Are you occupying an agricultural land?

Are you an occupant of unregistered public agricultural lands who failed to formalize your ownership by filing an Agricultural Free Patent application last December 31, 2020?

The good news is that Republic Act (RA) No. 11573, An Act Improving the Confirmation Process for Imperfect Land Titles and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are now in effect. This allows property occupants to confirm an imperfect title.


It is estimated that two million to 4.8 million parcels of untitled lands exist in the country today, according to the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF).

The confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles may be done either by administrative or judicial means. 

Subject to the following requirements, Free Patents may be applied by: 

1. A natural-born Filipino citizen who does not own more than 12 hectares of agricultural land, has continuously occupied and cultivated such land by himself or his predecessors-in-interest for at least 30 years prior to April 15, 1990,  and paid property tax on such land, among others; or

2. Any Filipino citizen who is in actual occupation and cultivation of land zoned for residential areas, has continuously occupied it by himself or his predecessors-in-interest for at least ten years, provided he may not own more than 200 sqm, 500 sqm, 750 sqm and 1,000 sqm in highly urbanized cities, first and second class municipalities, and other cities, respectively.

However, RA 9176 enacted in 2002, set the deadline for the filing of applications for administrative legislation (Free Patent) and confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to Alienable and Disposable agricultural lands until December 31, 2020 only.

With the passage of RA 11573, similar or related provisions of land laws were harmonized to remove ambiguity. Agricultural Free Patent applications with simplified requirements can again be accepted, and issuance of land classification certification for judicial titling.

Public forum

In an online forum organized by the FEF in partnership with the Land Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-LMB) last March 2, 2020, the provisions of the new law and IRR were explained.

Lawyer Erwin Tiamson explained key features of the law such as:

The removal of deadlines for free patent applications which previous laws prescribed; the adoption of a simplified agricultural free patent application process similar to that of residential free patent, with 120-day processing and five-day approval/disapproval time; the shortening to 20 years the required possession period for judicial (from 75 years) and administrative (from 30 years) confirmation of imperfect titles; and the sufficiency of a duly designated DENR geodetic engineer’s certification, instead of the DENR Secretary’s certification approval, that the land is alienable and disposable.

On the other hand, Engr. Henry Pacis, chief of the DENR-LMB’s Land Policy & Planning Division, expounded on the simplification of the applicant qualifications, documentary requirements, and the updated application’s process flow.

Reforms underway

DENR-LMB is currently digitizing its public land titling systems and procedures, including the online processing of public land applications and possible issuance of electronic patents,  Pacis also said.


Republic Act No. 11573 and IRR (DENR Administrative Order No. 2021-38).

FEF, LMB hold forum on enforcement of new land titling law. FEF Press release, March 4, 2021.

Real Property: Ownership and Registration. Atty. Victorino Mamalateo (+) and Atty. Mary Joy Mamalateo-Jusay, 2021.

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Henry L. Yap is an architect, environmental planner, real estate practitioner and former professorial lecturer.