The Supreme Court (SC) declared that the island resort of Boracay belongs to the state and the current residents cannot claim ownership of parcels of land based on years of occupation.
However, the SC said Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to the lots they occupy or to exempt them from certain legal requirements. “This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the laws applicable,” read the decision.
“As the law and jurisprudence stand, private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession and considerable investment in the land.”
The SC said private claimants cannot apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Commonwealth Act 141, the Public Land Act and neither do they have vested rights over the lands they occupy.
“The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay,” read the decision.
“Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying.”
The SC said under CA No. 141, the two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title are:
•Open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial; and
•Classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.
“The private claimants bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title must fail because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land,” read the decision.
“Private claimants failed to prove the first element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.”
However, the SC said it does not mean private claimants can be evicted from the residential, commercial and other areas they now occupy.
“Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands,” read the decision. “Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess.”
The SC said those with lawful possessions may claim good faith as builders of improvements.
“They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession,] read the decision.
“They may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as by homestead or sales patent, subject to the conditions imposed by law. ”
The SC reversed and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the ruling of Kalibo, Aklan Regional Trial Court granting the petition for declaratory relief filed by Mayor Jose Yap, Libertad Talapian, Mila Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap, for the survey of Boracay for titling purposes.
Posted in: Property Ownership