PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte has signed into law a measure simplifying the procedures and requirements for issuing land titles.

Republic Act No. 11573 simplifies the interpretation of land laws and improves the confirmation process for imperfect land titles by amending Commonwealth Act 141 or the Public Land Act and Presidential Decree 1529 or the Property Registration Decree.

The law, which was signed by the President on July 16, allows Filipino occupants to apply for free patent for up to 12 hectares of land, provided they occupied and cultivated it and paid real property taxes for years preceding the filing.

The patent must be filed before the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), according to the law. For provinces with no CENRO, the application may be filed with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), it said.

The agencies have been given 120 days to process an application. The application then must be forwarded to “PENRO if the area of the land is below five hectares; to the DENR Regional Director if the area is at least five up to 10 hectares; and to the Secretary of the DENR if the area is more than 10 up to 12 hectares.”

“In case of conflicting claims among different claimants, the parties may seek the proposer administrative and judicial remedies,” according to the law. 

Those occupying land in the public domain or claiming ownership but whose titles have not been perfected or completed may file a petition before a regional trial court “for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title to land not exceeding 12 hectares,” according to the law.

Under the law, applicants are required to secure a certification that the land is alienable or disposable, through the submission of a projection map prepared by a geodetic engineer and verified by the DENR.

The law penalizes any geodetic engineer or DENR official involved in falsification of documents or any gross negligence with a fine of up to P500,000 and imprisonment of up to six years. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza