D.E.N.R. and Philippine Congress Debate Fate of Bantayan Island

A new proposal by Attorney Oposa in his continuing effort to restrict building on Bantayan Island, may actually have the effect of robbing residents of this tiny island of their personal property and homes.

Beginning over two years ago, all building on the shoreline of Bantayan Island has been restricted from obtaining a building permit, even for private citizens who own the land and wish to build a home on their own property.

The effects of the proposal before Philippine Congress would be to pass a law that would make the boundary for the shoreline on Bantayan Island, 40 Meters. For more than 40 years the boundary has been recognized as being 20 meters, with all homes and businesses being permitted to build within the 20 meter boundary. Now Oposa wants to take an additional 20 meters from those who own property on the island.

For many property owners on Bantayan Island who own small parcels along the shore of Bantayan Island of 100-400 square meters, this new law will rob them of more than 200 square meters of their personal property. All land of less than 200 square meters will be completely lost. Land of 400 square meters will be cut in half. In many cases, this land was previously deeded to the land owners by the Philippine government and has been held in ownership for more than 40 years.

If this law is passed it will certainly cause great harm to Philippine citizens on Bantayan Island who will be the real losers in this debate.

The purpose of human government, in any country, is to protect the property and homes of the people, not to take their homes and land. In this case on Bantayan Island, the government would be the perpetrator of the loss of property of private citizens and their homes.

What is not being openly stated, is the fact that if this law of a 40 meter water boundary is allowed to pass by those in leadership in the Philippines, the government and DENR will have the authority to bulldoze and destroy all homes closer that 40 meters to the shoreline of Bantayan Island.

The basis for this new law is the fact that Bantayan Island was originally set up as a “wilderness area” and therefore should have had the enforcement of 40 meters applied to all property along the shores of the island. The problem is that the Philippine Government and the DENR has already allowed that boundary to be 20 meters for more than 40 years. By the mere fact that the island is now inhabited by more than 129,000 people who have been permitted to build as close as 20 meters to the shore, the government has established what the boundary is recognized as.

It is unfair, and immoral for the government to now state that they will enforce the boundary of 40 meters, when they have already acknowledged that it is 20 meters for more than 40 years. Everyone on Bantayan Island knows that the water boundary is 20 meters, survey markers are set up all along the shoreline at 20 meters, not 40 meters, being placed there by DENR.

This insistence that the law has always been 40 meters is due to the efforts of one environmentalist attorney (Oposa) who objects to building and development on Bantayan Island shores.

All environmental issues for any island should be balanced with what the effects would be for an environmental law being passed that will hurt human beings. Laws are for the benefit of people first, the environment second. In the case of Bantayan Island, catastrophic harm will be committed against people on this tiny island who own property and homes closer than 20 meters to the shore, should the Congress pass a law changing the water boundary to 40 meters.

As far as Bantayan Island being classified as a “wilderness area”, it is clear by the development of the island as a residential area, tourist destination, and hundreds of businesses being built along the shore of the island, that it has not been a wilderness area for a very long time. With 129,00o people living in homes on an island of just 7 by 10 miles, it is clearly not a wilderness area.

It would be wise to lift this classification from the island, protect personal property and homes that are beyond the existing 20 meters of the shoreline, and allow all future development on Bantayan Island to have restrictions and guidelines  that will protect the shores. How septic systems are constructed, fresh water is acquired, and how homes are built, are the kinds of guidelines that should be implemented. The 20 meter water boundary should be enforced, and allowance made for any homes or businesses currently closer than 40 meters, to be untouched by the government.

Surprisingly, this issue has not been on any Philippine television or radio station, or seen in any newspaper publication. Can you imagine the Philippine government being given the authority to take property and homes from Philippine citizens, and no one knows anything about it?

I would hope that someone with influence and authority will make this issue known to the public in the Philippines. It is for certain than should this 40 meter water boundary be enforced on Bantayan Island, all homes and property in the Philippines will then be in jeopardy. If the government and DENR are allowed to destroy homes on Bantayan Island and take property from private citizens on this small island, then all property and homes on all 7,200 island in the Philippines will be at risk.

Making Bantayan Island Our Home

For many who visit Bantayan Island while on a week’s vacation or just a short weekend get-away, we quickly fall in love. A leisurely walk on the powdery white sand, a warm swim in the clear aquamarine waters, may be all it takes. The love affair begins quickly and the feelings you develop while here do not leave you after your departure.

For Marissa and I, it happened the moment our feet stepped off the ferry at Santa Fe.

By the time we had visited the island for the second time in 2010, on the last day we decided we wanted to buy a beach front lot and live here for the rest of our lives.

Today we have the joy of making the final plans before we start construction on our beach house. Though the details of building a home on Bantayan Island are long and complicated, we are confident that by the end of 2011 we will have the basic structure of the house on the beach completed and begin to live the dream.

If you have also fallen in love with this beautiful island, your dream can also come true. Property on Bantayan Island is still affordable, even for the smallest budget. Lots inland sell for as little as P600 per square meter. You can own a small lot for less than P200,000 and build a home on your chosen lot for less than 1 Million Pesos. By U.S. Standards, this put’s your total investment at about $52,000.00.

Add about a Million pesos or another $24,000.00 for a beach front lot.

If you have built a home on Bantayan Island, or dream of doing so, write and tell us of your experience. We look forward to hearing the wonderful stories of many more who have come to this island paradise, fallen in love, and have made this beautiful place their home.


When Buying Property on Bantayan Island

Having just completed the purchase of a beach front lot on Bantayan Island, I have learned many things concerning the purchase of land and some of the correct procedures for doing so.

First of all, it is quite normal for a piece of land to have no title when you make an inquiry to purchase a lot or parcel of land. It may even be possible that the land has already been subdivided among family members who never formally had the land surveyed or acquired a title for each parcel.

The prospective sellers will assure you that they will give you a “Tax Declaration” and assure you that this document is enough to show ownership of the land. This is not true and should you pay the full cash price for the land and accept a tax declaration for the property, you do not own the land and may never be able to get a title for the property that you have just paid for.

There have been numerous cases in the Philippine courts where a person has purchased a parcel of land and accepted a tax declaration from the seller, that later lost the land and all of the money that they paid for the land. Under no circumstances ever accept a tax declaration as proof of ownership. You should not give the sellers the full cash price for the land before your name is on the title for the land.

It is customary and a normal part of the purchase of land in the Philippines, to have a “Contract to Sell” signed by yourself as the buyer and the seller of the land. Contained within this document are the various provisions that you and the seller will agree to upon the signing of the document.

Some of these provisions may include an agreement to give you a title upon the final payment of the amount owed on the land. At the signing of the Contract to Sell, you are formally entering into an agreement to purchase the land from the seller, and they are agreeing to sell you the property if the conditions of the contract are met. This document protects both the buyer and the seller from any future problems down the road and ensures that everything that both parties believed that they were going to receive as a part of the sale, are fulfilled.

I would suggest that you pay no more that 50% of the agreed price at the signing of the Contract to Sell. Also included would be the agreement that upon the signing of the agreement, you as the buyer will receive immediate possession of the land and have the right to start building a home or any other legal structure on the land. When I first became aware of this provision of the contract to sell, I was shocked that a seller would give the buyer possession of land that was not fully paid for and titled. I later learned that this is normal and customary in the Philippines.

It should be defined in the contract to sell, just who will pay for the fees necessary to secure the title, and how much the buyer and the seller will share in these costs. Although one would think that it is the seller’s sole responsibility to secure the title, Filipinos do not always see things this way. You may have to negotiate with your seller to come to an equitable agreement for how much they will pay and how much you will pay. Get it all in writing.

If all of the documents are in order, it should take about 3 months to obtain the title to the property you are purchasing. At least six weeks of this time are dedicated to the publication notice for a title in a local newspaper for six consecutive weeks. The other six weeks are the time that an attorney or qualified person would require to process the documents necessary to obtain the title for your new parcel of land.

As a part of and an attachment to the Contract to Sell is a “Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement” for the parcel of land you are buying. This document defines the legal area of land that you are buying in relation to the land around it. In many cases the land you are buying was originally a part of a “Mother Deed” that has never been subdivided. Although all the heirs of the land may currently be occupying the property or may have already sold their share of land to someone else, the land may not have ever been formally subdivided with a title for each parcel.

Unfortunately, you must have the signature of everyone who is an heir of the land, with their proper identity indicated on the document and have the entire document notarized by an attorney.

In the Philippines, only an attorney can notarize documents. This means that the person who will sign your documents as having authentic signatures, has gone to 8 years of college. His or her fee will be from 1-5 percent of the contract price. On a parcel of land that is being purchased for 1.5 million Pesos, the attorney can charge you from P15,000 to P75,000 Pesos. This fee is negotiable, so make sure that you find a good reputable attorney who is familiar with real estate law in the Philippines and has processed land titles in the past. It is acceptable to offer the attorney less than 1-5 percent, but many will not budge on at least 1 percent of the contract price.

The actual processing of the title will require additional documents such as a “Deed of Absolute Sale”, a complete survey of the land and subdivision of the lots on the Mother Title, and a processing fee with documents drawn up by an attorney to obtain the title. All of this can cost you from 15,000 Pesos to over 200,000 pesos depending on the attorney you hire. Take in to account these amounts when you begin your negotiation with the seller. Note the amounts or percentage to be shared between the buyer and seller on the Contract to Sell.

In future posts on this subject I will give you additional information regarding the purchase of land on Bantayan Island and the correct procedure for buying land and obtaining a title to that land. I will also discuss how to build a home on Bantayan Island and the correct procedure for the construction process.

Rob Robinson