Case Digest: Secretary of DENR v. Yap, et al. (G.R. No. 167707, October 8, 2008)

[Land, Titles, and Deeds]

Case Digest: Secretary of DENR v. Yap, et al. (G.R. No. 167707, October 8, 2008)

FACTS:

The CA affirmed RTC Kalibo’s decision to grant the petition for declaratory relief filed by Boracay Mayor Jose Yap et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes.

On Nov. 10, 1978, President Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1801 declaring Boracay Island as a tourist zone and marine reserve. Respondents claimed that Proc. No. 1801 precluded them from filing an application for a judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes.

RTC Kalibo’s granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by Boracay Mayor Jose Yap et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes.

The Republic, through the OSG, opposed the petition countering that Boracay Island was an unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of lands classified as “public forest,” which was not available for disposition pursuant to section 3(a) of PD No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code.

Respondents claimed 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 and have been paying realty taxes.

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

The CA affirmed respondents’ 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 and that the Circular itself recognized private ownership of lands.

ISSUE:

Whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed agricultural land, therefore alienable and disposable.

HELD:

No. Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141 to which they are governed (not PD 1801). Neither do they have vested rights over the occupied lands under the said law. A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required.

2 requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely:

(1) CONE 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 (absent); and

(2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. (absent)

Regarding the 1st requisite, the tax declarations are insufficient as the earliest tax declarations under the name of Yap et al. were issued in 1993.

In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. Proclamation No. 1801 convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No. 926 (now Public Land Act) does not create a presumption that the land is alienable. The island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.