Atienza welcomes Senate amendments on free patent law

Publishing date: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 (1:16 PM)

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza today welcomed the reforms introduced by the Senate in the amendatory bill of the free patent law, saying that the proposed reduction in the eligibility for land titling to 10 years will benefit thousands of landless Filipinos.

“The Philippine Senate has once again ably responded to the call for social equity. No less than 39 million Filipinos will gain from this policy reform, especially the farmers whose only source of livelihood and pride is their small piece of land,” Atienza said.

Aside from reducing the eligibility period, Senate Bill No. 3429 also extends the coverage of the free patent to residential and commercial land, provided the land does not exceed 1,000 square meters and has been determined by the local government as residential and/or commercial use and not needed for public service or public use.

Under Commonwealth Act (CA). No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, the required period of occupancy is at least 30 years. The law likewise provides that land patent shall be issued only to agricultural lands.

“Extending the coverage of free patent to commercial and residential lands offers an efficient and effective land titling procedure that can be availed of by most of the residential landowners since this is inexpensive and affordable,” Atienza explained.

Atienza expressed optimism of the bill’s passage into law, saying it is going to be “a giant step forward in reforming the land administration and management program in the country.” He also said that it will bolster the approval of other land-related laws such as the Land Administration and Reform Act (LARA) that will lay the foundation for a responsive and efficient land administration and management system in the country.

Atienza lauded the leadership and persistence of the many individuals, organizations and policy makers the likes of Senator Richard Gordon and Congressman Antonio Cerilles who have championed the said legislation.

It is estimated that 46% of the 24.2 million parcels of land in the country remain untitled. Of these, 70% or 7.8 million are residential lands.

According to Atienza, most of the residential parcels in the country remained untitled because the current legal infrastructure limits the issuance of title over these lands either through judicial confirmation (PD 1529) or administratively through sales (CA 141).

Using these methods of land titling, Executive Director of the Land Administration and Management Project Phase 2 Samuel R. Peñafiel said that it would take 1,300 years to title the 7.8 million residential land parcels working on an average of 5,000 titles issued per year.

“It is in this perspective that amending certain provisions of the Public Land Act has been proposed to include residential lands in the administrative adjudication,” Peñafiel stressed.

Peñafiel also pointed out that the inclusion of residential and commercial lands in the free patent system would lessen complications arising from the transfer of land ownerships to heirs which often results in conflicting claims over a land parcel.

“Its implementation will surely facilitate the buying and selling of lands and, at the same time, open up wider access to title holders to credit facilities with their titles as collaterals.

The grant of free patent will also increase investments and entrepreneurial activities with the acquisition of capital through borrowings and contributes to better urban planning and development; and increases tax base for improved tax collection, Peñafiel said.

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