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46 DENR SECRETARY v.

YAP
G.R. No. 167707 / October 8, 2008 / RT Reyes J/ kpm

SUBJECT MATTER: Original registration

SUMMARY (DISCLAIMER: LONG CASE, SINAMA KO NA LAHAT IN CASE MAGTANONG SI SIR): This petition is for a review on
certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo Aklan, which
granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose Yap et al, and ordered the survey of
Boracay for titling purposes.President Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1801 declaring Boracay Island as a tourist zone and
marine reserve. Claiming that Proc. No. 1801 precluded them from filing an application for a judicial confirmation of imperfect
title or survey of land for titling purposes, respondents-claimants filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo,
Aklan.
The OSG opposed the petition countering that Boracay Island was an unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of
the mass of lands classified as “public forest,” which was not available for disposition pursuant to section 3(a) of PD No. 705 or
the Revised Forestry Code.

 The SC ruled against respondents and held that Proc 1801 and PTA Circ 3-82 did not pose any legal obstacle for respondents,
and all those similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island. These did not convert
portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land.  The island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and,
applying the Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.

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 because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land.   Their
entitlement to a government grant under our present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is
already alienable and disposable.   Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how long,
cannot confer ownership or possessory rights.

Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain prior to
Proclamation No. 1064.  Such unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No. 705.

The private claimants cannot apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Proclamation No. 1064 , with respect to
those lands which were classified as agricultural lands.  Private claimants failed to prove the first element of open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945. 

DOCTRINE: Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot confer
ownership or possessory rights

The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in
Boracay, nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying

That the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach resorts on the island, or that the island has already been
stripped of its forest cover, or that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will destroy the island’s tourism industry, do
not negate its character as public forest.

Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3- 82 did not convert the whole of Boracay into an agricultural land. There is
nothing in the law or the Circular which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular No. 3-82 to
“private lands” and “areas declared as alienable and disposable” does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural.
Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If
President 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 Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in Proclamation No. 1801.

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, PGMA merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain,
presumably subject to existing vested rights.Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive
Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no authority to do so. Absent such classification, the land remains
unclassified until released and rendered open to disposition.
The prohibition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) applies only to a “reclassification” of land—if the land
had never been previously classified, as in the case of Boracay, there can be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian
law.

FACTS

GR 167707
Petitioner THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DENR-REGION VI, REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER
OF KALIBO, AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY,
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF PHILIPPINE TOURISM AUTHORITY
Respondent MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in
behalf of all those similarly situated
GR 173775
Petitioner DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY
SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST, ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION
Respondent THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI, PROVINCIAL
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO, AKLAN

These are 2 consolidated petitions


CASE #1- GR 167077
 Apr 14 1976 - DENR approved National Reservation Survey of Boracay (identified lots as occupied or claimed by
named persons)
 Nov 10 1978 - Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1801 declaring Boracay as tourist zones and marine reserves under
the administration of Philippine Tourism Authority (later, a PTA circular 3-82 was issued to implement Proc. 1801)
 
Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes, respondents-claimants 
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, alleging that
 Marcos' issuances (Proc 1801 and PTA Circ 3-82)raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied lands
 They (or their predecessors-in-interest) have been in open continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation since Jun 12 1945 or earlier since time immemorial (they also paid realty taxes)
 The issuances did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man; it was susceptible of private ownership since it
was classified as a tourist zone
 Under CA 141, Sec. 48(b) [Public Land Act], they had the right to have the lots registered in their names through
judicial confirmation of imperfect titles
 
Opposition of Republic (thru OSG)
 Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain; formed part of the mass of lands classified as "public forest"
which was not available for disposition under PD 705 [Revised Forestry Code]
 Right of claimants to judicial confirmation of title governed by CA 141 and PD 705
 Boracay has not been classified as A&D so their possession cannot ripen into ownership
 During pre-trial, it was raised that such parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural growing
trees and such coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less fifty (50)
years ago
 
Parties decided to forego the trial and submit the case for resolution upon submission of memos.
 
RTC (and CA) ruled in favor of the claimants:
Marcos' issuances pose no legal obstacle to acquiring title to lands in Boracay.
 Said issuances did not mention that the lands were inalienable or could not be subject of disposition
 The Circular itself recognized private ownership of lands
 Legal basis is CA 141, Secs. 87 and 53 (for acknowledging private ownership of lands in Boracay; only those forested
areas in public lands were declared as part of the forest reserve)
 CA said: The claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial
were part of a forest reserve.
 
CASE #2- GR 173775
 May 22 2006 - During pendency of Case #1, Pres Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Proc. 1064 classifying Boracay into
400ha of reserved forest land (protection purposes) and 629.06ha of agricultural land (A&D)
 
Petitioners Sacay, et al. filed a petition to nullify Proc. 1064, alleging:
 It infringed on their prior vested rights over portions of Boracay, having possessed their lots since time immemorial +
billions already invested in developing lands, resorts
 No need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land; since it is neither mineral nor timber land, it is
agricultural land (they base this on the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act 926 (first Public Land Act)
o Therefore, their possession in the concept of an owner for the required period entitled them to judicial
confirmation of imperfect title
 
OSG arguments
 No vested right
 Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to PD 705, so the lands are inalienable (and therefore cannot be
the subject of judicial confirmation)
 Only the executive department has the authority to reclassify lands into A&D lands (need a positive government act)
 
The two cases were consolidated.
 
ISSUE: WON the claimants have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay? No
 
HELD: No

Regalian Doctrine and the power of the executive to reclassify lands of the public domain

Classification of lands under the PH constitutions


 1935 Consti - agricultural / forest / timber
 1975 Consti - agricultural / industrial or commercial / residential / resettlement / mineral / timber or forest / grazing
lands / other classes as may be provided by law
 1987 Consti - agricultural / forest / timber / national parks
o Only agricultural lands may be alienated
o HERE: Prior to Gloria's Proc. 1064, BORACAY HAD NEVER BEEN EXPRESSLY AND ADMINISTRATIVELY
CLASSIFIED UNDER ANY OF THESE (UNCLASSIFIED land of the public domain)
 
Remember the Regalian Doctrine!
 All lands of the public domain belong to the state; all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private
ownership are presumed to belong to the State
 
History lessons on Regalian Doctrine (in case itanong ni sir)
Spanish regime- Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in the
Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown
 First introduced here through the Laws of the Indies and Royal Cedulas
 Then the Ley Hipotecaria / Mortgage Law of 1893
 Royal Decree of 1894 / Maura law amended the aforementioned laws
 Private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could fall on any of the following - royal grant / special grant /
adjustment title / title by purchase / possessory information title
 
American rule onwards
 Philippine Bill of 1902 - agricultural / mineral / timber or forest lands
o Mineral land could be disposed of through absolute grant and by lease
o This is where we got the awesome definition of agricultural lands (a.k.a. those that are neither mineral nor
timber lands)
 Feb 1 1903 - Act 496 (Land Registration Act) - established Torrens system
 Oct 7 1903 - Act 926 (first Public Land Act)
o homestead system;
o judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles;
o sale or lease of public lands;
o permitted corporations to lease or purchase lands of the public domain;
o OCEN possession and occupation of agricultural lands for the next 10 years preceding July 26 1904 sufficient
for judicial confirmation of imperfect title
 Nov 29 1919 - Act 2874 (second Public Land Act)
o Limited exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of countries which gave
Filipinos the same privileges
o For judicial confirmation of title, requirement is possession and occupation en concepto dueno since time
immemorial or since July 26 1894 (different year from 1st PLA)
 Dec 1 1936 - CA 141 (Public Land Act) = EXISTING GENERAL LAW RE: CLASSIFICATION, DISPOSITION OF LANDS OF
THE PUBLIC DOMAIN OTHER THAN TIMBER AND MINERAL LANDS, AND PRIVATELY OWNED LANDS WHICH
REVERTED TO THE STATE (retained the date in Act 2874)
 RA 1942 - 30 year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation
 PD 1073 - CURRENT RULE: POSSESSION AND OCCUPATION SINCE JUN 12 1945 OR EARLIER
 Feb 16 1976 - PD 892 discontinued the use of Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings (need to
apply for registration of lands under Act 496~)
 Jun 11 1978 - PD 1529 (Property Registration Decree) AMENDED ACT 496
 
The rules
 REQUIRED: POSITIVE ACT DECLARING LAND AS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE
o CA 141 limits alienable and disposable lands only to those which have been officially delimited and
classified
 Burden of proof is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership) - need to establish incontrovertible
evidence
o Acceptable: Pres. Proc. / EO / Admin action / Investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators /
legislative act or statute / certification from the government
 In this case: no such evidence presented that prior to 2006, lands have been proclaimed as alienable and
disposable
 
Ankron and De Aldecoa cases did not make Boracay agricultural lands
 Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases  Ankron v. Government
of the Philippine Islands (1919) and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government (1909)
 Reliance on these cases is misplaced. For one, the cases were decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act 926
o Also, these laws merely provided the manner through which courts would classify lands of the public domain
(so need to prove on a case-to-case basis in order to classify land properly)
 Also, the cases were decided at a time when the President had no power to classify lands of the public domain (courts
were free to classify
 Totally wrong to say that all lands of the public domain were converted into agricultural lands
 SC said that the presumption laid down in said cases only applies to an applicant for judicial or administrative
confirmation of imperfect title under the old law Act 926
o CANNOT apply to the claimants who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act 926 - SO their land
remained unclassified; still owned by the State under the Regalian doctrine
 In any case, the assumption in these cases was not absolute; land classification still dependent on proof
 IN THIS CASE: When Act 926 was supplanted by Act 2874, since the claimants did not apply for judicial confirmation,
the courts were no longer authorized to determine the property's land classification
 
Krivenko not applicable here
 In Krivenko, the issue was WON residential lots were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; if yes,
WON an alien could acquire a residential lot (Answer: Alien Krivenko prohibited by 1935C from acquiring agricultural
land, which included residential lots)
 IN THIS CASE:: Issue is WON unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed agricultural
 
Claimants' continued possession under Act 926 does not create a presumption that the land is inalienable
 Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain prior to
Gloria's Proc. 1064 - these were considered public forest under PD 705 (DENR and NAMRIA certify that Boracay is an
unclassified land of the public domain)
 PD 705 issued by Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the public domain as PUBLIC FOREST (mass of lands of
the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of which
lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not)
o THEREFORE: ALL UNCLASSIFIED LANDS, INCLUDING BORACAY, ARE IPSO FACTO CONSIDERED PUBLIC
FORESTS
o (Note, however, that PD 705 respects titles already existing prior to its effectivity)
 Court noted that this classification seems to be "out of touch with the present realities in the island" (lol). Nonetheless,
the classification stays.
o "Forests" under PLA and Constitution do not necessarily refer to "large tracts of wooded land or expanses
covered by dense growths of trees and underbrushes"; The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status
and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like
 
Claimants cannot rely on Marcos' Proc. 1801 as basis for judicial confirmation of imperfect title
 This did not convert the whole of Boracay into agricultural land
 The reference to "private lands" and "areas declared as alienable and disposable" does not by itself classify the land as
agricultural; Circular also makes reference to public forested lands
o Reference to both kinds of lands merely recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive under CA
141
 Proc. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to classify Boracay as A&D (If this was Marcos' intention he
would have identified the specific limits of each classification as Gloria did in Proc. 1064)
 
It was Proc. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership
 Only the president, upon recommendation of the proper department head, has authority to classify the lands into
alienable and disposable, timber and mineral lands
 PGMA merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands, presumably subject to existing vested rights
 
Proc. 1064 does not violate Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL)
 That Boracay was classified as a public forest under PD 705 did not bar the Executive from later converting it into
agricultural land; Boracay still remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD 705
 Moreover, the prohibition under CARL applies only to a reclassification of land --> If the land had never been
previously classified, no reclassification!
 
Not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA 141
 Two requisites
o Open Continuous Exclusive Notorious possession and occupation by claimant or through predecessors-in-
interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from Jun 12 1945
o Classification as A&D land of the public domain (not present in this case)
 
Cannot also apply for judicial confirmation under Proc. 1064 with respect to lands classified as agricultural lands
 This time, failure to prove OCEN since Jun 12 1945
o Tax declarations insufficient to prove this - earliest tax dec issued in 1993
o Continued possession and considerable investment do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay

Last note by the court: The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development of Boracay Island,
making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of 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 strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral (nasa case
talaga ito, baka tanungin ni sir). However… 

All is not lost for private claimants (may pa advice pa ang court)
 While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial confirmation under Sec. 48(b) of CA 141, this does not denote their
automatic ouster from the areas they possess now classified as agricultural; neither will this mean loss of investments
 Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess
o Those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements (they can preserve or protect
possession)
o They may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title (homestead / sales patents)
o Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them
from certain requirements under the present land law

DISPOSITIVE:
1. The petition for certiorari  in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No.
71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.

2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.