Help Selling Land in the Philippines

Hi there

New to the forum, I hope everyone is well.

My mother is from Leyte and moved to the UK in the 1970's, and our family has owned land in Belen for over 100 years there.

She's now interested in selling the land, but as we're both living in the UK we have little experience in how to do this, who to talk to or where to even begin!

Currently the land is lived on by the farmers who work the coconut farms, and the crop yield is then used to pay the rent for the land. This has been the agreement for decades.

Also over the years people have slowly taken over parts of the land and encroached upon the boundaries, meaning that there's illegal building that's taken place.

So a few questions!

How do we begin to approach this?
How do we ensure the rights of the farmers currently on the land and make sure that they're looked after when the land is sold?
What is our responsibility to them to ensure they're looked after?
Who would we speak to about getting the boundary surveyed?
Once that is done, what would we do about the illegal building on the land?

If anyone can recommend what to do next it would be greatly appreciated! My mother is getting on in years and we'd like to have this dealt with so she can relax and not have to worry about this in her twilight years.

Thank you

You have a quite problem. It will be very hard to sell farmlands due to current statutes.
I am guessing the farmers are tenants from your ancestors. Tenancy can be passed on children/heirs of farmers. There may be a tenancy agreement (written/unwritten/tradition/practice) the tenants will have the first right of refusal. Meaning, if someone is willing to purchase your farm land at a certain price, the farmer/tenant will have the right to purchase the land at the same price the 3rd party buyer is willing to pay for. If they decide they don't want to buy it, then your buyer can purchase it. If you decide to petition for a change of zoning on your farm land (from farmland to residential), that agreement will no longer apply, thus severing the tenancy agreement.
As for encroachment, you will need to convince them nicely to leave. If they have been living there for many many years, the laws are probably not on your side. Woe is you. How much land was built up on? You may have to give up the portion that already have residential structures for as much a $0.00. If you want them to leave, you will to motivate them with a lot of money. Property taxes will increase.
My family is in a similar situation up north that is how I have this perspective. I have been present in 2015 when we talked to the farmer/tenant. You'd be surprised how much more rights they have than you on your farm land. Thay are not bashful about it too. You do not need to worry about their well being, they will be alright. Worry about how much land is "actually yours" right now.
Note: This is my opinion from what I have experienced on our discussion with the farmer/tenant on my mom's farmland.

Hi Jackson4

That's fantastic, a really good insight into this thank you.

We'd be happy to sell the land to the farmers if they could afford it, we'd be happy to sell the land to the government if they would want it.

Encroachment if there's nothing we can do there, again fine really. We just want to move on from this, so I suppose the path of least resistance is the aim. Ideally we'd get someone to survey the land and then we would go from there really. I suppose the hardest part is that no one is actually living in the Philippines so we don't have eyes on this.

I just remembered:
If the property is titled to an ancestor who'd been deceased for quite a while, it is to your interest to research how much taxes you'd have to pay when it comes time to transfer the title. I cannot remember the verbiage of this tax but it has something to do with the person on the title being deceased for a long time. This will help you find the appropriate sell price. I met a person in 2015 at the land registry in the Ilocos province who sold her parent's farmland finding out during the transfer of the title that the taxes she'd have to pay is more than the sell price. In short, she loses money after sale. It was quite a spectacle when she let out an outburst.
If you no longer are familiar with the local practices in Leyte, if might help you to get a local agent/expert to navigate the system and save you time, money and headache. The last one is priceless.
My mom uses one in the Ilocos, the system over there seemed not optimized and quite inneficient. She transferred one house & lot to me to learn how to do the rest.
I think it will not be much different with the rest of the country.

The tenants have more right to the land than you do you contact the Department of Agrarian Reform in your area. I hope your land is titled if not it will be almost impossible to sell as all the squatters and tenants will contest your ownership and will be able to claim rights to the property years ago all large land holdings were broken up and given to the tenants by the govt no one now can now own over 5 hectares of land wish you the best of luck

@ wineisallforme,

Indeed, you have a bit of a complex problem.  How you proceed will involve some research and clear understanding of the laws. 

First, I suggest you/your family do the following;

1.  Take note of how the land is currently titled and in who's name it is in.  If in your mom's name it must be a TCT (Transfer Certificate of Title), if in past relatives name(s), it could be TCT or OCT (Original Certificate of Title).  This is a must do to learn/understand as the next steps unfold. 

2.  Get very familiar with RA7279 and decide how you want to proceed.

3.  By understanding the term "Professional Squatter" you should proceed to the Brgy with a clearly worded "immediately cease and desist from squatting" letter that is placed in the Brgy blotter for each squatter family/group/person.

Here is an example of what I have prepared a few months ago for a friend in this same situation:

"To:      ____________________, Brgy. Captain
Brgy. ________________
Davao Del Norte, Republic of the Philippines

cc: Mayor __________________

Monday, April 20, 2020

Subj:    Demand for “Professional squatter” (i.e., ________________ at el) to immediately cease from squatting and vacate my land.

Dear Brgy ______________________,

Void of any Affidavit of Consent from me (the land/lot owner) for the construction of any building/house, please find attached herein my demand for “Professional squatter” (i.e.,___________, at el) to immediately cease and desist from squatting, and remedy by complete removal of any/all unauthorized structures and or modifications to my land and vacate my land as provided under RA 7279. 

The below listed demands are herein detailed as follows:

1.    The squatter ________________, at el, has 30 consecutive calendar days to cease all habitat functions.

2.    The squatter _______________, at el, has 30 consecutive calendar days to cease any/all agriculture operations including but not limited to; planting, harvesting, cultivating and or irrigation activities. 

3.    The squatter ______________, at el, has 30 consecutive calendar days to remove all structures, houses and or buildings from my land. 

4.    The squatter _______________, at el, has 30 consecutive calendar days to restore my land back to the conditions which he found the land; free of debris, trash or structural remains.

5.    The squatter _____________ at el, has 30 consecutive calendar days to properly clear and remedy any sewage, septic tank, or residential waste processing or related unauthorized structures from my land.

Captain __________, please officially receive and blotter this demand letter, than formally serve squatter ___________ at el, immediately."

Please note that this will need to be done with each family/group you know to be on your land in an unauthorized manner.

4.  The farmers living with permission on the land is a very different set of actions and should be done with as much past documentation to ensure all rights are protected. 

In general, all of the above will cause a hard look at property lines and could result in the need to sub-divide in order for the farmers to be able to purchase their "selected" lot, if offered & accepted.

In all your demands to the Brgy (and later to any court), you want to consider ending your correspondence with, " My intentions are to summarily evict the “Professional squatter(s)” on my land known as “________________” under the provisions of RA 7279."

Also, be clear about how this situation is and continues to impact your family.  Part of the document I prepared stated the following:

This “Professional Squatter” has and continues to harm me and my family as follows: 

1.    There are no plans to place any structures on my land, nor are there any boundaries stated/clarified to be for residential use,

2.    There are no plans to update my land tax status to include declaring any and all structures placed on my property by “____________”,

3.    My land is farm land and has not been approved for any sewage or residential waste processing,

4.    This land has great emotional significance to me and my children since it represents land intentionally left under-developed, per my, and my ancestor's wishes,

5.    The act of building a structure and living on my land results in both ground/soil and water pollution.

In Summary,
It is not my intent to claim this is ALL that needs to be done or that the process can be accomplished in a few letters.  However, do not make the mistake of failing to start at the Brgy level and ending with a case dismissal at the trial court (RTC).  You do not need an atty to start the process, as outlined above.  However, you/your mom will need to start at the Brgy to make any case stick.

The very best to you/your family in solving this matter.