ILLEGAL RECLAMATION IN THE PHILIPPINES: LAW AND EFFECTS
Reclamation projects in the Philippines shall only be undertaken, as a rule, upon procurement of a permit approved by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) or the President of the Philippines. Those undertaken without the required permit and approval shall be considered illegal and shall be forfeited without need of judicial action.
By way of exception, the PRA issued Administrative Order No. 2005-1, otherwise known as the Rules and Procedures for Special Registration of Unauthorized or Illegal Reclamation Projects on 9 February 2005, which took effect on 27 February 2005. This issuance allows special registration of all reclamation activities, whether completed or not, which are not authorized to reclaim under existing laws and have no permit or approval from the PRA or the President. The period of special registration, however, was limited only to six months from the effectivity of the issuance, or until 27 August 2005. The same special registration program was revived in 2008 by virtue of PRA Administrative Order No. 2008-3, which removed the period limitation.
The regime of special registration was recently superseded by modified forfeiture proceedings. By virtue of Administrative Order No. 2021-1, the PRA laid down the rules for the modified forfeiture of unauthorized and illegal reclamations through titling under its name. Within this framework, the PRA grants reclaimers the opportunity to regularize illegal or unauthorized reclamation projects and get a share therein before it conducts total forfeiture.
The process starts with PRA issuing a show-cause order to a reclaimer of illegal or unauthorized reclamations, requiring the reclaimer to produce evidence of authorization. Otherwise, the PRA shall issue a Cease-and-Desist Order. Upon compliance with the show-cause orders, the PRA issues to the reclaimer a Notice to Comply (NTC) to produce relevant documents for titling. This must be done within ninety (90) calendar days from receipt of the NTC; otherwise, the reclaimer is considered to have waived its share and the PRA shall cause the total forfeiture of the illegally reclaimed land.
The reclaimer who wishes to share must pay the PRA an amount equivalent to Php 2,000 per hectare of reclaimed land but not less than Php 1,000,000 plus VAT and must submit the survey returns and the final survey plan in the name of the PRA. The rules explicitly require the reclaimer to shoulder the expenses for the titling. Once approved by the PRA Governing Board, and upon the issuance of the titles in the name of the PRA, the PRA shall convey or transfer to the reclaimer a portion of the reclaimed land following the sharing scheme:
Reclaimer: Equivalent to sixty percent (60%) of the gross size or area of the reclaimed land
National Government: The remaining forty percent (40%)
The power of the PRA to convey or sell reclaimed lands is well-established. However, as held by the Court in the case of Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, the PRA (formerly PEA) may cede its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain only to private individuals or local government units because of the constitutional prohibition to sell alienable and disposable lands of the public domain to private corporations. But once the PRA has transferred the same to either to private individuals or local government units, the latter can now validly transfer to private corporations.
Note also that the PRA is mandated to seek advisory opinions from NEDA, DENR, and DOF only on proposed reclamation projects, but not reclaimed lands covered by forfeiture under PRA Administrative Order No. 2021-1.
 PRA Administrative Order No. 2007-2, Section 3.  Id., Section 7.  See Presidential Decree No. 3-A, Section 1.  See PRA Administrative Order No. 2005-1, Section 9.  Id., Sections 2 and 3.  Id., Section 4.  See PRA Administrative Order No. 2021-1, Section 5(2).  Id., Section 6(1).  Ibid.  Id., Section 6(2).  Id., Section 5(6).  Id., Section 3. “Total Forfeiture” refers to the PRA-initiated titling process of a reclaimed land under its name without sharing the reclaimer a portion of the land.  Id., Section 6(3).  Id., Section 6(4).  Id., Section 6(6).  Id., Section 5(4).  Id., Section 6(8).  Id., Section 6(9).  Id., Section 5(2).  Id., Section 5(3).  Presidential Decree No. 1084, Section 5(d), in relation to Executive Order No. 543.  G.R. No. 133250, 9 July 2002.  1987 Constitution, Article XII, Section 3.  Executive Order No. 74, Section 3.
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