“This land is your land, this land is my lan . . . oh oh . . .”

[Photo source: National Geographic]

By JoeAm

One of the greatest failings of all Philippine administrations from Aguinaldo to Duterte is the poor management of the nation’s glorious natural resources. The lands are among the richest on the planet for ores and fertility. The surrounding waters are seas of plenty.

But the care-taking is just horrible.

The poorly considered assignment of land use enforcement to local governments has generated chaotic patterns of use that push money into the pockets of the entitled, chop up arable or scenic lands into private domains, and keep the poor unlanded and living on the slopes of dangerous hills and river banks.

The failure to properly title and manage ownership of lands has stripped wealth from the nation’s people and from the economy. Taxes leak away, land is not used to gain the leveraging power of loans, and there is a weak market for exchange of land. It is hard to convert property into cash.

And today, today . . . the government so little values the lands and seas of sovereign Philippine domain that the Duterte government thanks China for its intrusions into Philippine waters:

“PH ‘should thank’ China for ‘rescue center’ in West PH Sea – Panelo”

Supreme Court Justice Carpio, who knows the law better than just about anyone in the nation, advises the Philippines to protest this intrusion because welcoming it is tantamount to gifting the island and seas to China. Forever.

Another leaf of the cabbage is peeled away (“China invokes ‘cabbage tactics’ in South China Sea”).

Well, my friends, this is plain insanity. One of the poorest nations in the world fails to understand and realize the value of its natural resources!! Give us a break! The nation is like a drunk so steeped in misery lying there in the gutter that he cannot rise to do something about it.

Here’s what needs to be done about the lands and seas. Pardon me for being blunt. I have little patience for the pains of self-punishment:

  1. Adopt a commitment to self-sustenance in a global environment of considerable threat. Feed the nation. Keep Filipinos safe. Keep them healthy. Jail Persida Acosta.
  2. Enforce the nation’s hard-won rights to the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. Protest China’s intrusions with authority and determination. Make clear what international law says. Not what China says. Do not go to war. Save the reconciliation for a later time. Defend Philippine sovereign rights in international courts. If China fails to respect the Philippines, Filipinos, and Philippine rights, do not consider her an ally or a lender or a market or a supplier.
  3. Nationalize land use laws and enforcements. Get a grip on a proper allocation of land by function: preservation of agricultural lands for self-sustenance, designated industrial, commercial, residential, coastal, and PARKLANDS. Ban buildings in dangerous areas and anticipate even more intense storms in the future. Accelerate the building of public housing.
  4. Step up the pace and sophistication of the automation of the titling of property. Build a sophisticated real estate agenting profession. Make a market for land and buildings. Release the values and they will explode into new wealth for the economy and pay for that automation expense many times over. Home ownership will be available to the common man, and not just on terms set by the Villars.

Is that hard to do?


Then just lie stoned there in the gutter.


43 Responses to ““This land is your land, this land is my lan . . . oh oh . . .””
  1. edgar lores says:

    1. Short and strong. Pithy.

    2. “This land is my land,” said the oligarchs.

    3. “This rock is my military installation,” said China.

    4. I do not understand the lousy land management.

    4.1. In Oz, the huge disagreement in land ownership is between the government and the aborigines. But the Mabo decision in 1992 abolished the fiction of “terra nullius” — brought about by British colonization — in which the land was considered empty and belonged to no one. It recognized indigenous peoples as the traditional owners of the land in some two million square kilometers. (In comparison, the Philippines is 300,000 square kilometers.)

    4.2. The Mabo decision established native title. It is an acknowledgment and continuation of aboriginal title in the US as it pertains to native Indian tribes and nations.

    4.2. Outside of native title, there is crown land (or public lands) and private land. Crown land is owned and managed by state governments.

    o Private land – 62.7%
    o Public land – 29.6 %
    o Native title – 14.3 %

    4.3. Most private land is used for agriculture.

    4.4. The management of private land is superb. It is titled. It is recorded. And it is automated. The benefits in tax collection and the efficient transfer of properties in a streamlined system are enormous.

    4.5. I pay property tax every quarter. The tax is reviewed and assessed at regular annual intervals.

    4.6. I have bought and sold properties, with each transaction taking a matter 4-6 weeks, most of which was a cooling period. I just had to deal with a realtor and a conveyancing lawyer. Each said, “Just sign here. And leave it in our hands.” Which I pretty most did.

    4.7. In the Philippines, it took my brother an agonizing year to sell off a property. There was a backlog of unpaid taxes. The records were not up-to-date. The required documentation to support the sale involved affidavits, powers-of-attorney, marriage certificates, and death certificates. All notarized of course.

    4.8. It takes years to settle a land dispute. Read up on friar lands. There are a variety of record forms. Records are kept in different bureaucracies. And, as if that were not enough, land records are razed in suspicious fires.

    4.9. If land titles were accurate and computerized, misdeclarations in SALNs would be a thing of the past. And justices and elected officials would quake in their ‘jamas.

    • Thank you for making clear the difference between proper management of land and the Philippine haphazard, friction-inducing, time-consuming, value-eroding way.

      And for adding “anti-corruption” as a clear benefit of proper management.

    • madlanglupa says:

      We should also mention that often old land titles were made during the Commonwealth era, themselves, I believe, were copied from yellowing Spanish land grant titles that were given for haciendas throughout some 300 years of Spanish colonization.

      • There were several phases of titling, and the first phase was like in Latin America, no precise coordinates, just “to the North of the estate of X, to the South of Y..” – basically OK for gentlemen with huge estates – I have seen abaca land titles around 1881 and even found that some neighbors still have their land. Around 1890s the land area in “solares” was mentioned but still no coordinates. Then Torrens titling by the USA early 20th century, Japanese titling 42-45, highly modernized documents, then today’s TCTs and some IT from 1990s.. Add Filipino “weder-weder” and you have layers of conflicting claims and of course landgrabbing galore..

  2. karlgarcia says:

    I just read that because of our baseline laws, and UNCLOS anything erased by rising sea levels will no longer be part of our maritime domain or literally being erased from the map.

    If calculations are correct by the end of the century, our shorelines will be moved.

    I will look for a non pdf report.

  3. Once upon a time, 600 thousand people had 300 thousand square kilometers of land and seemingly endless seas to themselves. No need to worry too much about sustenance with two square kilometers per person on the average. UP Diliman is 493 ha = 4.93 sq. km.

    Then came others who took control, but mainly to trade the silver found elsewhere, in a huge mountain, against the goods of men with pigtails. The natives had to work 80 days a week for the new rulers, but the rest stayed much the same. Their chiefs became cabezas de barangay.

    Then came yet others, interested also in trading with those in pigtails, but also in hemp for ship’s ropes, sugar and even tobacco – and in gold and copper, more than the others before. Torrens titles were what they introduced, after the relatively new (1870s) Spanish titling system.

    Before Spanish titling, those who tilled the land “owned” it. I have seen affidavits in Spanish from the 1870s where neighbors swear that those who sold the land had tilled it for 30 years at least. But other accounts from the abaca rush period in Bikol speak of peasants turned bandits, land lost.

    The Philippines around 1899 had around 10 million people. Twice as many by around 1950. Now, mining and subdivisions have decreased available farmland, while overfishing and pollution have depleted marine resources. Chinese no longer wear pigtails, but have taken islands, what’s next?

  4. karlgarcia says:

    Paraphrasing Locsin’s jab to Assoc Justice Carpio.

    “We submitted a lot of protests, but we did not have to give you a copy.”

  5. Pablo says:

    Although I think that this is a reasonable start, 2 major things are forgotten.
    1. “Only living people can own land”. Often, the (great) grandfather owned land and the titles never have been transferred. So, now the nieces and nephews and the whole family claims “their” part, but ofcourse don’t agree and as a result, the land is idle and used for woodcutting, charcoaling, goats or other destructive activities.
    The CARP has been a disaster in many places. People claimed their 5 hectares, but don’t do anything with it. Or politicians gave their friends and family 5 hectares each and now those people rent it out to destructive farmers (like corn on slopes), but hey, nobody is interested in long-term future of the land. Some owners even emigrated to the US but still claim they “own” the land. For right or for wrong, the big landowners farmed their land with the help of workers, but the yields were such that the country was fed. Now everything is imported…. from rice to chocolate to coffee, things Philippines used to be exporting in big quantities. A minimum yield will have to be set, otherwise the CARP land should be returned to its original owner. And taxes need to be paid assuming a minimum yield. Thus eliminating people who just use their land to boast.

    But, this is an almost convoluted task. Most killings in the area around us are because of land disputes. They will never be able to reach an agreement and the government will never be able to tell half the population to f-off and decide who is going to get the land. It will never be accepted. The Crab Mentality is rampant.
    Good luck, I would say. Only a revolution could sort it out and I dread to think of unintended consequences. Around me, I see that about 80% of the land is used sub-optimal. I compare the coffee yield (Philippines 450kg/ha, Vietnam 2400 kg/ha) as a simple example why we are in deep shit and by no means able to face the competition. The interesting thing is that only a wood plantation operated by a Chinese family is bigger and profitable. A sign of things to come?
    Every March, when I see the mainland burning and the altitude of the trees decreasing another 20 meters, my heart is aching. Another 20 meters to erode in 10 years time.
    And in a few years, we reach sea level and we don’t have to fight anymore about the land ownership because it is eroded and useless.
    My heart is bleeding, but nobody is listening and the FLUP (Forest Land Use Plan) and the CLUP (Comprehensive Land Use Plan) are just pieces of paper, not worth the cost of the printing.
    Same issue all the time: the rule of law is just a formality, we just do what we want. And paying taxes, we just don’t want. Certainly not when we claim we own big stretches of land.

    Come and visit my place in March/May and bring enough Rhum to suppress the view of the mountains burning.

  6. karlgarcia says:

    Here is another problem, the chamber of real esrate decelopers has their own version of the national land use bill.


  7. karlgarcia says:

    The Lina law is being blamed by land owners whose properties have been occupied by squatters. The common perception is no relocation, no relocation.

    That is not just the problem, even if there are relocation sites, it is too far from place of work snd no work available at site, no electricity and water is also a reality because the NHAs job is just to build houses and they have no say in power and water. So a few weeks after eviction, surprise, look who is back?!


  8. karlgarcia says:

    Pablo already talked about CARP, I talked about the Lina Law, there is such an animal as Urban land reform which was already a law when the Lina Law became a law.


  9. karlgarcia says:

    Pablo also talked about inheriting land basedfrom his own ecperience.

    I will drop a link regarding dividing of inheritance.


  10. karlgarcia says:

    Back to Manila bay reclamation.
    Jarius Bondoc is reiterating stuff he wrote years ago with some updates.


  11. eduardomaresca says:

    The ancient promised land was a land flowing, figuratively speaking, with “milk and honey”. The Philippines is a promised land flowing with “gin and more gin” which probably makes Filipinos a little dull and unaware of the amazing land they have….

  12. distant observer says:

    By the way, the proper term to describe the phenomenon discussed here is “land grabbing”. And the Philippines is one of the leading countries in this regard. According to this study (https://www.pnas.org/content/110/3/892), 17% of the country is already acquired by foreign countries and corporations.

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