May 23 2015

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Ownership of Philippine Land by a Foreigner

Can a Foreigner own land in the Philippines

First of all, a foreigner can buy land in the Philippines, it happens all the time, whether he actually owns it or not is a different matter.

Many foreigners even get their names on the title documents, and are happy to tell others that it proves they own the land.

Other people say it isn’t possible for a foreigner to buy land in the Philippines, as it states so in the Philippines Constitution.

So, who do we believe ?

How about: The Supreme Court of the Philippines

Look at the case of Borromeo vs. Descallar, G.R. No. 159310, February 24, 2009.

The Question to the court was:

What are the rights of an alien (and his successor-in-interest) who acquired real properties in the country as against his former Filipina girlfriend in whose sole name the properties were registered under the Torrens system?

From the above trial transcript, which appears a complex read, I have gleaned the following:

Wilhelm Jambrich, an Austrian, met and lived with Antonietta Opalla-Descallar, a Filipina.

On buying a property, a Deed of Absolute Sale was issued in their favour, with both names on the document.

However, when the Deed of Absolute Sale was presented for registration before the Register of Deeds, registration was refused on the ground that Jambrich was an alien and could not acquire alienable lands of the public domain.
Consequently, Jambrich’s name was erased from the document.

Four years later the couple split up.

It gets complicated here….  However…

The court case proved that Jambrich was the source of funds used to purchase the three parcels of land, and to construct the house thereon.

The court also found that Jambrich has all authority to transfer all his rights, interests and participation over the subject properties to petitioner Camilo F. Borromeo, by virtue of the Deed of Assignment he executed on July 11, 1991. (The petitioner being a Philippine Citizen)

Neither the Supreme Court or the Appellate Court disagreed with the factual findings of the Trial Court. They differed only in their conclusions of law.

The law brought into effect was:

Aliens are prohibited from acquiring private land. This is embodied in Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which is basically a reproduction of Section 5, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution, and Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution. The capacity to acquire private land is dependent on the capacity “to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” Private land may be transferred only to individuals or entities “qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” Only Filipino citizens or corporations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos are qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Thus, as the rule now stands, the fundamental law explicitly prohibits non-Filipinos from acquiring or holding title to private lands, except only by way of legal succession or if the acquisition was made by a former natural-born citizen

Jambrich had transferred his property to a Philippine Citizen in 1991.

This case determined that the transfer of land from the original seller to Jambrich, who is an Austrian, would have been declared invalid if challenged, had not Jambrich conveyed the properties to Camilo F. Borromeo who is a Filipino citizen.

If Jambrich had NOT transferred his property to a Filipino, then the court would have ruled that the sale to him was invalid.

The courts final statement was:

The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved.

And this appears to be the bottom line, no matter what…

to keep Philippine lands in Filipino hands.

So: Yes;

A foreigner can buy land, but that transaction can be declared invalid by the Supreme Court.
To avoid that, the foreigner must transfer the land to a Philippine citizen.

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