Investing in Property in the Philippines

Atty. Rami Hourani

A common question put to lawyers is in relation to land. It seems that everything else in the Philippines has been subject of some kind of digitization. Land transactions remain to be some of the most archaic. This short article will situate you in the key things to look for in order to be confident over most transactions over land.

Title/Tax Declaration

This is the most basic distinction that exists insofar as evidence of ownership is concerned int he Philippines. A Title, or more accurately a Certificate of Title, is a document issued by the Registry of Deeds in a given city or province which declares that a given person is the owner of a property. If a person shows you an owner’s duplicate of title with their name on it, it is near certain that they are the registered owner of the property. If you get a certified true copy from the registry of deeds itself which confirms the contents of the owner’s duplicate then you’e absolutely certain. You avoid 95% of problems that could occur over land if you are transacting with the person whose name appears on the title.

A Tax Declaration is merely an evidence of ownership. Tax Declarations show those who is declaring a certain plot of land in their name for real property purposes. They are often used by lay people interchangeably, however, they are not equivalent to each other. Lands subject of a Tax Declaration should only be considered for purchase after an extensive process of due diligence has taken place.

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Sketch Plan/Subdivision Plan/Approved Plan

These are three things that are often used interchangeably by lay people but for which there is a profound difference of meaning in law. All of them are prepared by a Geodetic Engineer.

A sketch-plan is the most general of these terms. A sketch plan is any diagram which depicts the form, area, and metes and bounds of a property in relation to adjacent properties.

A subdivision plan is a plan is a plan prepared for the purpose of subdividing a larger lot. The larger lot is referred to as the mother lot.

A approved plan is a subdivision plan which has been given the concurrence of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will be stored in perpetuity unless cancelled or further subdivided.

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Land Classification

Land has many different classifications. For the lay person, it is sufficient that you understand that not all land can be owned by private persons. Much land in the Philippines is actually owned by the government. This government ownership can be under many names: “Timber Land”, “Forest Land”, “Protected Areas”, “National Park”, etc. In order to be confident in transacting over a plot of land, it is often prudent to obtain a Land Classification from the City/Province Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO/PENRO). This is the office that is authorized to issue the certification as to the status of the land. This is most prudent when transacting over land subject of a Tax Declaration. This is because the process of the issuance of a title, generally, builds in the process of checking whether or not the land is susceptible of private ownership.

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Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, PhilippinesIf you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.

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