Land administration refers to the processes of recording and disseminating information about the ownership, value, and use of land.  These processes include mapping and surveying, identification of alienable and disposable lands, original land titling, transfer of title, land information and records, taxation, and land valuation (LAMP 2: n.d.).


The land administration system in the Philippines, with its colonial origins, is considered one of the most complex systems in Asia and is consequently plagued with institutional defects, inconsistencies, corruption, and unworkable practices.  These defects include: multiple land administration agencies, multiple land administration laws, multiple land titling processes, multiple standards for surveying and mapping, multiple forms of certificate of title, multiple steps for land transfer, multiple standards for land valuation, multiple agencies undertaking valuation, and multiple taxes on land ownership and transfers.  Predictably, these defects also offer multiple opportunities for corruption.  These pathologies often lead to several problems including long and expensive delays to secure land titles[1] and the proliferation of fake titles.  Consequently, there is a little confidence in the system and a relatively low level of registration of subsequent title transactions (LAMP 2; Roberts and Burns 2003).  Separate estimates (De Soto 2000; Roberts and Burns 2003) indicate that more than half of all landed property (more than 8.4 million parcels with a combined value of US$133 billion) lacked clear title.  De Soto (2000) called these assets ‘dead capital’ since they could not be used as collateral for loans in the formal credit system.


The 1987 Constitution is the fundamental law which sets the basis of use and ownership of land in the Philippines.  It recognizes three types of tenure—ancestral land, public land, and private land.   Ancestral lands belong to indigenous peoples and communities as provided for by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371).  Ancestral lands may comprise forest lands, inland waterways, coastal areas, and natural resources above and below the land.  All land over which public ownership is claimed is public land with the state as the recognized owner.  Public lands are classified into four classes: alienable or disposable, forest, mineral lands, and national parks.  Any alienable or disposable land can be further classified according to its use: agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, educational, charitable and other similar purposes, and reservations for town sites and quasi-public purposes.  There are more than 10 ways of issuing title to alienable land, including patents, leases, decrees, and deeds of sale.  Land that satisfy conditions for private ownership is private land.  Ownership of private land is based on the principles of the Torrens land registration system (Roberts and Burns 2003).


The institutional setting for land administration and management is characterized by large, central agencies that are quite resistant to change.  There are about fifteen (15) agencies involved and the two principal agencies are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Land Registration Authority (LRA) of the Department of Justice.  There are two legal processes in gaining title to land—administrative and judicial.  Administrative processes leading to titles are handled by three agencies.  The DENR is responsible for issuing titles for all government or public land and the land alienated through the issuance of patents, decrees and other legal instruments.  The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) implements the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 (Republic Act No. 6657) by issuing certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs)[2].  The third administrative titling procedure relates to indigenous land and is handled by the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) through the issuance of certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) and certificates of ancestral land titles (CALTs).


Titles obtained through the judicial process are senior to titles obtained administratively since the former decrees absolute ownership while latter only confers rights with conditions and limitations.  Under the judicial process, occupants of land are required to apply to the courts to confirm existing rights to title based on evidence of ownership and occupation.  Since 12 June 1945, occupation of land must be proved, a requirement impossible to meet in many cases since the original occupants are now deceased.  The LRA, together with the Registry of Deeds meanwhile, is responsible for the initial registration of land titles and subsequent transactions.


Other government agencies involved in land administration and management include the Department of Finance, Department of Justice, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), Land Management Bureau (LMB), Land Management Services, Environmental Management Bureau, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, and the National Economic and Development Authority.  The inevitable result of having so many departments and agencies involved in land management and administration, each supported by enabling laws, is confusion, overlapping functions, and long bureaucratic processes and delays which lead to litigation and corruption.  Thus, one piece of land can be owned by two or more entities since two titles—one administrative and one judicial—were issued.  It could also happen that the same asset can be covered by two administrative titles—for example, an ancestral domain claim (CADC or CADT) and a CLOA under the agrarian reform program.  These overlapping claims generate conflict among the poor themselves—i. e., between indigenous peoples and agrarian reform beneficiaries.  Or the same piece of land may be valued differently due to different valuation standards used by different agencies.



The system is likewise handicapped by a corrupted and neglected cadastral surveying and mapping system.   Furthermore, the existence of a hierarchy of rights over private land complicates the tenure system because many of the rights are for specific and temporary use, so the need for updating or conversion to a superior right, adds to the bureaucratic chain (Roberts and Burns 2003).  For example, separate rights for ownership, cultivation, building, use and management can apply to land.  When added to an already complicated regulatory system and a high degree of centralization, this creates concentration of power in numerous points of the process and increases the potential for bribes, discourages participation and engenders distrust of the formal tenure system.


These pathologies have led to a large informal market of land and property transactions.  The complexity, delays, and costs of registering titles lead to a relatively low level of registration of subsequent title transactions.  If and when transactions are formally registered, the value of the transaction is often unknown or falsified to minimize transfer taxes and other charges.  Consequently, this makes it difficult for state agencies to collect the proper taxes needed to make improvements to public infrastructure and services.


In response to these problems, the national government is currently undertaking a program (LAMP 2) that is focused on the passage of a law that aims to integrate the key land administration agencies (LRA/RoD, NAMRIA, and LMB) into a single agency called the Land Administration Authority (LAA).  The proposed LAA aims to reform the land administration system through standardization of the titling process and the decentralization of service through one-stop-shops.  Additional reforms include the creation of a single valuation base through a proposed National Appraisal Authority (LAMP 2).

[1] It can take up to three years to secure or transfer a land title and have it registered (LAMP 2).

[2] There are 3.4 million hectares designated for conversion and redistribution under CARP.


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