The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has released a set of guidelines on the disposition of lands formed by accretion adjacent to agricultural areas, and management of river islets and dried creeks and river beds.

Secretary Roy A. Cimatu signed DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2020-16 as he recognized the urgent need to revisit and improve policies and procedures pertaining to the survey, disposition, and management of public lands on unstable and impermanent land forms.

The DAO is pursuant to Executive Order No. 192 or the Reorganization Act of DENR of 1987, Republic Act No. 9729 otherwise known as the Climate Change Act of 2009, Republic Act No. 10121 known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, Public Land Act, and Civil Code of the Philippines.

"Although there are already laws related to the disposition of public lands, it is still necessary to expand and establish several guidelines related to water and land for compliance and awareness of stakeholders," Cimatu said.

The guidelines support the basic duty of the government in ensuring the "efficient conservation, management, development, safety, security, equitable distribution and use of the country’s environment and natural resources."

"DAO 2020-16 was issued to strengthen rules on the protection and management of the environment, mitigate possible illegal developments, intervene environmental degradation and essentially uphold the safety of Filipinos in terms of land use," Cimatu said.

The DENR guidelines state that all islets, such as sandbars and delta shall not be subjected to any mode of titling, unless declared as open for disposition through a law enacted by the Congress or presidential proclamation.

DENR defined islets as small islands formed by actions of the sea, river, or other bodies of water, which are unstable and impermanent in nature.
Meanwhile, dried creeks and river beds shall not be alienated since these belong to the State as property of public dominion pursuant to Article 502 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

The DENR regional office, through the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and designated divisions from the regional offices shall assess and determine the physical and biological conditions, including ecology, geology, topography, hydrology, soil quality, and exposure to environmental and climate risks of the lands.

In extreme cases, these areas may be designated as no-build zone areas, it added.

Meanwhile, lands formed by accretion within a block classified as agricultural land may be opened for disposition in accordance with the provisions of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or the Public Land Act, and Section 2, Chapter 2 of Book II, Title II of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

DAO 2020-16 states that if the lot is already titled, the land owner shall have the land surveyed and approved, and proceed to the courts for acquisition.
However, if the lot is still untitled, the land shall be surveyed and approved for administrative titling. The claimant of the lot may opt to consolidate the untitled lot for the filing of public land application.

In addition, lands formed within non-navigable or non-floatable lakes and rivers "shall be governed by the provisions of Article 465 of the Civil Code."
The DAO said that disposition of these lands shall be subject to additional clearance or certification from the MGB regional office.
The CENRO shall secure the clearance or certification to determine the physical and geological condition of the area and whether it is fit for habitation or human settlement.

Under the implementation of these guidelines, the law on easements under Article 51 of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines and DAO 99-21 and 92-13 shall also be strictly observed. ###