By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Social justice in land titling and improved land administration and management in the country were recently added on the list of promises made by Environment Chief Roy Cimatu.
According to him, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now putting in place a comprehensive package of reforms that will fast-track the processing and issuance of titles over alienable and disposable lands.
At the National Land Summit, he simply said the government is more committed than ever to clear bottlenecks in land titling to ensure security of tenure for every Filipino landowner.
“Achieving social justice in land titling and improved land administration and management are among the priority agenda of the DENR under the Duterte administration,” Cimatu told over 500 summit participants from government agencies, business sector, non-government organizations and civil society.
The DENR, he said, will pursue full automation of its land records and establishment of a single control map over its survey and tenure instruments.
“The Department will sustain the computerized approval of land surveys and processing of public land applications and implement an accelerated land titling project nationwide on residential lands beginning 2019,” he said.
Cimatu also said the DENR is coming up with a 30-year road map for the country’s land sector.
“To achieve these breakthroughs efficiently, we need partnerships with other agencies and the local governments,” the DENR chief said.
“We also need the strong support of surveyors, the academe and the private sector to ensure sufficiency in the manpower and capability required, as well as in disseminating information to the people,” he added.
Cimatu’s views were shared by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., who also reminded all government agencies involved in land titling of their duty to accord Filipinos of their right to property, which is one of the fundamental rights under the Constitution.
Evasco, who was also at the same event, said it is incumbent upon these agencies to “ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of our people.”
“To deprive our people of their right to property is not only depriving them of their constitutional rights but also depriving them of their dignity to live,” Evasco pointed out.
During the summit, Cimatu underscored the need to plug loopholes in the country’s land laws, which can be traced back more than a century ago — from the Cadastral Act of 1913 to the Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act of 1936, Property Registration Decree of 1978, and the Handog Titulo Free Patent program for residential lands.
He also cited the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1988 for landless tenant-farmers and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 with its provisions on ancestral lands and ancestral domains.
“The best intentions of these laws, however, were operationally bedeviled by numerous requirements, delays in the issuance and registration of patents and certificate of land ownership awards, overlapping claims, and double issuance of land titles,” Cimatu said.
According to Cimatu, both the national and local governments have poor access to complete, consistent and updated land information.
He also lamented how minimal the contributions of land management to Philippine economy in terms of land tax and transactions, as compared to neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
“These are mainly the reasons why President Duterte included land titling in his 10-point socioeconomic agenda as Agenda No. 6. Indeed, security of tenure is one of the pillars of a peaceful and progressive society,” he stressed.
As an initial step towards promoting land tenurial security in the country, Cimatu said the DENR recently hired 159 lawyers, who were assigned in Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs), to ensure faster resolution of land cases.
“Right there and there, at their levels, the CENROs can already solve land issues,” Cimatu said.
For his part, DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr. said the department — through its Land Management Bureau (LMB) — is also working towards full operation of the Land Administration and Management System (LAMS).