Land Management and Registration in the Philippines

Land Management and Registration in the Philippines



Before the Spanish colonial period, the inhabitants of the islands in our archipelago roamed freely, tilled portions of the land, and enjoyed the freedom to do with it what they desired. Land was abundant. Population was small. When Spain came to the country, the colonial government started a system of granting lands to colonial settlers. As early as the 15th century, Spanish explorers who settled in the lands they found were awarded Royal Grants by the crown of Spain. Lands in the Philippines were given to encomienderos who created haciendas and started a tenancy system with the farmworkers. After the Spanish era, the American government began the process of distributing public land in earnest.


The evolution of land management and land registration in the Philippines can be traced through the laws and statutes enacted –


Act 218 – Sept. 2, 1901 – Created the Insular Bureau of Public Lands (IBPL).


The Bureau planned out a system for the survey of the archipelago and in 1903 implemented Act 926 or the first Public Land Act. Disposition under this law was done by way of homestead, free patent, sale and lease of public lands suitable for agriculture.

Act 496 – Feb. 1, 1903, Land Registration Act

Established the Torrens System of land registration and created the Court of Land Registration and Registrars of Deeds

In 1908, the Bureau introduced cadastral surveying, a public land survey that covers an extensive area, usually an entire municipality, subdividing the same into parcels for purposes of public land distribution. The first cadastral survey project (Cadastral Project No. 1) was conducted in Pilar, Bataan in November 1908. The name Insular Bureau of Public Land was later changed by virtue of Act 1470 to the Bureau of Lands which was mandated to administer the distribution of friar lands under Act 1120.

Act No. 2259 – Feb. 11, 1913, otherwise known as the Cadastral Act, was implemented providing for a procedure of judicial adjudication of public lands. The Director of Lands was authorized to conduct ground surveys and institute registration proceedings.

Act 2874 – 1919 (Amendment of Act 926)

The Second Public Land Act (Act 2874) was enacted on 1919 introduced the system of land classification and increased the homestead area from sixteen (16) hectares to twenty four (24) hectares.

C.A. 141 – Nov. 7, 1936, Public Land Act

The Public Land Act was a landmark law for many Filipinos who were finally able to obtain titles to the land they occupied.

  • Effected Dec. 1, 1936. Allowed both judicial and administrative proceedings.
  • Titles to public lands were granted through – homestead patents, free patents, sales patents
  • Patents were recognized and brought into the Torrens system.

P.D. 1529 – June 11, 1978, Property Registration Decree

This decree was intended to update Act 496 and consolidate all other relevant laws on registration of property.

  • Until today, this is the governing law on property registration.
  • Jurisdiction on applications for new titles given to the Regional Trial Courts.
  • Expanded scope of registration to include – judicial confirmation of imperfect titles, cadastral registration proceedings, voluntary proceedings, involuntary proceedings, certificates of land transfer and emancipation patents from agrarian reform, and reconstruction of lost or destroyed titles.



Today, the LMB is an agency under the DENR responsible for administering, surveying, managing, and disposing Alienable and Disposable (A&D) lands and other government lands not placed under the jurisdiction of other government agencies.

In 1972, R.A. No. 6516 was enacted authorizing the district land officers in every province to sign patents not exceeding five (5) hectares. More than two (2) million hectares of agricultural land was distributed by the Bureau of Lands from 1970 to 1980.


Reorganization of the DENR – Land Management Bureau

Executive Order No. 192 organized the DENR in June 1987. The original Bureau of Lands District Land Offices were integrated to the field offices of the DENR and the Bureau’s Central Office became the Land Management Bureau. The re-organized Bureau spearheaded the distribution of public agricultural lands through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) distributing 1.32 million hectares to the rural community.



The LRA is the government agency tasked with implementing the Torrens system of title registration. Its field offices are called the Register of Deeds. The LRA is the repository of all land titles. The LRA has undergone many evolutions. Upon enactment of Act 496 in 1903, the offices of the Register of Deeds came into being. Act 2347 transferred the jurisdiction of the Court of Land Registration to the

Court of First Instance and a new office called “General Land Registration Office (GLRO) was established. In June 17, 1954, RA 1151 abolished the GLRO and created the Land Registration Commission (LRC) under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. On Feb. 9, 1981, Marcos issued E.O. 649 which reorganized the LRC into the National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Administration (NLTDRA). On Sept. 30, 1988, a new presidential order changed the NLTDRA into the Land Registration Authority (LRA). The Authority has grown through the years. It now has 2500 employees nationwide.

Mandate. The LRA exists for the sole purpose of implementing and protecting the Torrens system of land titling and registration. It is the central repository of all land records involving registered or titled lands. It issues decrees of registration pursuant to final judgment of the courts in land registration proceedings and causes the issuance by a registrar of deeds the corresponding certificate of title;

It is tasked to issue all subsequent or transfer certificates of title which may either be issued judicially or administratively; It keeps the title history or records of transaction involving titled or registered lands; It exercises control over the disposition or alienation of registered lands in accordance with existing

Land Management and Registration

government rules and regulations; It provides legal and technical assistance to the courts on land registration cases; It extends assistance to other agencies of the government in the implementation cases; It extends assistance to other agencies of the government in the implementation of the agrarian program; Its a revenue-collecting agency of the government.


-The Land Titling Computerization Project –

  • Will allow query on the status of a land title to be made anywhere, anytime from any of the various Registries of Deeds nationwide;
  • A shift from largely paper-based to a largely paperless system thereby securing tighter control over land titles;
  • Will hasten the turn around time in the generation and issuance of land title.

The LRA is about to complete the Land Titling Computerization Project (LTCP). The project is currently on its Phase IV. The Certification of Acceptance of Information Technology Facilities for Phase I and Phase II were issued on November 28, 2008 and June 24, 2010, respectively. One hundred eighteen (118) RDs are “on-live” operations, computerizing all records, converting these records into the LRA database. Land Title and Deeds transactions are processed and registered using the automated Philaris system. Applicants for titles are issued an EPEB (Electronic Primary Entry Book) number.



The Torrens System was originally developed in 1857 by Sir Robert Torrens in Australia. Act 496 in 1903 established the Torrens system in the Philippines for the following purposes.

  • To “quiet title to land” – to remove claims upon its legality, except for those annotated.
  • To put a stop to any question of legality of title, except claims noted at the time of registration or which may arise subsequently;
  • The system does not create titles but confirms a title already created and vested rendering it indefeasible.


Original registration.

Before a title can be registered for the first time, the proper proceedings are undertaken either judicially or administratively. Proceedings shall be “in rem”.

Proceedings “in rem” is an action to determine title to property and the rights of the parties. Title and rights are determined not merely among the parties to the lawsuit but also against all persons at any time claiming an interest in that property. It determines rights in property that are conclusive against the whole world. Action ”in rem” is permitted by a particular court only when that court has authority over the property or when the courts jurisdiction extends to cover it. The judgment can only be against the land and not its owner. Jurisdiction of a court can be exercised, only after parties who are known to have an interest in the property are notified of the proceedings and have been given a chance to present their claim to the court.

Once a title is registered, it becomes the best evidence of ownership. Thus, real estate transactions are facilitated. After a registration is completed, and there exists no fraud, there can be no more third party claimants. The owner may rest secure.


Land Management and Registration

Transfer of Ownership

Without a legal system of land registration, a sale of property is effected by a conveyance document from seller to buyer which utilizes a “Warranty Deed”. In a warranty deed, it is the seller who warrants full ownership to a property. A mere conveyance and warranty could result in disputes, such as defective previous conveyances, double-sale, illegitimate seller, etc., which required lengthy judicial proceedings.

In a sale involving a registered and titled property under the Torrens system, such disputes are virtually inexistent, except in cases of fraud. Thus there is a greater certainty and security of title and this became the basis of the real estate economy.


Registration of Conveyance Instruments

Where a property is subject to a contract to sell which is not yet perfected, the conveyance instrument should ideally be registered.

Section 50 of Act No. 496 expressly provides that the act of registration shall be the operative act to convey and affect the land. Section 55 of the same Act requires the presentation of the owner’s duplicate certificate of title for the registration of any deed or voluntary instrument.


However, if the owner refuses to surrender the duplicate certificate the grantee may file with the Register of Deeds a statement setting forth his adverse claim, as provided for in Section 110 of Act No. 496.


Acquisition of Alienable and Disposable (A&D) public lands through the DENR

Under various laws which began with Act 966 in 1903, alienable and disposal agricultural public lands and those which became residential in use could be acquired by eligible citizens of the Philippines through the Patent system. The DENR (previously Bureau of Lands) issues various patents

  • Free patent under CA 141
  • Free patent under RA 10023
  • Homestead Patent
  • Sales Patent
  • Miscellaneous Sales Patent
  • Miscellaneous Sales Patent under RA 730
  • Insular Government Property Sales
  • Foreshore Land Lease


(1) Free Patent – under CA 141 as amended by RA 6940

Free Patent was the acquisition through administrative confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title of A&D agricultural land which the applicant has occupied and cultivated for at least 30 years and had paid realty taxes thereon. Who could apply — natural-born citizens (Under the 1987 Constitution, those born on or before January 17, 1973 of Filipino mothers who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority are also deemed natural-

Process: Filing of the application with the CENRO; survey of the land; submit plans and technical description, affidavits of two (2) disinterested residents of the municipality where the land is located and documentary evidence of possession or ownership. Posting of Notice for two (2) consecutive weeks in the provincial capitol, municipality and in the barrio where the land is located. Free patent is signed by PENRO officer (up to 5 ha.); RED (up to 10 ha.); and DENR Secretary (above 10 ha.). Signed patent is transmitted to the Register of Deeds for registration and issuance of title in accordance with Sec. 103 of the Property Registration Decree (P.D. 1529).


Under RA 6940, applications for Free Patent ended Dec. 31, 2000.


(2) Free Patent under RA 10023 – March 9, 2010

Any Filipino citizen who is an actual occupant of a residential land may apply for a Free Patent Title under this Act, provided that in highly urbanized cities the land should not exceed two hundred (200) square meters; in other cities it should not exceed five hundred (500) square meters; in first class and second class municipalities it should not exceed seven hundred fifty (750) square meters; and in all other municipalities it should not exceed one thousand (1000) square meters; provided further, that the land applied for is not needed for public service and/or public use.

Application: Supported by survey plan, technical description, affidavit of two disinterested persons attesting that the applicant has, either by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, actually resided on and continuously possessed and occupied, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, the subject land for at least ten (10) years.

Removal of Restrictions : The restrictions regarding encumbrances, conveyances, transfers or dispositions imposed in Sections 118, 119, 121, 122, and 123 of Chapter XIII, Title VI of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, shall not apply to patents issued under this Act. Period for Application: CENRO is mandated to process application within 120 days, forward to PENRO, who shall have five (5) days to approve or disapprove the patent.


(3) Homestead Patent under CA 141

Homestead Patent is initially a one-year tenure for agricultural lands of the public domain. Applicants are required to accomplish and file final proof after the expiration of one year and a homestead patent is issued after the applicant has satisfactorily complied with the residence and cultivation requirement of the law. Who may apply – Citizen of the Philippines, over 18 years of age or head of the family, not an owner of more than 12 has. (Reduced to 3 has. by the application RA 6657 under DENR Memo Circular No. 22 dated November 20, 1989).

Homesteader must begin to work the homestead within six (6) months from approval and must cultivate at least 1/5 of the area within one to five years; and must reside continuously for at least, one year in the municipality where the land is located or in an adjacent municipality. After fulfilling the residence and cultivation requirements, patent with complete technical description of the land is prepared and signed (as above) and the patent is transmitted to the Register of Deeds for registration and issuance of title.

Restrictions: “Section 118 of CA 141 — . Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, lands acquired under free patent or homestead shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation for a term of five years .. nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period..


(4) Sales Patent

Sale’s patents for agricultural public lands disposable under Chapter V of C.A. 141, as amended, not more than 12 hectares, may be acquired at public auction thru sealed bidding where an applicant has the option to equal the highest bid. The land must be alienable and disposable, free from claims and conflicts, surveyed. Who may apply – Any Filipino Citizen of legal age; if not of legal age, who is the head of the family. The awardees shall, by himself and not through share tenants occupy and cultivate the land immediately or not later than six (6) months from the date of the award, and shall so occupy and cultivate the same continuously until the issuance of patent thereof, and shall have at least one fifth (1/5) of the area actually occupied, imported and cultivated in order to be entitled to a patent. On submission of proofs of full payment of purchase price of the land, a Sales Patent in Judicial Form No. 11 is issued and transmitted to the Register of Deeds concerned.


Note: Applicable to all kinds of sales applications. DAO 38, S-1990: Patents for 5 hectares and below – signed by the Regional Executive Director; more than 5 hectares – signed by DENR Secretary.


(5) Miscellaneous Sales Application

Miscellaneous Sales Application covers lands of the public domain to be utilized for residential, commercial or industrial or other productive purposes other than agricultural, disposable under Chapters IX & X of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. Residential, when the applicant intends to build his house on the land or has already built his house thereon. Commercial, when the applicant aim to make the land his place of business and industrial, when the applicant will devote to the pursuit of industry. Land is sold at public auction thru oral bidding. Who may apply – Any Filipino citizen of legal age, or not of legal age but is the head of the family. Note: Under the provision of the New Constitution, corporation or associations are not allowed to acquire public lands thru purchase, only thru lease.


The awardees shall commence the construction of the improvements appropriate for the purpose for which the land is purchased within six (6) months from the receipt of the order of award and shall complete the said construction within eighteen (18) months from the date of the award. After this is done, a Miscellaneous Sales Patent in Judicial Form No. 167 is issued and sent to the RD.


(6) Miscellaneous Sales under RA 730

R.A. 730 authorizes the Regional Executive Director of DENR to sell pre-occupied public land if justified after due investigation, appraisal, review and concurrence by DPWH. Maximum area 1,000 sq.m. Miscellaneous Sales Patent in Judicial Form No. 167.


Who may apply — Filipino citizen; at least 21 years of age; married, and if single, must be the bread winner or head of the family. Do not own any home lot in the city or municipality where the land applied for is located. Must have actually occupied in good faith the land applied for and constructed a house thereon where he is actually residing.


(7) Insular Government Property Sales

Insular Government Property Sales Application (IGPSA) covers lands already titled in the name of the Government (patrimonial property of the Government) to be utilized for residential or agricultural purposes disposable under Act 3038 and sold at public auction thru oral or sealed bidding. Who may avail — Any Filipino citizen of legal age. Any Filipino citizen not of legal age who is the head of the family. If approved, a Deed of Sale is issued.


(8) Foreshore Land Lease

Foreshore land may be leased long-term for residential commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural and disposable under Chapter IX of the Public Land Law. Lease shall be by public auction thru public bidding. Who may apply? Any Filipino citizen of lawful age. Corporation, association of partnership duly constituted under the laws of the Philippines at least sixty per centum (60%) of the capital is owned by Filipino citizen.


(9) Acquisition of private agricultural lands through the DAR

Private agricultural lands could also be acquired by farmers and tenants through the implementation of agrarian reform laws. Starting with RA 3844 in 1963, then PD 27 in 1972 and RA 6657 in 1988, large tracts of private lands have been subjected to land reform. RA 9700 is the most recent extension of the agrarian reform law which expires in June 2014. More details about agrarian reform programs are presented in another section of this Manual.


ADVERSE CLAIMS. To protect the interest of those who may have rightful claim over property that has been titled to another, a system of adverse claims is provided in Section 110 of Act 496. Not all kinds of claims can be registered. It must first be shown that the claimant has no other recourse in law to acquire title or possession. A claim of ownership of registered property that is based on prescription and adverse possession can not be registered.

Purpose of Adverse Claim:
(1) The claimant’s right or interest in registered land is adverse to the registered owner;
(2) Such right or interest arose subsequent to the date of original registration; and


Requisites of Adverse Claim:

  1. The adverse claimant must state in writing: a) his/her alleged right or interest; b) how and under whom such alleged right or interest was acquired; c) the description of the land in which the right or interest is claimed, and d) the certificate of title number.
  1. Such statement must be signed and sworn to before a notary public or other officer authorized to administer oath.
  1. The claimant shall state his/her residence or place to which all notices may be served.


Under Section 70 of PD 1529, the adverse claim shall be effective for a period of thirty (30) days from the date of the registration and it may be cancelled in the following ways, among others:

  1. After the lapse of thirty days, upon the filing by the party in interest of a verified petition for such cancellation. No second adverse claim based on the same ground may thereafter be registered by the same claimant.
  1. Before the lapse of the thirty day period, when a party in interest files a petition for cancellation before the Regional Trial Court. If after due notice and hearing, the court finds the claim to be invalid, it will order the cancellation of the claim and may fine the claimant. If a property is being contested by several parties in court, the subsequent annotation of a notice of lis pendens on the certificate of title on file with the Register of Deeds also serves the purpose of an adverse claim.



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