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G. R. No. 133250.

May 6, 2003
FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ vs. PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL
BAY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
FACTS:
 The government, through the Commissioner of Public Highways, signed a contract
with the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) to
reclaim certain foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay.
 Pres. Marcos issued PD 1084 creating PEA, a wholly government owned and
controlled corporation. PEA was tasked "to reclaim land, including foreshore and
submerged areas," and "to develop, improve, acquire, x x x lease and sell any and
all kinds of lands."
 On the same day, Pres. Marcos also issued PD 1085 transferring to PEA the "lands
reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay" under the Manila-Cavite
Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP).
 Pres .Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517 granting and transferring to PEA "the
parcels of land so reclaimed under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation
Project.”
 Subsequently, the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Parañaque issued TCT
Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312, in the name of PEA, covering the three reclaimed
islands known as the "Freedom Islands" located at the southern portion of the
Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Parañaque City.
 PEA entered into a Joint Venture Agreement ("JVA" for brevity) with AMARI, a private
corporation, to develop the Freedom Islands.
 The Senate Committee conducted investigation and concluded in their report that:
(1) the reclaimed lands PEA seeks to transfer to AMARI under the JVA are lands of
the public domain which the government has not classified as alienable lands and
therefore PEA cannot alienate these lands; (2) the certificates of title covering the
Freedom Islands are thus void, and (3) the JVA itself is illegal.
 Petitioner Frank I. Chavez, as a taxpayer, filed the instant Petition for Mandamus
with Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary
Restraining Order assailing the sale to AMARI of lands of the public domain as a
blatant violation of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting the sale
of alienable lands of the public domain to private corporations.
ISSUE:
Whether stipulations in the Amended JVA for the transfer to AMARI of lands, reclaimed
or to be reclaimed, violate the Constitution. YES.
HELD:

The Regalian Doctrine -The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore and
submerged areas is rooted in the Regalian doctrine which holds that the State owns
all lands and waters of the public domain. Upon the Spanish conquest of the
Philippines, ownership of all "lands, territories and possessions" in the Philippines
passed to the Spanish Crown. The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the
Regalian doctrine substituting, however, the State, in lieu of the King, as the owner
of all lands and waters of the public domain.
Ownership and Disposition of Reclaimed Lands -The Spanish Law of Waters of
1866 was the first statutory law governing the ownership and disposition of
reclaimed lands in the Philippines. On May 18, 1907, the Philippine Commission
enacted Act No. 1654 which provided for the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed
lands of the government to corporations and individuals. Later, on November
29, 1919, the Philippine Legislature approved Act No. 2874, the Public Land Act,
which authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the

(d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes. to any person. however. Dispositions under the 1987 Constitution . but not the sale. while the statutory ban under CA No. 141 applied only to government reclaimed. government to corporations and individuals. 59. like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it." and . homestead or grant. such area may be increased by the Batasang Pambansa upon recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority. even if wholly owned by Philippine citizens. filling. Section 11. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: (a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging. in excess of twenty-four hectares. The salient provisions of CA No. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of this Act. Sec. and (c) of section fifty-nine shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise. 141. of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. 141 continues to this day as the general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. and the conditions therefor. No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares or acquire by purchase. However. 1936. has adopted the Regalian doctrine. Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution declared that – "Sec. limited the alienation of lands of the public domain to individuals who were citizens of the Philippines." (Emphasis supplied)   CONSTITUTIONAL BAN and STATUTORY BAN . or other means. upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture. concession. or leased to. are as follows: "Sec. or association.The 1973 Constitution. On November 7. also known as the Public Land Act. and private corporations became absolutely barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. corporation. The 1987 Constitution declares that all natural resources are "owned by the State. held or acquired by. 141. as soon as the President. taking into account conservation. industrial. license or permit. foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain. or other productive purposes other than agricultural. Sec. (b). the National Assembly passed Commonwealth Act No. Only individuals could now acquire alienable lands of the public domain. shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public service and are open to disposition under this chapter. were no longer allowed to acquire alienable lands of the public domain unlike in the 1935 Constitution. Sec. 61. as the case may be. or association authorized to purchase or lease public lands for agricultural purposes. being neither timber nor mineral land. shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter and not otherwise. under the 1973 Constitution. 60. (b) Foreshore. 58. Any tract of land of the public domain which. (c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers. and is open to disposition or concession. on government reclaimed. and development requirements of the natural resources. any qualified individual. which authorized the lease. ecological.Thus. The constitutional ban extended to all kinds of alienable lands of the public domain. foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain. private corporations could hold alienable lands of the public domain only through lease. 11. No private corporation or association may hold by lease. shall determine by law the size of land of the public domain which may be developed. timber or forest lands and other timber or forest resources in excess of one hundred thousand hectares. x x x. CA No." (Emphasis supplied)  Dispositions under the 1973 Constitution . The Batasang Pambansa. The lands comprised in classes (a). is intended to be used for residential purposes or for commercial.The 1987 Constitution. Private corporations. corporation. Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or sold.

Article XII of the 1987 Constitution state that – "Section 2. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. the 592. Still. or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase. wildlife. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands. fisheries. renewable for not more than twenty-five years.15 hectares of submerged areas of Manila Bay remain inalienable natural resources of the public domain until classified as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition and declared no longer needed for public service. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred hectares. TRANSFER OF RECLAIMED LAND TO AMARI IS VOID: Since the Amended JVA seeks to transfer to AMARI. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural.15 hectares of submerged areas are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. Agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may be devoted.    SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS: ON RECLAMIED LANDS: The 157. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the alienation of natural resources other than agricultural lands of the public domain. or grant. and further declare them no longer needed for public service. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. homestead. Thereafter. ON SUBMERGED AREAS YET TO BE RECLAIMED: The 592. all other natural resources shall not be alienated. PEA may only sell these lands to Philippine citizens. and national parks. all forces of potential energy. In their present state. coal. With the exception of agricultural lands. such transfer is void for being contrary to Section 2. forests or timber. development. and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. are alienable lands of the public domain. such transfer is void for being contrary to Section 3. now covered by certificates of title in the name of PEA. PEA may reclaim these submerged areas. Only then can these lands qualify as agricultural lands of the public domain. a private corporation. forest or timber. which are the only natural resources the government can alienate. natural resources cannot be alienated. and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area . petroleum and other mineral oils. mineral lands. minerals. subject to the ownership limitations in the 1987 Constitution and existing laws. and other natural resources are owned by the State. TRANSFER OF SUBMERGED AREA TO AMARI IS VOID: Since the Amended JVA also seeks to transfer to AMARI ownership of 290. The government can make such classification and declaration only after PEA has reclaimed these submerged areas. waters. Sections 2 and 3.except for alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. the transfer of such reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain to AMARI will be void in view of Section 3.156 hectares of still submerged areas of Manila Bay. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3. Clearly. PEA may lease these lands to private corporations but may not sell or transfer ownership of these lands to private corporations. flora and fauna. the government can classify the reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable. ownership of 77.34 hectares of the Freedom Islands. . All lands of the public domain. x x x. Section 3. The exploration. for a period not exceeding twenty-five years. The Court declares the JVA null and void ab initio.