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G.R. No.

179987 September 3, 2013

HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, (Represented by Sally A. Malabanan), Petitioners,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

BERSAMIN, J.:

For our consideration and resolution are the motions for reconsideration of the parties who both assail the
decision promulgated on April 29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) denying the
application of the petitioners for the registration of a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite on
the ground that they had not established by sufficient evidence their right to the registration in accordance with
either Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree).

Antecedents

The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang
Cavite, more particularly identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of 71,324-square meters. On
February 20, 1998, applicant Mario Malabanan, who had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed
an application for land registration covering the property in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tagaytay City,
Cavite, claiming that the property formed part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and
that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, public and adverse
possession and occupation of the land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the judicial confirmation
of his title.1

To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, Malabanan presented
during trial a certification dated June 11, 2001 issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources
Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which reads:

This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad 452-D, Silang Cadastre as surveyed for
Mr. Virgilio Velasco located at Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite containing an area of 249,734 sq. meters as shown
and described on the Plan Ap-04-00952 is verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land
Classification Map No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on
March 15, 1982.2

After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting Malabanan’s application for land
registration, disposing thusly:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation
of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan
Csd-04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four
(71,324) Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in
addition to other proofs adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower,
and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.

Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.

1
SO ORDERED.3

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the CA, arguing that Malabanan had failed
to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC
erred in finding that he had been in possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time required
by law for confirmation of imperfect title.

On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the RTC and dismissing the application for
registration of Malabanan. Citing the ruling in Republic v. Herbieto (Herbieto), 4 the CA declared that under
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, any period of possession prior to the classification of the land
as alienable and disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of
possession. Noting that the CENRO-DENR certification stated that the property had been declared alienable and
disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazco’s possession prior to March 15, 1982 could not be tacked for
purposes of computing Malabanan’s period of possession.

Due to Malabanan’s intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the CA’s decision of
February 23, 2007 to this Court through a petition for review on certiorari.

The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Corazon Naguit 5 (Naguit) remains the
controlling doctrine especially if the property involved is agricultural land. In this regard, Naguit ruled that any
possession of agricultural land prior to its declaration as alienable and disposable could be counted in the
reckoning of the period of possession to perfect title under the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141)
and the Property Registration Decree. They point out that the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that the
declaration of the land subject of the application for registration as alienable and disposable should also date
back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, was a mere obiter dictum considering that the land registration proceedings
therein were in fact found and declared void ab initio for lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing.

The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.6 to support their argument that the
property had been ipso jure converted into private property by reason of the open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession by their predecessors-in-interest of an alienable land of the public domain for more than
30 years. According to them, what was essential was that the property had been "converted" into private
property through prescription at the time of the application without regard to whether the property sought to
be registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the public domain.

As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari because Malabanan failed to establish by
sufficient evidence possession and occupation of the property on his part and on the part of his predecessors-
in interest since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

Petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration

In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the mere classification of the land as alienable
or disposable should be deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial property of the State. Relying on the
rulings in Spouses De Ocampo v. Arlos,7 Menguito v. Republic8 and Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,9 they
argue that the reclassification of the land as alienable or disposable opened it to acquisitive prescription under
the Civil Code; that Malabanan had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco believing in good faith that
Velazco and his predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners of the land with the right to validly transmit
title and ownership thereof; that consequently, the ten-year period prescribed by Article 1134 of the Civil Code,
in relation to Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, applied in their favor; and that when Malabanan
filed the application for registration on February 20, 1998, he had already been in possession of the land for
2
almost 16 years reckoned from 1982, the time when the land was declared alienable and disposable by the
State.

The Republic’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration

The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a clarification with reference to the application
of the rulings in Naguit and Herbieto.

Chiefly citing the dissents, the Republic contends that the decision has enlarged, by implication, the
interpretation of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree through judicial legislation. It reiterates its
view that an applicant is entitled to registration only when the land subject of the application had been declared
alienable and disposable since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Ruling

We deny the motions for reconsideration. In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to
discuss the different classifications of land in relation to the existing applicable land registration laws of the
Philippines.

Classifications of land according to ownership

Land, which is an immovable property,10 may be classified as either of public dominion or of private
ownership.11Land is considered of public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public use; or (b) belongs to
the State, without being for public use, and is intended for some public service or for the development of the
national wealth.12 Land belonging to the State that is not of such character, or although of such character but
no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of the patrimonial property of the State.13 Land
that is other than part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private
ownership if it belongs to a private individual.

Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the country from the West
by Spain through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, 14 all lands of the public domain belong to the
State.15This means that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with
the conservation of such patrimony.16

All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Also, public
lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the State is shown to have reclassified or
alienated them to private persons.17

Classifications of public landsaccording to alienability

Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable primarily rests on the classification of
public lands made under the Constitution. Under the 1935 Constitution,18 lands of the public domain were
classified into three, namely, agricultural, timber and mineral.19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution
classified lands of the public domain into seven, specifically, agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential,
resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing land, with the reservation that the law might provide other
classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the classification under the 1935 Constitution into agricultural,
forest or timber, and mineral, but added national parks.20 Agricultural lands may be further classified by law
according to the uses to which they may be devoted.21 The identification of lands according to their legal
classification is done exclusively by and through a positive act of the Executive Department. 22

3
Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of public land that may be alienated. Under
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the public domain may be alienated; all
other natural resources may not be.

Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial lands of the State, or
those classified as lands of private ownership under Article 425 of the Civil Code, 23 without limitation; and (b)
lands of the public domain, or the public lands as provided by the Constitution, but with the limitation that the
lands must only be agricultural. Consequently, lands classified as forest or timber, mineral, or national parks are
not susceptible of alienation or disposition unless they are reclassified as agricultural. 24 A positive act of the
Government is necessary to enable such reclassification,25 and the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands
under existing laws is vested in the Executive Department, not in the courts.26 If, however, public land will be
classified as neither agricultural, forest or timber, mineral or national park, or when public land is no longer
intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, thereby effectively removing the land
from the ambit of public dominion, a declaration of such conversion must be made in the form of a law duly
enacted by Congress or by a Presidential proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law to
that effect.27 Thus, until the Executive Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until
Congress or the President declares that the State no longer intends the land to be used for public service or for
the development of national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable.

Disposition of alienable public landsSection 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by which
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, i.e., agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit:

Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise:

(1) For homestead settlement;

(2) By sale;

(3) By lease; and

(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;

(a) By judicial legalization; or

(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).

The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of Section 11(4), in relation to Section 48(b)
of the Public Land Act, which expressly requires possession by a Filipino citizen of the land since June 12, 1945,
or earlier, viz:

Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming
to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply
to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,

4
under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the
filing of the applications for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall
be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Bold emphasis supplied)

Note that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of the public domain" or "alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise classified, i.e., mineral, forest or
timber, or national parks, and lands of patrimonial or private ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public
Land Act. What the law does not include, it excludes. The use of the descriptive phrase "alienable and
disposable" further limits the coverage of Section 48(b) to only the agricultural lands of the public domain as set
forth in Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such limitations under the Public Land
Act, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements in order for his application to come under Section
14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,28 to wit:

1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in possession and
occupation of the property subject of the application;

2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious;

3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership;

4. The possession and occupation must have taken place since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and

5. The property subject of the application must be an agricultural land of the public domain.

Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with the authority to classify lands of the
public domain, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, in relation to Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree, presupposes that the land subject of the application for registration must have been already classified
as agricultural land of the public domain in order for the provision to apply. Thus, absent proof that the land is
already classified as agricultural land of the public domain, the Regalian Doctrine applies, and overcomes the
presumption that the land is alienable and disposable as laid down in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act.
However, emphasis is placed on the requirement that the classification required by Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act is classification or reclassification of a public land as agricultural.

The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the land as alienable and disposable agricultural
land should likewise have been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier, because any possession of the land prior to
such classification or reclassification produced no legal effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945
could not be minimized or glossed over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial social policy concerns, and
insisted that the full legislative intent be respected.

We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning point of the requisite possession and
occupation was the sole prerogative of Congress, the determination of which should best be left to the wisdom
of the lawmakers. Except that said date qualified the period of possession and occupation, no other legislative
intent appears to be associated with the fixing of the date of June 12, 1945. Accordingly, the Court should
interpret only the plain and literal meaning of the law as written by the legislators.

Moreover, an examination of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act indicates that Congress prescribed no
requirement that the land subject of the registration should have been classified as agricultural since June 12,
1945, or earlier. As such, the applicant’s imperfect or incomplete title is derived only from possession and

5
occupation since June 12, 1945, or earlier. This means that the character of the property subject of the
application as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain determines its eligibility for land
registration, not the ownership or title over it.

Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly,
continuously and exclusively during the prescribed statutory period is converted to private property by the mere
lapse or completion of the period.29 In fact, by virtue of this doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of
the public domain for as long as the lands were already converted to private ownership, by operation of law, as
a result of satisfying the requisite period of possession prescribed by the Public Land Act. 30 It is for this reason
that the property subject of the application of Malabanan need not be classified as alienable and disposable
agricultural land of the public domain for the entire duration of the requisite period of possession.

To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable
agricultural land at the time of the application for registration is necessary only to dispute the presumption that
the land is inalienable.

The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to determine the point at which prescription
may run against the State. The imperfect or incomplete title being confirmed under Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act is title that is acquired by reason of the applicant’s possession and occupation of the alienable and
disposable agricultural land of the public domain. Where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the
Government are complied with through actual physical, open, continuous, exclusive and public possession of
an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is deemed to have acquired by operation
of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant by the Government, because it is not necessary that a certificate
of title be issued in order that such a grant be sanctioned by the courts. 31

If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to adjudicate and quiet titles to unregistered
lands in favor of qualified Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation and cultivation thereof for the number
of years prescribed by law32 will be defeated. Indeed, we should always bear in mind that such objective still
prevails, as a fairly recent legislative development bears out, when Congress enacted legislation (Republic Act
No. 10023)33in order to liberalize stringent requirements and procedures in the adjudication of alienable public
land to qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to area limitations. 34

On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended for public use or for the development of
national wealth by declaration of Congress or the President, thereby converting such land into patrimonial or
private land of the State, the applicable provision concerning disposition and registration is no longer Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act but the Civil Code, in conjunction with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration
Decree.35 As such, prescription can now run against the State.

To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the disposition of public land or lands of the public
domain, namely:

(1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the
State and are inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under private ownership are also presumed to
belong to the State and, therefore, may not be alienated or disposed;

(2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:

(a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are rendered alienable and disposable through any of
the exclusive modes enumerated under Section 11 of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial
6
confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the agricultural land
subject of the application needs only to be classified as alienable and disposable as of the time
of the application, provided the applicant’s possession and occupation of the land dated back to
June 12, 1945, or earlier. Thereby, a conclusive presumption that the applicant has performed all
the conditions essential to a government grant arises,36 and the applicant becomes the owner of
the land by virtue of an imperfect or incomplete title. By legal fiction, the land has already ceased
to be part of the public domain and has become private property.37

(b) Lands of the public domain subsequently classified or declared as no longer intended for
public use or for the development of national wealth are removed from the sphere of public
dominion and are considered converted into patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership that
may be alienated or disposed through any of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil
Code. If the mode of acquisition is prescription, whether ordinary or extraordinary, proof that
the land has been already converted to private ownership prior to the requisite acquisitive
prescriptive period is a condition sine qua non in observance of the law (Article 1113, Civil Code)
that property of the State not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and their
predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without satisfying the requisite
character and period of possession - possession and occupation that is open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier - the land cannot be considered ipso jure converted to private property
even upon the subsequent declaration of it as alienable and disposable. Prescription never began to run against
the State, such that the land has remained ineligible for registration under Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree. Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14(2) of the
Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or the President issues a proclamation declaring the
land as no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth.1âwphi1

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration and the respondent's Partial Motion
for Reconsideration for their lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

7
G.R. No. 144057 January 17, 2005

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and CORAZON NAGUIT, respondents.

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to review
the Decision1 of the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 51921. The
appellate court affirmed the decisions of both the Regional Trial Court (RTC), 2 Branch 8, of Kalibo, Aklan dated
February 26, 1999, and the 7th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC)3 of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan dated February 18,
1998, which granted the application for registration of a parcel of land of Corazon Naguit (Naguit), the
respondent herein.

The facts are as follows:

On January 5, 1993, Naguit, a Filipino citizen, of legal age and married to Manolito S. Naguit, filed with the MCTC
of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan, a petition for registration of title of a parcel of land situated in Brgy. Union, Nabas, Aklan.
The parcel of land is designated as Lot No. 10049, Cad. 758-D, Nabas Cadastre, AP – 060414-014779, and
contains an area of 31,374 square meters. The application seeks judicial confirmation of respondent’s imperfect
title over the aforesaid land.

On February 20, 1995, the court held initial hearing on the application. The public prosecutor, appearing for the
government, and Jose Angeles, representing the heirs of Rustico Angeles, opposed the petition. On a later date,
however, the heirs of Rustico Angeles filed a formal opposition to the petition. Also on February 20, 1995, the
court issued an order of general default against the whole world except as to the heirs of Rustico Angeles and
the government.

The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was originally declared for taxation purposes in
the name of Ramon Urbano (Urbano) in 1945 under Tax Declaration No. 3888 until 1991. 4 On July 9, 1992,
Urbano executed a Deed of Quitclaim in favor of the heirs of Honorato Maming (Maming), wherein he
renounced all his rights to the subject property and confirmed the sale made by his father to Maming sometime
in 1955 or 1956.5Subsequently, the heirs of Maming executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of respondent
Naguit who thereupon started occupying the same. She constituted Manuel Blanco, Jr. as her attorney-in-fact
and administrator. The administrator introduced improvements, planted trees, such as mahogany, coconut and
gemelina trees in addition to existing coconut trees which were then 50 to 60 years old, and paid the
corresponding taxes due on the subject land. At present, there are parcels of land surrounding the subject land
which have been issued titles by virtue of judicial decrees. Naguit and her predecessors-in-interest have
occupied the land openly and in the concept of owner without any objection from any private person or even
the government until she filed her application for registration.

After the presentation of evidence for Naguit, the public prosecutor manifested that the government did not
intend to present any evidence while oppositor Jose Angeles, as representative of the heirs of Rustico Angeles,
failed to appear during the trial despite notice. On September 27, 1997, the MCTC rendered a decision ordering
that the subject parcel be brought under the operation of the Property Registration Decree or Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 and that the title thereto registered and confirmed in the name of Naguit.6

The Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for
reconsideration. The OSG stressed that the land applied for was declared alienable and disposable only on
October 15, 1980, per the certification from Regional Executive Director Raoul T. Geollegue of the Department
8
of Environment and Natural Resources, Region VI.7 However, the court denied the motion for reconsideration
in an order dated February 18, 1998.81awphi1.nét

Thereafter, the Republic appealed the decision and the order of the MCTC to the RTC, Kalibo, Aklan, Branch 8.
On February 26, 1999, the RTC rendered its decision, dismissing the appeal.9

Undaunted, the Republic elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure. On July 12, 2000, the appellate court rendered a decision dismissing the petition filed by the Republic
and affirmed in toto the assailed decision of the RTC.

Hence, the present petition for review raising a pure question of law was filed by the Republic on September 4,
2000.10

The OSG assails the decision of the Court of Appeals contending that the appellate court gravely erred in holding
that there is no need for the government’s prior release of the subject lot from the public domain before it can
be considered alienable or disposable within the meaning of P.D. No. 1529, and that Naguit had been in
possession of Lot No. 10049 in the concept of owner for the required period. 11

Hence, the central question for resolution is whether is necessary under Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree that the subject land be first classified as alienable and disposable before the applicant’s
possession under a bona fide claim of ownership could even start.

The OSG invokes our holding in Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court12 in arguing that the property
which is in open, continuous and exclusive possession must first be alienable. Since the subject land was
declared alienable only on October 15, 1980, Naguit could not have maintained a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, as required by Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, since prior to 1980, the land
was not alienable or disposable, the OSG argues.

Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original registration proceedings, bears close
examination. It expressly provides:

SECTION 14. Who may apply.— The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of
existing laws.

....

There are three obvious requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title under Section 14(1) –
that the property in question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the applicants by
themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation, and; that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
1945 or earlier.

9
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already
been established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1).
"Since June 12, 1945," as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of
ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are
immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely located. 13 Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation
nisi impediatur sentencia.

Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioner’s position. Absent a legislative
amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSG’s view, that all lands of the public domain which were not
declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no
matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of
Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to
reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would
even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even considered an
independent state.

Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to
be registered as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If
the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation
or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence,
the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good
faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then
there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property.

This reading aligns conformably with our holding in Republic v. Court of Appeals .14 Therein, the Court noted that
"to prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the
existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an
administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a
statute."15 In that case, the subject land had been certified by the DENR as alienable and disposable in 1980,
thus the Court concluded that the alienable status of the land, compounded by the established fact that therein
respondents had occupied the land even before 1927, sufficed to allow the application for registration of the
said property. In the case at bar, even the petitioner admits that the subject property was released and certified
as within alienable and disposable zone in 1980 by the DENR.16

This case is distinguishable from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals,17 wherein the Court noted that while the
claimant had been in possession since 1908, it was only in 1972 that the lands in question were classified as
alienable and disposable. Thus, the bid at registration therein did not succeed. In Bracewell, the claimant had
filed his application in 1963, or nine (9) years before the property was declared alienable and
disposable.1awphi1.nét Thus, in this case, where the application was made years after the property had been
certified as alienable and disposable, the Bracewell ruling does not apply.

A different rule obtains for forest lands,18 such as those which form part of a reservation for provincial park
purposes19 the possession of which cannot ripen into ownership.20 It is elementary in the law governing natural
resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. As held in Palomo v. Court of Appeals,21 forest
land is not registrable and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into private property,
unless such lands are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable. 22 In the case at bar, the property in
question was undisputedly classified as disposable and alienable; hence, the ruling in Palomo is inapplicable, as
correctly held by the Court of Appeals.23

10
It must be noted that the present case was decided by the lower courts on the basis of Section 14(1) of the
Property Registration Decree, which pertains to original registration through ordinary registration proceedings.
The right to file the application for registration derives from a bona fide claim of ownership going back to June
12, 1945 or earlier, by reason of the claimant’s open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.

A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which reads:

Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such land or an interest therein, but those titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to
the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title
under the provisions of this chapter.

When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest
the right to register their title to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894.
However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that the bona fide claim of ownership
must have been for at least thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again
amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. This new starting point
is concordant with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.

Indeed, there are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. True, the Public Land Act does refer to "agricultural lands of the public
domain," while the Property Registration Decree uses the term "alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain." It must be noted though that the Constitution declares that "alienable lands of the public domain shall
be limited to agricultural lands."24 Clearly, the subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act and
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are of the same type.

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the
application for registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only
after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs
and authorizes the application of "those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under
the provisions of existing laws."

Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. 25 There is a consistent
jurisprudential rule that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by
reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.26 With such conversion, such
property may now fall within the contemplation of "private lands" under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to
registration by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the
alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession being been open,

11
continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2)
of the Property Registration Decree.

The land in question was found to be cocal in nature, it having been planted with coconut trees now over fifty
years old.27 The inherent nature of the land but confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable, hence agricultural.
There is no impediment to the application of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, as correctly
accomplished by the lower courts.l^vvphi1.net

The OSG posits that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Naguit had been in possession in the concept of
owner for the required period. The argument begs the question. It is again hinged on the assertion—shown
earlier to be unfounded—that there could have been no bona fide claim of ownership prior to 1980, when the
subject land was declared alienable or disposable.

We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of both the RTC and the Court of Appeals that Naguit had the right
to apply for registration owing to the continuous possession by her and her predecessors-in-interest of the land
since 1945. The basis of such conclusion is primarily factual, and the Court generally respects the factual findings
made by lower courts. Notably, possession since 1945 was established through proof of the existence of 50 to
60-year old trees at the time Naguit purchased the property as well as tax declarations executed by Urbano in
1945. Although tax declarations and realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership,
nevertheless, they are good indicia of the possession in the concept of owner for no one in his right mind would
be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at
least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property
for taxation purposes manifests not only one’s sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and
announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the intention to
contribute needed revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens one’s bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership.28

Considering that the possession of the subject parcel of land by the respondent can be traced back to that of
her predecessors-in-interest which commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50) years, it is indeed beyond any
cloud of doubt that she has acquired title thereto which may be properly brought under the operation of the
Torrens system. That she has been in possession of the land in the concept of an owner, open, continuous,
peaceful and without any opposition from any private person and the government itself makes her right thereto
undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection under the law.

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000
is hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

12
G.R. No. 95608 January 21, 1997

SPOUSES IGNACIO PALOMO and TRINIDAD PASCUAL, and CARMEN PALOMO VDA. DE
BUENAVENTURA, petitioners,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, FAUSTINO J. PERFECTO, RAFFY
SANTILLAN, BOY ARIADO, LORENZO BROCALES, SALVADOR DOE, and other DOES, respondents.

The issue in the case at bar pertains to ownership of 15 parcels of land in Tiwi, Albay which form part of the
"Tiwi Hot Spring National Park." The facts of the case are as follows.

On June 13, 1913, then Governor General of the Philippine Islands, William Cameron Forbes issued Executive
Order No. 40 which reserved for provincial park purposes some 440,530 square meters of land situated in Barrio
Naga, Municipality of Tiwi, Province of Albay pursuant to the provisions of Act 648 of the Philippine
Commission. 1

Subsequently, the then Court of First Instance of Albay, 15th Judicial District, United States of America, ordered
the registration of 15 parcels of land covered by Executive Order No. 40 in the name of Diego Palomo on
December 9, 1916; 2 December 28, 3 and January 17, 1917. 4 Diego Palomo donated these parcels of land
consisting of 74,872 square meters which were allegedly covered by Original Certificates of Title Nos. 513, 169,
176 and 173 5 to his heirs, herein petitioners, Ignacio and Carmen Palomo two months before his death in April
1937. 6

Claiming that the aforesaid original certificates of title were lost during the Japanese occupation, Ignacio Palomo
filed a petition for reconstitution with the Court of First Instance of Albay on May 30, 1950. 7 The Register of
Deeds of Albay issued Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 3911, 3912, 3913 and 3914 sometime in October 1953. 8

On July 10, 1954 President Ramon Magsaysay issued Proclamation No. 47 converting the area embraced by
Executive Order No. 40 into the "Tiwi Hot Spring National Park," under the control, management, protection
and administration of the defunct Commission of Parks and Wildlife, now a division of the Bureau of Forest
Development. The area was never released as alienable and disposable portion of the public domain and,
therefore, is neither susceptible to disposition under the provisions of the Public Land Law (CA 141) nor
registrable under the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496).

The Palomos, however, continued in possession of the property, paid real estate taxes thereon 9 and introduced
improvements by planting rice, bananas, pandan and coconuts. On April 8, 1971, petitioner Carmen vda. de
Buenaventura and spouses Ignacio Palomo and Trinidad Pascual mortgaged the parcels of land covered by TCT
3911, 3912, 3913 and 3914 to guarantee a loan of P200,000 from the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

In May 7, 1974 petitioner Carmen vda. de Buenaventura and spouses Ignacio Palomo and Trinidad Pascual filed
Civil Case No. T-143 before the then Court of First Instance of Albay for Injunction with damages against private
respondents Faustino J. Perfecto, Raffy Santillan, Boy Ariado, Lorenzo Brocales, Salvador Doe and other Does
who are all employees of the Bureau of Forest Development who entered the land covered by TCT No. 3913
and/or TCT 3914 and cut down bamboos thereat, totally leveling no less than 4 groves worth not less than
P2,000.00.

On October 11, 1974, the Republic of the Philippines filed Civil Case No. T-176 for annulment and cancellation
of Certificates of Title involving the 15 parcels of land registered in the name of the petitioners and subject of

13
Civil Case T-143. Impleaded with the petitioners as defendants were the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Legazpi
Branch and the Register of Deeds of Albay.

The case against the Bank of Philippine Islands was dismissed because the loan of P200,000 with the Bank was
already paid and the mortgage in its favor cancelled.

A joint trial of Civil Case T-143 and T-176 was conducted upon agreement of the parties and on July 31, 1986,
the trial court rendered the following decision:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:

IN CIVIL CASE No. T-143, in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs, dismissing the
complaint for injunction and damages, as it is hereby DISMISSED.

Costs against the plaintiffs.

In CIVIL CASE No. T-176, in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants:

(1) Declaring null and void and no force and effect the Order dated September 14, 1953, as well
as the Original Certificate of Titles Nos. 153, 10 169, 173 and 176 and Transfer Certificates of
Titles Nos. 3911, T-3912, T-3913, and T-3914, all of the Register of Deeds of Albay and all
transactions based on said titles.

(2) Forfeiting in favor of the plaintiff Government any and all improvements on the lands in
question that are found therein and introduced by the defendants;

(3) Declaring Lot Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 9,10, 11 and 12, Plan II-9299 and Lots 1, 21, 11 3 and 4
of Plan II-9205 as part of the Tiwi Hot Spring National Park;

(4) and Finally, the Register of Deeds of Albay is hereby ordered to cancel the alleged Original
Certificates of Titles Nos. 513, 169, 173 and 176, Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-3911, T-3912,
T-3913 and T-3914.

Costs against the defendants.

So Ordered. 12

The court a quo in ruling for the Republic found no sufficient proof that the Palomos have established property
rights over the parcels of land in question before the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War at
the end of the century. The court further stated that assuming that the decrees of the Court of First Instance of
Albay were really issued, the Palomos obtained no right at all over the properties because these were issued
only when Executive Order No. 40 was already in force. At this point, we take note that although the Geodetic
Engineer of the Bureau of Lands appointed as one of the Commissioners in the relocation survey of the
properties stated in his reamended report that of the 3,384 square meters covered by Lot 2, Plan II-9205, only
1,976 square meters fall within the reservation area,13 the RTC ordered TCT 3913 covering the entire Lot 21
(sic) Plan II-9205 cancelled.

The petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals which affirmed in toto the findings of the lower Court; hence
this petition raising the following issues:

14
1. The respondent Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion in affirming in toto the
decision of the lower court.

2. The declaration of nullity of the original certificates of title and subsequent transfer certificates
of titles of the petitioners over the properties in question is contrary to law and jurisprudence on
the matter.

3. The forfeiture of all improvements introduced by the petitioners in the premises in favor of
the government is against our existing law and jurisprudence.

The issues raised essentially boil down to whether or not the alleged original certificate of titles issued pursuant
to the order of the Court of First Instance in 1916-1917 and the subsequent TCTs issued in 1953 pursuant to the
petition for reconstitution are valid.

Petitioners contend that the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th
century recognized the property rights of Spanish and Filipino citizens and the American government had no
inherent power to confiscate properties of private citizens and declare them part of any kind of government
reservation. They allege that their predecessors in interest have been in open, adverse and continuous
possession of the subject lands for 20-50 years prior to their registration in 1916-1917. Hence, the reservation
of the lands for provincial purposes in 1913 by then Governor-general Forbes was tantamount to deprivation of
private property without due process of law.

In support of their claim, the petitioners presented copies of a number of decisions of the Court of First Instance
of Albay, 15th Judicial District of the United States of America which state that the predecessors in interest of
the petitioners' father Diego Palomo, were in continuous, open and adverse possession of the lands from 20 to
50 years at the time of their registration in 1916.

We are not convinced.

The Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown by discovery and conquest in the 16th century. Before the Treaty
of Paris in April 11, 1899, our lands, whether agricultural, mineral or forest were under the exclusive patrimony
and dominion of the Spanish Crown. Hence, private ownership of land could only be acquired through royal
concessions which were documented in various forms, such as (1) Titulo Real or Royal Grant," (2) Concesion
Especial or Special Grant, (3) Titulo de Compra or Title by Purchase and (4) Informacion Posesoria or Possessory
Information title obtained under the Spanish Mortgage Law or under the Royal Decree of January 26, 1889.

Unfortunately, no proof was presented that the petitioners' predecessors in interest derived title from an old
Spanish grant. Petitioners placed much reliance upon the declarations in Expediente No. 5, G.L.R.O. Record
Decision No. 9820, dated January 17, 1917; Expediente No. 6, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9821, dated December 28,
1916; Expediente No. 7, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9822, dated December 9, 1916; Expediente No. 8, G.L.R.O. Record
No. 9823, dated December 28, 1916 and Expediente No. 10, G.L.R.O. Record No. 9868, dated December 9, 1916
of the Court of First Instance of Albay, 15th Judicial District of the United States of America presided by Judge
Isidro Paredes that their predecessors in interest were in open, adverse and continuous possession of the
subject lands for 20-50 years. 14 The aforesaid "decisions" of the Court of First Instance, however, were not
signed by the judge but were merely certified copies of notification to Diego Palomo bearing the signature of
the clerk of court.

Moreover, despite claims by the petitioners that their predecessors in interest were in open, adverse and
continuous possession of the lands for 20 to 50 years prior to their registration in 1916-1917, the lands were
15
surveyed only in December 1913, the very same year they were acquired by Diego Palomo. Curiously , in
February 1913 or 10 months before the lands were surveyed for Diego Palomo, the government had already
surveyed the area in preparation for its reservation for provincial park purposes. If the petitioners' predecessors
in interest were indeed in possession of the lands for a number of years prior to their registration in 1916-1917,
they would have undoubtedly known about the inclusion of these properties in the reservation in 1913. It
certainly is a trifle late at this point to argue that the government had no right to include these properties in the
reservation when the question should have been raised 83 years ago.

As regards the petitioners' contention that inasmuch as they obtained the titles without government opposition,
the government is now estopped from questioning the validity of the certificates of title which were granted.
As correctly pointed out by the respondent Court of Appeals, the principle of estoppel, does not operate against
the Government for the act of its agents. 15

Assuming that the decrees of the Court of First Instance were really issued, the lands are still not capable of
appropriation. The adverse possession which may be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect
title cases applies only to alienable lands of the public domain.

There is no question that the lands in the case at bar were not alienable lands of the public domain. As testified
by the District Forester, records in the Bureau of Forestry show that the subject lands were never declared as
alienable and disposable and subject to private alienation prior to 1913 up to the present. 16 Moreover, as part
of the reservation for provincial park purposes, they form part of the forest zone.

It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It
is not registrable and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into private
property, 17 unless such lands are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable.

Neither do the tax receipts which were presented in evidence prove ownership of the parcels of land inasmuch
as the weight of authority is that tax declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership in land registration
cases. 18

Having disposed of the issue of ownership, we now come to the matter regarding the forfeiture of
improvements introduced on the subject lands. It bears emphasis that Executive Order No. 40 was already in
force at the time the lands in question were surveyed for Diego Palomo. Petitioners also apparently knew that
the subject lands were covered under the reservation when they filed a petition for reconstitution of the lost
original certificates of title inasmuch as the blueprint of Survey Work Order Number 21781 of Plan II-9299
approved by the Chief of the Land Registration Office Enrique Altavas in 1953 as a true and correct copy of the
Original Plan No. II-9299 filed in the Bureau of Lands dated September 11, 1948 19 contains the following note,
"in conflict with provincial reservation." 20 In any case, petitioners are presumed to know the law and the failure
of the government to oppose the registration of the lands in question is no justification for the petitioners to
plead good faith in introducing improvements on the lots.

Finally, since 1,976 square meters of the 3,384 square meters covered by TCT 3913 fall within the reservation,
TCT 3913 should be annulled only with respect to the aforesaid area. Inasmuch as the bamboo groves leveled
in TCT 3913 and subject of Civil Case T-143, 21 were within the perimeter of the national park, 22 no
pronouncement as to damages is in order.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that TCT 3913 be
annulled with respect to the 1,976 square meter area falling within the reservation zone. SO ORDERED.

16
G.R. No. 172331 August 24, 2011

RAMON ARANDA, Petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

On appeal is the Decision1 dated July 26, 2005 and Resolution2 dated April 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CV No. 73067 which reversed and set aside the Decision3 dated January 31, 2001 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Tanauan, Batangas, Branch 6 in Land Reg. Case No. T-335 (LRA Record No. N-69447).

Subject of a petition for original registration before the RTC is a parcel of land situated in San Andres, Malvar,
Batangas with an area of 9,103 square meters and designated as Lot 3730, Psc 47, Malvar Cadastre. The
petition4was originally filed by ICTSI Warehousing, Inc. (ICTSI-WI) represented by its Chairman, Enrique K. Razon,
Jr. The Republic through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its opposition 5 on grounds that the land
applied for is part of the public domain and the applicant has not acquired a registrable title thereto under the
provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended by Republic Act No. 6940.

ICTSI-WI sought leave of court to amend the application citing the following reasons: (1) the petition was not
accompanied by a certification of non-forum shopping; (2) the statement of technical description was based
merely on the boundaries set forth in the tax declaration; and (3) due to a technicality, the sale between the
vendor and applicant corporation cannot push through and consequently the tax declaration is still in the name
of vendor Ramon Aranda and the land cannot be transferred and declared in the name of ICTSI-WI.6

The trial court admitted the Amended Application for Registration of Title,7 this time filed in the name of Ramon
Aranda, herein petitioner. Petitioner prayed that should the Land Registration Act be not applicable to this case,
he invokes the liberal provisions of Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, having been in
continuous possession of the subject land in the concept of owner, publicly, openly and adversely for more than
thirty (30) years prior to the filing of the application.8

In support of the application, petitioner’s sister Merlita A. Enriquez testified that in 1965 her father Anatalio
Aranda donated the subject land to his brother (petitioner), as evidenced by documents "Pagpapatunay ng
Pagkakaloob ng Lupa" which she and her siblings executed on June 7, 2000.9 She came to know the land for the
first time in 1965 when she was eight years old and his brother Ramon has been tilling the land since then,
planting it with rice and corn. His brother did not introduce any permanent improvement and also did not hire
a tenant to work on the land. As to the donation made by his father to his brother Ramon, she recalled there
was such a document but it was eaten by rats.10

Another witness, Luis Olan, testified that his father Lucio Olan originally owned the land and that he had known
about this property since he was six (6) years old as he used to accompany his father in going to the land. His
father farmed the land and planted it first, with rice, and later corn. They had open, peaceful, continuous and
adverse possession of the land in the concept of owner until his father sold the land in 1946 to Anatalio Aranda.
The children of Anatalio then took over in tilling the land, planting it with rice and corn and adding a few coconut
trees. He does not have any copy of the document of sale because his mother gave it to Anatalio. 11

17
On January 31, 2001, the trial court rendered its Decision12 granting the application and ordering the issuance
of a decree of registration in favor of petitioner.

The Republic appealed to the CA which reversed the trial court. The CA held that petitioner’s evidence does not
satisfactorily establish the character and duration of possession required by law, as petitioner failed to prove
specific acts showing the nature of the possession by his predecessors-in-interest. The CA also did not give
evidentiary weight to the documents "Pagpapatunay ng Pagkakaloob ng Lupa" and "Pagpapatunay ng Bilihang
Lampasan ng Lupa",13 both prepared only in the year 2000 when the application for registration was filed, as
factual proof of ownership by the parties to the compromise agreement.

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the CA.

Hence, this appeal by way of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 alleging that the decision of the
CA is based on a misapprehension of facts with regard to compliance with the required 30 years of open,
exclusive, public and adverse possession in the concept of owner. Petitioner argues that the deeds of
confirmation of the 1946 sale in favor of Anatalio Aranda and the 1965 donation to petitioner are competent
proof of transfer of ownership notwithstanding that these were executed only in the year 2000. He asserts that
the testimonies of witnesses Merlita Aranda-Enriquez and Luis Olan on the fact of loss and destruction of copies
of the aforesaid deeds constitute secondary evidence of the contents thereof based on recollection of persons
who are adversely affected. Such testimonial evidence coupled with the deeds of confirmation warrants the
application of the exception from the best evidence rule. Petitioner thus contends that the CA had no legal basis
to doubt the veracity of the donation and sale of the subject property, and to conclude that the confirmation
deeds can be treated as compromise agreement considering that the transactions had been previously
completed and perfected by the parties.

We deny the petition.

The Property Registration Decree (P.D. No. 1529) provides for original registration of land in an ordinary
registration proceeding. Under Section 14(1)14 thereof, a petition may be granted upon compliance with the
following requisites: (a) that the property in question is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; (b)
that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; and (c) that such possession is under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.

Under the Regalian doctrine which is embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, all lands of the
public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land. All lands not
appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Unless public land is
shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable
public domain. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land
subject of the application is alienable or disposable.15

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the
existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an
administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a
statute.16 The applicant may also secure a certification from the Government that the lands applied for are
alienable and disposable.17

In this case, the Assistant Regional Executive Director For Operations-Mainland Provinces of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in compliance with the directive of the trial court, issued a
18
certification stating that the subject property "falls within the Alienable and Disposable Land, Project No. 22-A
of Lipa, Batangas per LC Map 718 certified on March 26, 1928."18 However, in the Certification19 dated January
14, 2000 issued by the DENR CENR Officer of Batangas City, Pancrasio M. Alcantara, which was submitted in
evidence by the petitioner, it states that:

This is to certify that based on projection from the technical reference map of this Office, Lot No. 3730, Ap-04-
009883, situated at Barangay San Andres, Malvar, Batangas containing an area of NINE THOUSAND ONE
HUNDRED THREE AND FORTY SEVEN (9,103.47) SQUARE METERS and shown at the reverse side hereof has been
verified to be within the ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE ZONE under Project No. 39, Land Classification Map No.
3601 certified on 22 December 1997 except for twenty meters strip of land along the creek bounding on the
northeastern portion which is to be maintained as streambank protection.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

Petitioner has not explained the discrepancies in the dates of classification 20 mentioned in the foregoing
government certifications. Consequently, the status of the land applied for as alienable and disposable was not
clearly established.

We also agree with the CA that petitioner’s evidence failed to show that he possessed the property in the
manner and for the duration required by law.

Petitioner presented tax declarations and the deeds of confirmation of the 1946 sale from the original owner
(Lucio Olan) to Anatalio Aranda and the 1965 donation made by the latter in favor of petitioner. But as found
by the CA, the history of the land shows that it was declared for taxation purposes for the first time only in 1981.
On the other hand, the Certification issued by the Municipal Treasurer of Malvar stated that petitioner, who
supposedly received the property from his father in 1965, had been paying the corresponding taxes for said land
"for more than five consecutive years including the current year [1999]," or beginning 1994 only or just three
years before the filing of the application for original registration. While, as a rule, tax declarations or realty tax
payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless they are good indicia of
possession in the concept of owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not
in his actual or constructive possession – they constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over
the property.21

Petitioner likewise failed to prove the alleged possession of his predecessors-in-interest. His witness Luis Olan
testified that he had been visiting the land along with his father Lucio since he was 6 years old (he was 70 years
old at the time he testified), or as early as 1936. Yet, there was no evidence that Lucio Olan declared the property
for tax purposes at anytime before he sold it to Anatalio Aranda. There is also no showing that Anatalio Aranda
declared the property in his name from the time he bought it from Lucio Olan. And even assuming that Lucio
actually planted rice and corn on the land, such statement is not sufficient to establish possession in the concept
of owner as contemplated by law. Mere casual cultivation of the land does not amount to exclusive and
notorious possession that would give rise to ownership.22 Specific acts of dominion must be clearly shown by
the applicant.

We have held that a person who seeks the registration of title to a piece of land on the basis of possession by
himself and his predecessors-in-interest must prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence, i.e., he must
prove his title and should not rely on the absence or weakness of the evidence of the oppositors.23 Furthermore,
the court has the bounden duty, even in the absence of any opposition, to require the petitioner to show, by a
preponderance of evidence and by positive and absolute proof, so far as possible, that he is the owner in fee
simple of the lands which he is attempting to register.24 Since petitioner failed to meet the quantum of proof
19
required by law, the CA was correct in reversing the trial court and dismissing his application for judicial
confirmation of title.

WHEREFORE, the present petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The Decision dated July 26, 2005 and
Resolution dated April 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 73067 are AFFIRMED and UPHELD.

With costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

20
G.R. No. 167707 October 8, 2008

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, petitioners,
vs.
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in behalf
of all those similarly situated, respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775 October 8, 2008

DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED
NAMED IN A LIST, ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION, petitioners,
vs.
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, respondents.

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J.:

AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of Boracay Island to secure titles over
their occupied lands.

There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition for review on certiorari of the
Decision1of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that2 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. The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and
nullification of Proclamation No. 10645">[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay
into reserved forest and agricultural land.

The Antecedents

G.R. No. 167707

Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white sand beaches and warm crystalline
waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist destination. The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants4 who
live in the bone-shaped island’s three barangays.5

On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) approved the National
Reservation Survey of Boracay

21
Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons. 7

On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 18018 declaring Boracay
Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves under
the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). President Marcos later approved the issuance
of PTA Circular 3-829 dated September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.

Claiming that 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.

In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 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 predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax
purposes and paid realty taxes on them.10

Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its implementing Circular did not place Boracay
beyond the commerce of man. Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private
ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act,
they had the right to have the lots registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.

The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the petition for declaratory relief. The
OSG countered 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 Presidential
Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code,11 as amended.

The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants’ reliance on PD No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was
misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since Boracay
Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable, whatever possession they had cannot ripen into
ownership.

During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following facts: (1) respondents-
claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted
with coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty
(20) meters and were planted more or less fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land
they were occupying for tax purposes.12

The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal: whether Proclamation No. 1801
posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with the
trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their respective memoranda.13

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 Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco
S. Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan. 15 The
titles were issued on

August 7, 1933.16

22
RTC and CA Dispositions

On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-claimants, with a fallo reading:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that Proclamation 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
accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner prescribed therein; and to have their lands surveyed
and approved by respondent Regional Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself
constitute a title to the land.

SO ORDERED.17

The RTC upheld respondents-claimants’ right to have their occupied lands titled in their name. It ruled that
neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA 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 ownership of lands.19 The trial
court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands
in Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as part of the forest reserve. 22

The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The Republic then appealed to the CA.

On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed
in this case and AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.24

The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands they occupied
since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve.

Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.25 Hence, the present petition under Rule 45.

G.R. No. 173775

On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued
Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land
(protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of agricultural land (alienable
and disposable). The Proclamation likewise 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 area reserved for forest
land protection purposes.

On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27 Wilfredo Gelito,28 and other landowners29 in
Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation
No. 1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior vested rights" over portions of Boracay.
They have been in continued possession of their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have
also invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building internationally renowned first class resorts
on their lots.31

Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay into agricultural
land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the

23
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 entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a vested right over their occupied
portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being
public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation
of imperfect title. It is only the executive department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of
the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a positive government act in order to
release the lots for disposition.

On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two petitions as they principally involve the
same issues on the land classification of Boracay Island.33

Issues

G.R. No. 167707

The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal
obstacle for respondents, and all those similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay
Island.34

G.R. No. 173775

Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:

I.

AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR
RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR TO THE
FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM
PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT
TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705?

II.

HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIPOVER THEIR
OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL
CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE?

III.

IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN]
INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLEUNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?

IV.

IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006, VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO
PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY, PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS

24
CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA
6657.

V.

CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY
PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN
BORACAY?35 (Underscoring supplied)

In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in G.R. No. 167707 and
petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay.
The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141, as
amended. They do not involve their right to secure title under other pertinent laws.

Our Ruling

Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive

to reclassify lands of the public domain

Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title,
namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 190236 in relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874
and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by then President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No.
106439issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive acts.

But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to reclassify lands of the public domain.

The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or timber.40 Meanwhile, the
1973 Constitution provided the following divisions: agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential,
resettlement, 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 Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935
Constitution classification with one addition: national parks.43 Of these, only agricultural lands may be
alienated.44 Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22, 2006, Boracay Island had never been expressly and
administratively classified under any of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public
domain.

The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to 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
has been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions. 46

All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the
State.47Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong
to the State as part of the inalienable public domain.48 Necessarily, it is up to the State to determine if lands of
the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is
possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public
lands, as well as under what terms they may be 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

25
Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines,
ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.50 The Regalian
doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the 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,
belong to the public domain."51

The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage
Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. 52

The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish 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 Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion
posesoria or possessory information title,55 when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is converted into a
title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted possession which must be actual,
public, and adverse,56 from 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, 1895. Otherwise, the lands would
revert to the State.58

In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be founded on royal concessions which
took various forms, namely: (1) titulo real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion
con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or
possessory information title.59>

The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under American rule was embodied in
the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into
three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest lands.61 The act provided for, among
others, the disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold
system).62 It also provided the definition by exclusion of "agricultural public lands."63 Interpreting the meaning
of "agricultural lands" under the Philippine Bill of 1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64

x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands
acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis Ours)

On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration
Act. The act established a system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible, and
imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system.66

Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 926, which was the first Public
Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative
confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It permitted corporations regardless of
the nationality of persons owning the controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.67 Under
the Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands for the next
ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904 was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. 68

On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874, otherwise known as the second Public
Land Act. This new, more comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and
Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same privileges. For judicial confirmation of
title, possession and occupation en concepto dueño since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was
required.69
26
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874 on December 1, 1936. To this
day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the existing general law governing the classification and disposition
of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands,70 and privately owned lands which reverted
to the State.71

Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of possession and occupation of lands
of the public domain since time immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded by
Republic Act (RA) No. 1942,72 which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title. The provision 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

The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of Spanish titles as evidence in land
registration proceedings.76 Under the decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration
of their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity of the decree on February 16, 1976.
Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered lands77 shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised
Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529, known as the Property Registration
Decree. It was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of property.78 It governs registration of
lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including chattel mortgages. 79

A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In keeping with the presumption of State
ownership, the Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government, such
as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other
purposes.81 In fact, Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have
been "officially delimited and classified."82

The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of 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 is alienable or disposable.83 To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be
established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. 84 There must still be a
positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of
an application for registration is alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the
government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation
reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. 85 The applicant may also secure a
certification from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required number of
years is alienable and disposable.86

In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action, report, statute, or certification
was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of
Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government proclamation that the land is alienable
and disposable. Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that
lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition before 2006. Matters of land classification
or reclassification cannot be assumed. They call for proof.87

Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or portions of it, 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)88 and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government (1909).89 These cases were decided
under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old cases that
27
"in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary
is shown."90

Private claimants’ reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These cases did not have the effect of
converting the whole of Boracay Island or 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 registration courts
would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the land would be classified as timber, mineral, or
agricultural depended on proof presented in each case.

Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the Philippines had no power to classify
lands of the public domain into mineral, timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make
corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon
the preponderance of the evidence.91 This was the Court’s ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca
and Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,92 in which it stated, through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:

x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally released by an act of the Executive
before it can be deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron
v. Government of the Philippine Islands.

xxxx

Petitioner’s reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v. Government is misplaced. These cases were
decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926 enacted by the Philippine
Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal provision vesting in the Chief Executive or
President of the Philippines the power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber and agricultural
so that the courts then were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with
implicit power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence. 93

To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it was then necessary to devise a
presumption on land classification. Thus evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have a right to presume,
in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary
is shown."94

But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an argument that all lands of the
public domain had been automatically reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch
of imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into agricultural lands.

If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 would have
automatically made all lands in the Philippines, except those already classified as timber or mineral land,
alienable and disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State ownership and worse, would be utterly
inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine.

The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration cases brought under the
provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those cases dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation
of imperfect titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or administrative conformation of
imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly cannot apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their
predecessors-in-interest, who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to them, their land
remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued to be owned by the State.

28
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. Land classification was, in the end,
dependent on proof. If there was proof that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts
could adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. In Ankron, this Court stated:

In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General admitted in effect that whether the
particular land in question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of
land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that 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. While, as we have just said, many definitions have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and
"mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry
or 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 No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees
upon the land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today, and, by reason
of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason
of the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may be
differently classified tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having
regard for its present or future value for one or the other purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact
that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands
that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands
are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular land registration
case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior value for one purpose or
the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land is a
manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient 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 Government, in the first
instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may, by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public
land shall be considered forestry land, unless private interests have intervened before such reservation is made.
In the latter case, whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private
interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself
what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs.
Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra)95(Emphasis ours)

Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands from the facts of each case,
except those that have already became private lands.96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in
Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the President, the exclusive prerogative to
classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest. 96-a Since then, courts no longer
had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification of lands of the public domain. 97

Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their title in 1933, 98 did not present a
justiciable case for determination by the land registration court of the property’s land classification. Simply put,
there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay occupants are now claiming were
agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial
confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, the courts were no longer
authorized to determine the property’s land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.

We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of Manila,100 which
was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141, vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public
domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The
Insular Government,102 and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.103

29
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally different issue. The pertinent issue
in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; and if
so, whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that as an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by
the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the issue is
whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed agricultural.

Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned in Krivenko relied on the old cases decided prior
to the enactment of Act No. 2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We have already stated, those cases
cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive did not have the authority to classify lands as
agricultural, timber, or mineral.

Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create a presumption that the land is
alienable. Private claimants also contend that their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the
requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926 106 ipso facto converted the island into private ownership.
Hence, they may apply for a title in their name.

A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of Appeals.107 Collado, citing the
separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources,107-a ruled:

"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902.
The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the
terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for
the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of town sites and
sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to
public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government; and that the government’s title to public land
sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States. The term
"public land" referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are
thrown open to private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government
and the friar lands."

Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No.
926, mere possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable
and disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)

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
DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority110 certify that Boracay Island is an
unclassified land of the public domain.

PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the public domain as public forest.
Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a public forest as "a 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." Applying PD No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island,
are ipso factoconsidered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles already existing prior to its
effectivity.

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The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No. 705 may seem to be out of touch
with the present realities in the island. Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave
the way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist destination for local and foreign tourists, Boracay
appears more of a commercial island resort, rather than a forest land.

Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach resorts on the island;111 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.

Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution112 classifying lands of the public domain
into "agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks," do not necessarily refer to large tracts of
wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees and underbrushes. 113 The discussion in Heirs of
Amunategui v. Director of Forestry114 is particularly instructive:

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose 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 covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin 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 palms, and other
trees 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 that it may form part
of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not
apply.115 (Emphasis supplied)

There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and "forest or timber land" as a classification
of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what appears on the land while
the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes.116 At any rate, the Court is tasked to determine
the legalstatus of Boracay Island, and not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been
replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, it has not been automatically
converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land.

Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an agricultural land. However, private claimants argue that
Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 entitles them to judicial confirmation of
imperfect title. The Proclamation classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants
assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership.

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"117 and "areas declared as alienable and disposable"118 does not by itself
classify the entire island as agricultural. 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:

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. (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely recognizes that the island can be
classified by the Executive department pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular

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recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development’s authority to declare areas in the island as alienable and
disposable when it provides:

Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development.

Therefore, 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.

The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale 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 administered by the PTA – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the
development of the areas’ tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment.
Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does
not address the areas’ alienability.119

More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but sixty-four (64) other islands,
coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental
Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in
Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay
Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas
mentioned would likewise be declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly
beyond, the intent of the proclamation.

It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of Boracay as alienable and opened the
same to private ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141120 provide that it is only the President, upon the
recommendation of the proper department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public
domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands.121

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 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.122 Absent such classification, the land remains unclassified until released and rendered
open to disposition.123

Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest land and 628.96 hectares of
agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line
of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest
land protection purposes.

Contrary to private claimants’ argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular, much less unconstitutional,
about the classification of Boracay Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within
her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights.

Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Private claimants further
assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or
RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. They claim that since Boracay is a public

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forest under PD No. 705, President Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running
afoul of Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:

SEC. 4. Scope. – The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial
arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No.
131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.

More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:

(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture.
No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this
Act until Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity considerations, shall have
determined by law, the specific limits of the public domain.

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 Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain
despite PD No. 705.

In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. Republic, 124 the Court stated that
unclassified lands are public forests.

While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically state that the islands are public forests,
the fact that they were unclassified lands 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 open to
disposition.125 (Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, the prohibition under the 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. We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice 126 on this point:

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 classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to the
mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for purposes of
determining which are needed for forest purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or forest reserves
or some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code, there can be no "reclassification of forest lands" to
speak of within the meaning of Section 4(a).

Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the reclassification of forest lands to
agricultural lands without a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and cannot, apply to
those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the Revised Forestry Code, which have
not been previously determined, or classified, as needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions
of the Revised Forestry Code.127

Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of 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
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest
under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of
the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.128

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As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801 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. This is clear from the wording of the law
itself.129Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how long, cannot
confer ownership or possessory rights.130

Neither may private claimants 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.

We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory relief that private claimants
complied with the requisite period of possession.

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 declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of
recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court that the period of possession and
occupation commenced on June 12, 1945.

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 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.

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. This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the laws
applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand, private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial
confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession and
considerable investment in the island.

One Last Note

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.

All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial confirmation
of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141, as amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster
from the residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural. Neither will this
mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not
necessarily mean lack of right to possess.

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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. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for
original registration of title, such as by homestead131 or sales patent,132 subject to the conditions imposed by
law.

More realistically, 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 laws. There is one such bill 133 now pending
in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to decide.

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step necessary to open up the island to private
ownership. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of the island
partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no longer overrun by trees, however, does not becloud
the vision to protect its remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and ecology.
Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.

To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nation’s survival. Their promotion and protection are not just
fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our
environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968
in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134

The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public policy that should be followed with
respect to forest lands. Many have written much, and many more have spoken, and quite often, about the
pressing need for forest preservation, conservation, protection, development and reforestation. Not without
justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of any country's natural resources. It is of common
knowledge by now that 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 up; rivers and lakes which they supply are
emptied of their contents. The fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to
function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is washed away; geological erosion
results. With erosion come the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property – crops, livestock,
houses, and highways – not to mention precious human lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be
written down in a lumberman’s decalogue.135

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:

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.

SO ORDERED.

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