Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu expressed optimism that a bill seeking to discard the deadline for agricultural free patent applications will soon become a law.

Senate Bill (SB) 1931 was approved by the Senate on second and third reading on Dec. 15, 2020, and will now go through bicameral proceedings to reconcile some uncommon provisions between the House of Representatives counterpart measure House Bill (HB) 7440 and the said Senate version of the bill.

It was approved on final reading on the same day President Rodrigo Roa Duterte certified its passage as urgent.

The Land Management Bureau (LMB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – together with the DENR Legislative Affairs group and public advocacy organization Foundation for Economic Freedom – has lobbied for the passage of the measure to hasten land titling process in the country.

"We are elated that the Senate recognizes the importance of the passage of this bill. It has always been the desire of LMB to accelerate titling in the country and help our farmers secure their land titles," Cimatu said.

The bill calls for amendments of some provisions under the Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, Commonwealth Act 141, also known as the Public Land Act, and Republic Act 9176 to ease and improve land titling application processes for alienable and disposable agricultural lands.
“We encourage farmers to file applications over their untitled lands as soon as the bill is approved by the President. This is an opportunity to uplift their lives through land productivity,” said LMB Director Emelyne Talabis.

The filing of agricultural free patent application halted last Dec 31, 2020. The DENR said it will resume accepting agricultural free patent applications once the said bill is signed into law.

SB 1931 aims to remove the December 31, 2020 deadline and any other extension of deadlines for agricultural land title applications so farmers can apply anytime.

In the judicial confirmation of imperfect title, the required period of possession is since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Under this bill, it is reduced to 30 years preceding the filing of petition for land registration.

Moreover, the bill provides a period of 120 days for the processing of the free patent applications.

Talabis welcomed the impending enactment of the bill citing the large number of untitled agricultural lands in the country.

She said the country has an estimated 300,000 hectares of untitled agricultural lands, which may still increase due to newly released/classified lands.

Further, she said the LMB continues to gather more accurate land data using the Rapid Land Tenure Appraisal inventory approach of the DENR.

Senator Richard Gordon, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, sponsored the measure that consolidated legislative proposals authored by him and Senator Sonny Angara.

On the other hand, HB 7440 is sponsored by Vicente “Ching” S. E. Veloso III, Chairperson of the House Committee on Justice. ###