Since 1956, my grandfather has owned, cultivated and developed an approximately six hectares of land in our home province. This land is not covered by a certificate of title. We applied for homestead patent for it. But the application was denied by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because the land was classified as timberland. We heard from one of the geodetic engineers who previously conducted a survey in the area that the land can now be the subject of titling because it is already disposable.
How can we prove that the land is disposable? Why is it that we cannot have a title over this land, even if it has been in our possession since 1956?
The land, which is subject of homestead patent application, is classified as timberland. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, states, “All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal and petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forest or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the state. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. Xxx xxx.”
In your case, the land for which you are applying for issuance of homestead patent is timberland, which is not alienable and not disposable. Since the land is not alienable, it is not also registrable or cannot be the subject of homestead patent. If, however, you come to learn that the land you are applying for homestead patent is already alienable, then you have to present evidence to prove the same. It must be stressed that incontrovertible evidence must be presented to establish that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable (Republic of the Philippines-Bureau of Forest Development vs. Roxas, G.R. No. 157988, December 11, 2013).
To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, the Supreme Court elucidated in Republic of the Philippines vs. Candymaker Inc. (G.R. No. 163766, June 22, 2006), that:
“[A]n applicant must conclusively establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, or administrative action, investigation reports of the Bureau of Lands investigator or a legislative act or statute. Until then, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. A certification of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources stating that the land subject of an application is found to be within the alienable and disposable site per a land classification project map is sufficient evidence to show the real character of the land subject of the application.”
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org