by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Landowners who failed in the past to avail of the free patent application under the Public Land law regarding the administrative legalization or confirmation of their imperfect titles over alienable and disposable agricultural lands that they possess and occupy for less than 30 years are enjoined to apply with DENR now. This is a privilege and an opportunity under RA 9176 or an Act Extending the Free Patent Law until December 31, 2020. Our Land Management Services have been engaged for the past several years to conduct cadastral surveys, gather pertinent info and process free patent applications of agricultural lands said Mr. Baltazar M. Gerardo, CENRO, Kalibo.
While tax declaration is incontrovertible evidence of land ownership, it is technically flawed and issued only for taxation purposes. Confirmation of property title by the government is best evidence of absolute ownership. It is unfortunate that few Aklanons appreciate this excellent program of elevating quality standard of documentation for legal and business purposes. Apparently, proper information and education have not filtered into their sense of awareness. Hence, their inaction or non-cooperation. Indeed many consider the process only a financial and physical burden. This should never be the case since a land owner has more to gain than lose, argued the CENRO Chief.
Free patent application registered with CENRO Kalibo grew steadily from 546 in 2010 to 755 in 2011. Both Kalibo and Boracay CENROs target 600 agricultural application each for 2012. Another 600 are for residential free patent applications.
Agricultural lands covered under Com-prehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) or RA 6657 are exempted from taxes and fees of land transfers and other charges in accordance with Sections 66 and 67 of the Code. Farmers in particular have enjoyed preferential treatment under the generous provision of the law. Somehow, this will end abruptly with the issuance of Joint DAR-LRA Memo Circular No. 03 series of 2012 issued by Commissioner Eulalio C. Diaz III.
Atty. Victor E. Tesorero, Chief Land Registration Authority (LRA), Aklan announced that beginning April 10, 2012 their office will implement the circular on Land Titling Computerization Project (LTCP). This involves among others, the development of custo-mized application system, the supply of IT products and services, training of end users, conversion of titles and documents from physical to digital format and nationwide network of interconnection. Pursuant to Build, Own, Operate (BOO) agreement dated May 26, 2000 entered into by and between LRA and the Land Registration System Inc. (LARES), IT service fees shall be collected for specific services which include CARP related transactions.
How much will it cost the average landowner to avail of this free patent law? Well, Mr. Napoleon G. Maravilla Jr., Special Investigator CENRO Kalibo estimates that payment for cadastral fee is less than P100. Processing time is about three weeks if supporting documents are valid and intact. It is unfortunate however that bottleneck occurs with the LRA. Feedback from our applicant clienteles cite unwarranted service fee from P130 to P700.00 per lot.
However with full implementation of computerization program this time, Atty. Tesorero says that IT dues may be between P2,000 and P3,000 per lot depending upon the market value of the property. This means that if a hectare of land is parceled among seven heirs each one will contribute the above amount to LRA for processing of papers. I am aware of the problems faced by small landowners but this is a national policy decision that is bound to cause significant changes. Computer technology is the wave of the future and data base could be sourced through the internet. There is no question about paperless technology usage but only its cost to our clienteles, said the LRA Chief.
Documents needed for registration for free patent with LRA include cadastral map of land applied, current receipt of tax payment, photocopy of tax declaration, approved free patent application and photocopy of endorsement from DENR.
With heightened computerization and exorbitant fees imposed by its service provider, LARES, it is a good bet that free patent application will grind to a halt at LRA, unless responsible officials intercede. Backlash will undoubtedly undermine the integrity of our lawmakers who approved RA 9176. Pity the millions of landowners and CARP beneficiaries who should otherwise be protected from onerous financial obligations. /MP