manila alone is home to some 4 million increase in the GVA of the land market, there
informal settlers (Teh, 2005). is a corresponding 1.12 percent increase in
the country’s GDP. As an asset, real estate is
Land administration facilitates asset even more important, accounting for 40 to 45
reform programmes. Land administration percent of all financial investments made. It
facilitates asset reform programmes of the is a major motivation for household savings,
government, particularly in the recognition constituting 80 to 85 percent. In addition,
and protection of rights of agrarian reform it affects inflation, financial holdings and

74 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

labour mobility, as well as government the Public Land Act extending the time in
budgets through taxes (Urbis Philippines, which free patent application can be lodged
2004). have included the payment of real property
However, both the real estate sector and taxes as an additional requirement. No
real estate taxes have shrunk as a part of evidence was found that such amendment
GDP since 1991. Below-average growth is intentional.
in the real estate sector cost the economy
about US$2.0 billion from 1991 to 2000 Institutional framework
(Bloch, 2004). The existence of numerous institutions
managing the whole system – large,
Overview of the existing land conservative and uncoordinated –
administration system complicates land administration and
The existing land administration system serves as a major hindrance for a holistic
in the Philippines can be summarized in reform of the system. The institutions
two words: multiple and complex. The create an enormous number of rules and
whole system is governed by multiple laws, regulations without regard to consistency
regulations, processes and standards, and within their own jurisdiction, and without
is managed by multiple institutions with complementarity with measures undertaken
limited collaboration. These arrangements by other agencies. With each agency
lead to a complex, overlapping and empowered by overlapping, inconsistent
inconsistent system, which erodes the and outdated laws, each working within
investment climate and affects the poor its own walls and lacking a client-focused
disproportionately. service mentality, the whole system
becomes confusing, bureaucratic and
Legal and regulatory framework expensive.
In the Philippines, a dual system of land
titling exists – administrative and judicial. Technical and administrative framework
Any person who is qualified and wants an The existence of professional educators
ownership title can either go to the courts and professionals does not guarantee
or to any of numerous administrative a well-functioning and responsive land
agencies. Various laws have created administration system. This is true in
multiple nomenclatures for titles, which the Philippines. In public and private
to a large extent cause confusion among practice, the professionals have failed to
the public and for the investors, and also upgrade their knowledge and training
affect the value of the property, albeit beyond the limits of the existing inefficient
artificially. Multiple laws that govern the system. In most of the land administration
current land administration system can be institutions, including the private sector,
characterized as obsolete, prescriptive and the use of modern technology is very
no longer responsive (e.g. Public Land Act limited due to personal reluctance, lack
of 1936, as amended, Property Registration of resources (human and fiscal) and the
Decree of 1978, Cadastral Act of 1913, lack of a vision for an efficient delivery of
etc.) Subsequent laws (e.g. Indigenous services. Human resources development
Peoples Rights Act of 1997, Urban and in the public sector is not a priority. As far
Housing Development Act of 1992 and Local as cadastre is concerned, each agency is
Government Code of 1991, among others) collecting land information and maintaining
were enacted, and though relevant in most land records and maps with its own
cases, were legislated without considering standards and protocols and the exchange
or harnessing the previous laws, which of information is limited. The poor land
resulted in some inconsistencies – or records management system is aggravated
worse, loss of the fundamental principle. by human factors (e.g. mishandling) as well
For example, the latest amendments of as natural ones (floods, etc.).

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 75

Land markets The titling process
Given the inefficiency of the land In rural areas
administration system, efficiency in the Access to government land by the poor,
land markets cannot be expected. Investors particularly through the provision of the
as well as ordinary households have Public Land Act of 1936, as amended,
a low level of confidence in the formal was limited due to the unreasonable time
registration system and the rule of law is requirement for occupation, requirement
easily manipulated. Up to now, land market of payment of back taxes, the public’s
activities in rural areas were restricted by lack of familiarity with the process and
agrarian reform and public land laws that institutional weaknesses. Realization of
discourage the credit market and stagnate land ownership under the administrative
formal rural land markets. In urban areas, procedure is slow, expensive and
land speculation is rife, distorting the land inefficient. Going to the courts for titling
markets as well as the housing markets. purposes requires a great deal of capital
As a consequence, and with the ineffective investment and patience. On the other
and often conflicting land valuation hand, redistribution of private agricultural
methodologies, the financial markets lands to the landless farmers through the
needed for capital formation and investment agrarian reform programme that started in
are also not functioning. 1998 under the Comprehensive Agrarian
Figure 1 represents the state of the Reform Law has proved to be a slow
existing land administration system in the process, both controversial and endless to
Philippines and its inevitable impacts. implement, primarily because of limited


• Too many requirements

• Outdated and
Inefficient and ineffective institutions
• Absence of client-focused
inconsistent policies and laws
• Lack of motivation among government
service delivery
• Lack of transparency and accountabilitystaff
• Poor land records management system
• Inflexible process
• Ineffective taxation
• Lack of resources and modern technology
• Unclear and expensive transaction process
• Multiple and inappropriate valuation systems
• Centralized and cumbersome decision-making process
• Counterproductive guidelines and measures
• Absence of incentives and sanctions
• Proliferation of “fixers”


• Delays and confusions

• Eroding confidence in the formal system
• Unreliable base for decision-making
• Undermines pro-poor programmes
• Fake or overlapping titles
• High transaction costs
• Inefficient land market
• Low investment in land Figure 1
• Slow economic growth A closer look at the
• Graft and corruption Philippines’ land
administration system

76 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

resources and the strong opposition for the government. Moreover, for each
mounted by large landholders (through transaction, a new certificate of title
legal means or otherwise). is issued, which makes the recording
system difficult and the documentation
In urban areas voluminous; furthermore, without proper
President Arroyo, since 2001, started validation and linkage to the spatial
designating idle government lands in the information, the whole system is vulnerable
urban areas as socialized housing sites. to overlapping claims and double issuance
As noted by UN-HABITAT (2004), the of titles.
policy did not cover informal settlements The system is prone to errors, for example
within private lands but, nonetheless, it because recording is done manually and for
was a positive and pragmatic response each transaction. The technical description
that has encouraged poor households to (metes and bounds) of the property has
improve their homes and neighbourhoods. to be typed on the face of the title, which
However, converting these proclamations then becomes part of the legal document.
into titles is not a panacea. The inefficient Any mistakes, even obvious typographical
system and the institutional weaknesses errors, require a decision of the court to
have led to inertia in the implementation be corrected and at the expense of the
of this laudable initiative. Thus, it can titleholders. An assurance fund exists for
be concluded that the present land possible compensation for any mistakes
administration system affects all pro-poor and errors made by government staff on the
programmes, including those initiated by issuance of title, but few have ever dared to
the highest office of the land. go through the process because it requires
The lack of vision, focus and deadlines in a costly court procedure and will have to
finishing these types of land reforms has be fought against an army of government
contributed further to the deterioration of lawyers. And even if such a lengthy
the people’s trust in the government. Take legal battle could be won, the budget for
the case of Mr Bonifacio, one of the urban compensation has still to be approved by
poor in Manila, who has spent 18 years of Congress. As a result, there has never been
his life trying to secure a title over a small a successful claim against the assurance
piece of proclaimed government land he is fund.
occupying (DENR-LAMP, 2004b). Until now
he has not received the title. The land valuation and taxation process
For a typical transfer of title (e.g. sale),
The registration process the person will have to bear the 6 percent
The examination of six people's experiences capital gains tax (not really based
in registering a transfer of land title on determination of capital “gains”),
revealed that “facilitation” fees were sought documentary stamp tax of 1.5 percent
in every case and paid in at least four cases and transfer tax of 0.5 percent. Prior to
(Isles, 2002). The minimum time required registration of a transfer, all arrears on real
to register the title transfer was two weeks property taxes and a certain percentage for
(with payment of a bribe). The maximum registration fee must be paid. Transaction
time required was over two years, upon the costs involved in the formal system are
intervention of the Office of the President. high. The government fees and taxes,
The same transaction, in Thailand, can be excluding costs of survey, lawyers’ advice
done in two-and-a-half hours (Burns, Brits and cost of notary public and real estate
and Grant, 2002). brokers, dissuade people from transacting
The inappropriate practices inherent in the formal system and encourage
in the system are the main cause of the informal transactions and corruption. The
proliferation of fake, fraudulent and use of different valuation methodologies
overlapping titles, as well as lost revenues to establish the basis for taxes and fees

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 77

The “players”



Low tax
at both
and local

High transaction Fewer formal

tax rates transactions

for Low Weak
inappropriate valuation governance

Avoidance of
formal land

loss of
for formal land

Source: DENR-LAMP, 2002.

by various land administration and be avoided. Thus, US$100 000 is lost to

taxation agencies complicates the matter, government coffers while US$50 000 is gained
which actually tends to devalue the land by an underpaid public servant – an amount
to compensate for the high tax rates. more than his or her retirement check.
Government losses on five government The imposition of taxes and fees even
properties leased to private individuals in on pro-poor programmes not only slows
Davao City alone range from US$18 000 to down their implementation but creates a
US$70 000 annually due to the application bad impression of the seriousness of the
of inappropriate valuation practices government. These and other factors have
(PEENRA/LMB, 2000). hindered the success of these programmes.
Meanwhile, the set legal figures were used As De Soto clearly pointed out, in the
as the basis for “under the table” negotiations. Philippines, not only are the entry costs
Imagine a transaction where the amount in high but also the maintenance cost, which
consideration is about US$1 million; about has prompted the people to opt out of the
10 percent of this would be the collectible formal system (De Soto, 2000).
taxes and fees, or about US$100 000. But Figure 2 shows how high transaction
for only 50 percent of that – as a negotiated costs impair the social and economic
tax avoidance – the legitimate taxes can performance of the country.

78 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

The major players any initiatives to overhaul the system will
The structural defects, lack of coordination need to be done with caution. Below are
and lack of leadership among agencies suggested good governance principles to
responsible for the land administration serve as a guide in pursuing viable reform
system all contribute to weak governance options and in crafting concrete proposals
and are a barrier for viable reform to improve the system.
measures. For instance, a government 1. Leadership and participation.
project, faced with major difficulties Leadership is an indispensable element
dealing with the land registry office in of the reform process. Without it,
operating a “one-stop-shop” for land titling success will be very difficult to achieve.
activities, has recommended that there Active participation of key stakeholders
be a presidential directive, in the hope of such as the private sector, civil
improving the institutional arrangements society groups and other institutions
(DENR-LAMP, 2004c). is necessary to drive the appropriate
The presence of private sector and strong changes in the system, to provide
civil society groups is one of the few strengths credibility and sustainability of the
of the land administration system in the strategic vision and its implementation
Philippines. However, the private sector will and to gain ownership of the whole
have to improve its capacity (e.g. technology, process. These elements will serve
skills) and will have to introduce “self-policing” as a strong shield against vested
mechanisms. The civil society groups, on interests and can provide strategic
the other hand, have yet to include land focus to achieve desired results within a
administration as an indispensable element of reasonable time frame.
their sectoral agenda. 2. Clarity and simplicity. Rules,
guidelines and procedures –
Other institutions including fee structure and taxation
Any structural reforms in the system will schemes – should be clear, simple
have to go through a Congress where and understandable. The review and
politicking and various interests prevail. approval process must be time-limited,
On the other hand, enforcement of property and all the required services should be
rights and conflict resolution are mostly delivered at one geographical point, if
handled by the courts. As always, the at all possible. Any overlaps, excessive
courts cannot cope with the enormous requirements, lengthy and confusing
task of deciding voluminous numbers procedures and complicated taxation
of cases within reasonable time and and fee structures should be avoided.
cost (and yet, they still have the task of Clarity and simplicity are two dominant
deciding the first title registration of land factors that reduce opportunities
ownership). Oversight agencies and other for corrupt practices and informal
government entities have yet to see land transactions.
administration as representing a wealth of 3. Transparency and accountability.
opportunities, rather than as a burden on Information regarding the processes,
the government’s financial resources and a regulations and decisions that affect
mundane service. or may affect the public should
be accessible in a complete and
The way forward understandable manner. The roles
Instituting good governance principles and powers of the different institutions
The urgent need to transform the whole (including the private sector, civil society
Philippine land administration system into groups and others) must be clearly
a viable asset to steer development of the defined, understood and monitored.
country and overturn the threatening effects All the players – and particularly their
of poor land governance is undeniable. But decisions, behaviour, actions and

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 79

representations ­– must be accountable in people and institutions. Capacity-
not only to their superiors and building programmes need to be
constituents but also to the general undertaken, including the introduction
public. These twin concepts are the of new and appropriate concepts
cornerstones of good governance and and technologies and exposure to
promote checks and balances in the international trends and best practices.
system. Third, institute the structural reforms –
4. Fairness and equity. All laws, legal and institutional. This will
regulations and processes should ensure long-lasting reforms in the land
be fair and should be implemented administration system. Last is to ensure
and enforced without any biases. that the “voice” of users/clients is heard
Any perceptions to the contrary will at all stages and in all decision-making
diminish public trust and will lead to processes. Sustainability is perhaps
the breakdown of the formal system. the most compelling measure to ensure
Equity considerations should also success.
be put in place to allow all men and
women to have equal opportunities in From principles to concrete actions
the land administration process. In this In a complex and somewhat unfriendly
case, priority in providing education environment, instituting reforms in the
and assistance must be given to present land administration system is
underprivileged groups, particularly the not without challenges. Weak governance
poorest of the poor. Fairness and equity makes the land administration fail in its
are the driving forces that strengthen promises to contribute substantially to the
the social acceptability and credibility of country’s development and social stability.
the system. Instituting good governance principles as
5. Efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency the guidepost for reform unlocks the full
is concerned with how fast the service potential of land administration. Here are
can be delivered while optimizing some practical recommendations on how to
the often constrained resources; proceed:
effectiveness relates to the quality of the
work, consistency and responsiveness. Set up the vision. Everything starts with
Improvements in this regard should a vision. The future land administration
never stop but should be treated as a system must be client-focused, effective and
continuing process. These two elements sustainable, and a time-bound action plan
are catalysts and serve as a tangible and milestones should be set and agreed
measure of a well-functioning land with key stakeholders. Land administration
administration system. should not be treated as an issue in
6. Sustainability. Reform implementation isolation but rather should be integrated in
must be able to prosper without the broader spectrum of the country’s vision
unnecessary interference by and development planning. At this stage, it
external forces (such as politics) or is important that agents and “champions” of
administrative factors (such as lack of change have been identified and motivated
resources). The idea is to establish the to lead, at least in the initial stages of the
fundamentals. First, create a broad- reform.
based constituency for the intended
reforms from various sectors at various Advocate for the reforms. Advocacy
levels. Also, concrete measures need comes in three stages: public awareness
to be undertaken, however small, and education, consensus building and
to demonstrate some success and mobilization. At the earlier stage, one must
encourage more support, politically and be able to steer discussions on the issue, its
financially. The second step is to invest significance and the possibility of change.

80 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

Promoting awareness and education should 4. Consolidate and coordinate production
not be limited to government agencies but of and access to land information.
must also extend to the private sector, civil 5. Abolish judicial processes for issue and
society and influential groups (e.g. decision- registration of title in favour of simple
makers, media personalities, legislators administrative processes.
and economic managers). In consensus 6. Reform and consolidate land
building, one must be able to get support administration laws.
from the audience and capitalize on their 7. Clarify rights of persons occupying land
strengths and possible contribution. But to obtain a title.
one should not expect that everybody who 8. Progressively extend the Torrens Title
declares support will actually take action Register to record all rights relating to
and will mobilize their forces and resources. land.
However, in this stage, eventual champions 9. Devolve responsibility for taxation of
and partners will emerge, and they should real property ownership and transfers to
be encouraged. local government.
10. Streamline land transfers and remove
Re-engineer the whole system. There disincentives to their formal registration.
are many possible reforms that can be 11. Progress towards cost recovery for
introduced in the present complex regime services.
of land administration in the Philippines. 12. Remove local government political
The specified recommendations are only a intervention in the assessment of
few of the practical measures possible, and property values.
are directed to three critical areas: policy 13. Adopt a single valuation basis for all real
and legal, institutional and technical and property taxation.
administrative arrangements. The strategy, 14. Develop, implement and enforce
however, is two-pronged – initiating uniform, best practice valuation
structural reforms at the policy level and standards within government.
demonstrating small successes at the field
level. Institutional arrangements
On the institutional side, capacity-building
Policy and legal reforms initiatives must be prioritized in the public
Structural defects in the system have to sector as well as in the private sector.
be addressed as quickly as possible. In Institutional overlaps – including functions
2002, the Department of Environment and related to approval of surveys, collection
Natural Resources-Land Administration and maintenance of land records and
and Management Project (DENR-LAMP), information – must be addressed so as
a four-year project (Phase 1) supported not to waste scarce government resources
by the World Bank and the Australian and create overlaps, inconsistency and
Government, aimed to introduce reforms confusion. Free exchange of information
in the land administration sector in must also be institutionalized (e.g. making
preparation for a long-term programme, in available cadastral maps to agencies
agreement with most of the stakeholders, working on land valuation and land-
and made 14 recommendations to address use planning). Improving coordination
the structural defects of the system: mechanisms among concerned agencies
1. Strengthen leadership and management and concerned local government units and
of reform. forging sustainable partnership agreements
2. Remove duplication and overlap in are essential ways to enhance performance
delivery of services. while avoiding duplication and unnecessary
3. Improve the efficiency, responsiveness, burden on the public. Introducing formal
transparency and accountability of incentives and sanctions mechanisms
services. and enforcing them seriously may be a

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 81

good way to encourage productivity and example, by bundling all related fees into
motivation among government staff and a single fee or setting a flat fee to avoid
dissuade malfeasance. Decentralization of complicated formulas. It is essential,
decision-making processes at appropriate however, that such fees should be collected
levels, establishment of one-stop shops and at a point where the final service or
introduction of modern and appropriate document is to be delivered. The fewer the
concepts and technology are ways to steps and the fewer the collecting agents
achieve efficiency, improve responsiveness the better. Essentially, one must be able
and enhance transparency and to answer quickly pressing questions from
accountability in the process. the general public, both with certainty and
also providing clarity and transparency;
Technical and administrative arrangements encourage people’s participation; and
Some innovations and simple changes to reduce inappropriate and corrupt practices.
technical and administrative arrangements
could produce a huge improvement in the Monitor progress. Reform is a continuing
system in terms of operational efficiency, process. Monitoring of progress will have to
service quality and effectiveness. A simple be done during the reform initiatives and
reduction of survey accuracy standards needs to be institutionalized during the
and allowing low-cost and less-accurate implementation stage by creating feedback
survey methods for low-value lands (e.g. mechanisms. Notification of milestone
agricultural lands) would promote the achievements will have to be disseminated
government’s anti-poverty programmes, to all concerned to build support and
particularly on securing tenure rights in the enthusiasm. The reform process should
rural and upland areas. Systematic land never cease and further improvements to
titling procedures should also replace the the system should always be an objective.
sporadic way of issuing titles, to enhance However, it is fundamental to understand
transparency and productivity. Alternative that monitoring per se is a concern of
dispute resolution mechanisms at the field everybody and a joint responsibility of all
level also should be institutionalized. As partners.
the study of Ariaso et al. (2003, pp. 87–89)
revealed, most people will opt for amicable Make it sustainable. The four means
settlement and barangays’ (village) decisions to establish the essential foundations
on what will be most acceptable. for sustainability (see above) must be
The most obvious but challenging task integrated in all aspects of reform proposals
is to address the simple questions of how and the reform process. Capacity-building
long the process will take and how much programmes need to be implemented and
it will cost. To answer the “how long” initiatives and activities of the private sector
questions, it is imperative that procedures and civil society should be promoted. Also,
be streamlined and requirements simplified the system must be able to be flexible and
to the minimum, as required by law, and responsive to changing demands. In the
that changes be implemented consistently long run, the lead institution must aim to
across regions. Previously, the Department self-finance all its operations and activities
of Environment and Natural Resources, to ensure high standards of service delivery,
through an administrative issuance, achieve further improvements and enhance
restricted access of married women to sustainability.
homestead grants without any legal basis,
which should have never occurred. It took Concluding remarks
more than 60 years for the said agency to This article shows how important the role
correct this mistake. of the land administration system is for the
As to the question of cost, steps can be country’s poverty reduction and economic
taken to simplify the fee structure – for development programmes. It provides a

82 land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2

presented at LAMP Policy Forum,
clear picture of how huge its potential is to
17–18 November 2004. Manila.
stimulate economic growth, ensure social
Burns, T., Brits, A. & Grant, C. 2002.
equity and improve the investment climate.
Comparative study of land administration
The challenge is to accept that inefficiency
systems. Working paper presented at Regional
and weak governance in the system exist
Workshops on Land Policy Issues, Asia Program,
and to act decisively to remedy them.
4-6 June 2002, Thailand. CD-ROM on Workshop
The dysfunctional system has been
obvious for many years but its operations
De Soto, H. 2000. The mystery of capital. Why
have been concealed from outsiders' notice.
capitalism triumphs in the West and fails
Its impacts are not directed towards a
everywhere else. New York, USA, Basic Books.
specific group of stakeholders but rather
DENR-LAMP (Department of Environment and
affect everybody, though unfortunately,
Natural Resources-Land Administration and
the poor are affected disproportionately.
Management Project). 2002. Policy integration
There are a lot of opportunities for change
report. CD-ROM, Philippines-Australia LAMP
and some of these are basic, though still
Technical Reports. Quezon City, Philippines.
not without difficulties and challenges.
DENR-LAMP. 2004a. Land tenure status study.
Good governance principles, in this regard,
Quezon City, Philippines.
have to dominate all aspects of reform
DENR-LAMP. 2004b. The LARA project video.
proposals and the process itself. Such
Quezon City, Philippines.
principles should serve as a guide for all
DENR-LAMP. 2004c. Integrated lessons report.
undertakings, actions and decisions to
Manila (available at http://www.phil-lamp.org).
increase the possibility of success.
December 2005.
This article has highlighted how
Isles, C. 2002. Transfer of titles. Realities on the
governance matters in managing the land
ground. Case study commissioned by Philippines-
administration system. The Philippines’
Australia LAMP. Quezon City, Philippines.
situation mirrors what is happening in
PEENRA/LMB (Philippines Economic –
other developing countries at different
Environmental & Natural Resources
stages of development and at different
Accounting System/Lands Management
phases of initiating land administration
Bureau. 2000. Valuation and rental determination
reforms. Finally, the tasks ahead seem
of DENR administered patrimonial properties.
insurmountable but are worth undertaking
given the huge potential that an efficient
Teh, A.R. 2005. Land administration and
and sound land administration system
management in the Philippines: reforms and
has to contribute to the country’s global
innovations. Paper presented at Expert Group
competitiveness. As Oliver Wendell Holmes
Meeting on Secure Land Tenure: New Legal
once said, “the greatest things in this world
Frameworks and Tools. Bangkok, 8­–9 December
are not so much where we are, but in which
2005. Bangkok, United Nations Economic and
direction we are moving”.
Social Commission for Asia and Pacific.
UN-HABITAT. 2004. Urban land for all. Nairobi,
United Nations for Human Settlements
Ariaso, D., Tamayo, N., Amores, B., De Paz, D.,
Programme (available at http://www.unhabitat.
Aure, F., Perez, R., Solis, V., Operario, E. &
Ariaso, R. 2003. A review of existing mechanisms
Urbis Philippines. 2004. Land markets study-final
and structures in the resolution of land-related
report. DENR-LAMP. Quezon City, Philippines.
disputes in rural areas. CD-ROM. Philippines-
World Bank. 2001. Combating corruption in the
Australia LAMP Technical Reports. Quezon City,
Philippines – an update. Philippine Country
Management Unit. Manila, East Asia and Pacific
ADB (Asian Development Bank). 2005. Country
Regional Office, World Bank.
governance assessment, Philippines. Manila.
Bloch, P. 2004. Cost recovery of land services and
land as a basis for government income. Paper

land reform / réforme agraire / reforma agraria 2006/2 83

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