Friday, November 07, 2008

Boracay Belongs To The State

Here are photos of some of the more famous establishments in Boracay. And if you have enough time, please read also my law post about the place:

Mandarin Spa

High-End Regency

Red Coconut Resort and Bar

O2 - Party Place

Nigi-Nigi Bar - Bora's Famous Bar

Calypso Diving School and Resort

D' Mall @ Station 2

Jonah's - The Best Place for Fruit Shakes

I have devoted almost twenty posts in this blog on my recent travel to Boracay and I have even shared to you some images that I have taken during that trip. I do not want to end this series without citing a law topic because after all, this blog is about law, travel and photography in island Philippines.

And since Boracay has been in the news lately because of the Supreme Court ruling that the island is a government property, I deemed it proper to delved on the issue and explain the basis of that SC’s ruling in a Q & A format:

The decision of the Supreme Court relied mainly on Regalian Doctrine, what is this doctrine?

Regalian Doctrine provides that all lands of the public domain belong to the State and that all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain.

What is the State’s role in this doctrine?

It is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.

So, are Boracay lands privately titled?

It appears from the records that only ten percent of Boracay is titled. Therefore, following the Regalian Doctrine, since there is no proof of private ownership, the rest of the island belongs to the state.

If the claimants have no titles what do they have?

Most of those who possess lands in Boracay do not have original, registered land titles but only hold tax declarations passed from one buyer to another.
Further, these land claimants purportedly availed themselves of the legal remedy under the Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141, which allows lots be registered in the name of the claimant through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles but they have failed to meet the legal requirement of the Act.

And what are the requirements?

The requirements are:

(1) There must be 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 or from June 12, 1945.
(2)The land must be classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain.

So, will these claimants be evicted from Boracay?

Even if the Boracay landowners are not eligible to have land titles, it doesn't mean that they will be kicked out of their properties. The SC said that "lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess."
"For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as homestead or sales patent, subject to the conditions imposed by law," the SC said.
"More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws," the SC said.

So, what are the options available now to residential owners?

Residential owners in Boracay will have to explore other options--homestead patents, sales patents--if they want to preserve or protect their properties on the island. They may also ask Congress to pass a law that would allow them to acquire titles to their occupied lots.

Any lessons learned?

Beware of buying properties in Boracay especially if the seller could not show original land titles. Remember that tax declarations do not guarantee ownership of the land.

Any famous last words?

The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the Court commiserates with private claimants’ plight, We are bound to apply the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral.

For full copy of the SC decision please click here.


  1. thank you attorney sa information. I learned a lot. Maganda pag nalalaman natin ang batas.

  2. BUTI Ka pa ayun sa batas ako kasi ayun lang sa mga bubwit ko! hahaha! kumusta si sis mo? namimiss ko na ang BORACAY pag uwi ko next year plan ko punta dyan... yey! daming chika bebs dun heheh!

  3. the Island as a government property---I think better that way so as to control overpopulation in the island. Just hope the governmental could manage the island well coz it is very important piece of property indeed....

  4. Buti nalang I have no intentions to buy a real property in Boracay ;) Very well said atty.!

  5. Nice selection of photos and interesting info. Love the bonsai in the first one

  6. kung sabagay mainam na rin na sa state yung boracay kasi ang dami nang foreigner na may-ari doon eh. dapata talaga sa mga piliino rin ibigay yon.

  7. hmmm... not just site of beautiful photographs, but informative too.

    Happy Weekend Attorney

  8. The photographs fit the law article nicely. Although I'm not into law stuff, I find your article very nicely written. It's wonderful to have a blogger that sometimes blog on law apart from posting travel entries.

  9. thank you for the information regarding the island ...very, very your blog.

  10. lagi na lang controversial ang bora
    part of its charm, i guess
    paborito ko ang regency dyan
    great staff, sarap ng kama nila

  11. LS: Wow, that was a neat post with a warning. I would certainly hope that people that built on the land were given some special consideration. Is there any provision for squatters rights because of improvements made?

  12. I hope you're not ending this series yet.

  13. This has got to be the most beautiful place in the world. Everything looks so lush and tropical. And thanks for the info on property ownership. Very interesting.

  14. Oh. Thanks for the information po. At least now I know more.


  15. Just wanted to let you know I left an award for you on my blog with a note telling others they should check out your wonderful blog.

  16. To Ms. Sandi McBride

    I have read some of your posts. I liked the richness of the contents. [I am a practicing lawyer in Gujarat (India) High Court.]

    If you have interest in seeing paintings, a flying visit to my blogs would be a good idea.

    Naval Langa

  17. deymn! i hate you. hehe. ang gara ng pics.... hay. namimiss ko talaga ang beach. ages ago pa ata ng huli akong pumunta.

  18. Very interesting post and lovely photos.


  19. wow. my head will explode sa info na to.
    at i am sooo green in envy kc never been there.. =(

  20. Thanks for a very important info bro. It's nice to get a heads up before we start thinking of buying property in this island paradise !

  21. thanks for the jurisprudential update, atty.! perfect bar question material! :P

    this ruling should apply to other popular island destinations then, such as palawan!

    and let's not also forget other related issues to the main legal question, such as foreigners owning pieces of property on the island.

    interesting....meron palang national geographic dive site doon? and a mall?? just goes to show how much commercial growth there is now that i didn't see there before.

  22. ang ganda na ng pictures at may pabaon pang information tungkol sa batas. salamat attorney, :)

  23. Helpful tong post na to Oman. Especially now the island is sprawling with developments.

  24. Thank you, Fortuitous Faery, for sharing me the link to Atty. Oman's blog. And thank you, Oman, for sharing with us this info about Boracay. Hay!!!!! I misss Bora.. I miss the Philippines..... hope you could show more Boracay pics :)

  25. You sure live in a colourful world


  26. Salamat Atty. Norman Serapio.... Tama ba?

    hehe :) Galing! I am back po... medyo nagbaksayon din naman ako e...

  27. very informative attorney oman. ok talaga to kasi sa dami ng balita ngayon sa boracay hindi ko na maintinidihan kung ano ba talaga ang solusyon.

    i just checked at nasa headlines ang boracay on today's newspaper.

  28. what more can i expect? amazing set of photos here. dami pala talagang magagandang lugar sa bataan.

    thanks a lot for the information atty. very informative.

  29. naku muntik na pa naman ako bumili ng lupa jan sa boracay lolz in my dream.

  30. thats right. parang tatlo ka tao lang ata ang me real land title ng lupa nila sa isla.

  31. This is so informative atty oman. Galing. I love law-related stories and stuffs, I myself am a law student, second year na ako, I stopped because I got preggy with my daughter.

  32. It's a common problem in the Philippines that residents assume that they own the lots because they pay the taxes. Hay...marami talagang problems when it comes to land titles. And we have so much overlapping laws like the IPRA, etc...

    Great post...!

  33. Wow what a nice and informative blog. Thanks for the list. It's useful

    Tanya Gemarin

  34. how nice! i found a blog that discusses some property laws in-depth. What can the blogosphere not provide? my college course allowed me to have some law subjects kasi (oblicon, laws on natural resources, and property laws, to be specific).

    i find this post even more interesting because some months ago, a guy was making a living out of his tax declarations and was offering me a marketing stint for it. I declined because I was sure that tax declarations are a weak form of ownership. I asked if they owned a title, but they said that Boracay people do not have it. Har. Such relief I declined. Your post confirmed that I did the right thing there. :-)

    Thanks for the insights Attorney! :-D

  35. I agree. The state should implement stricter laws on conservation about Boracay's natural resources. From what I read, Boracay is in danger of becoming a fully commercialized island.

  36. I wonder if the state can implement this policy strictly. Seeing that there is much money to be made in that place, it is just a matter of time before the whole island will be sold to private owners.

    pimalai resort & spa koh lanta

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