As 2020 comes to a close, the Land Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported the major accomplishments in the land sector amid the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are indeed happy with the achievements of LMB. These show that we have provided many Filipinos with security of land tenure, which is essential to build shelter and create livelihood,” said DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

From 2019 to October 2020, the DENR regional field offices issued a total of 30,456 agricultural free patents covering around 20,144.98 hectares across 14 regions in the country, topping its original target by 4.25 percent.

According to LMB Director Emelyne V. Talabis, the increase was due to the December 31, 2020 deadline on the filing of applications pursuant to Republic Act 9176, as well as the increased use of the Land Administration Management System Philippines (LAMS), which fast tracked the approval of land surveys.

At the same time, the regions also issued 56,265 residential free patents covering around 1,408.46 hectares across 16 regions in the country.

Such issuances of free patents, which include beneficiaries of the Handog Titulo Program, was in support of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s socioeconomic agenda of ensuring security of land tenure to encourage investments and to address bottlenecks in land management and titling agencies.

Modernization initiatives of LAMS, such as the migration of land records in the LAMS database, pilot testing of the submission of e-survey returns and online access to survey records, digital cadastral database cleansing, and projection of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title or Certificate of Ancestral Land Title have been implemented in several cities and regions across the country.

In partnership with the Land Registration Authority (LRA), a Joint Memorandum Circular has also been crafted to implement information sharing between LMB’s LAMS and LRA’s Philippine Land Registration and Information System or PHILARIS. This will link the land information database managed by both agencies and significantly reduce turnaround time in the processing of land transactions.

This year, the regional offices have also formulated the Foreshore Management and Development Plans for the provinces of La Union, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Eastern Samar, Camiguin and Davao Oriental, and the city of Iloilo.

Each plan contains a broad analysis of the conditions and issues covering foreshore lands, as well as recommendations on the appropriate foreshore management scheme to be adopted for each of the said provinces and city.

Upon the recommendation of LMB and DENR-Region 13, Secretary Cimatu, through the Undersecretary for Field Operations, Enforcement and Muslim Affairs Jim Sampulna lifted the titling suspension in Siargao on Nov. 18, 2019. This year, the suspension was lifted in South Cotabato and Sarangani on January 29, Panglao, Bohol on February 28, and Palawan on March 2.

Rapid Land Tenure Assessment (RLTA) was also conducted by the regional offices in support of a planned nationwide acceleration of titling. RLTA is a barangay profiling activity designed to determine how much titling work is still needed to be done in a local government unit.

The LMB also intensified public awareness on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanism through the conduct of “ADR on Wheels” in selected cities, as well as its online talk show “Talakayang Panlupa” to encourage parties to settle their dispute amicably.

“The resilience that we have developed because of the pandemic all the more drives us to continue to work on our commitment to provide policy direction and technical support on land management and administration for 2021,” said Talabis.###