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CASE DIGESTS

Law on NATURAL RESOURCES

Modesto vs. Urbina, et al.


G.R. No. 189859 October 18, 2010 Ponente: Brion, J.

FACTS: This case originates from a complaint of recovery of possession filed by respondent Urbina against the petitioners Modesto, with the RTC of Pasig sometime in 1983. Urbina in his complaint alleged that he was the owner of a parcel of land situated at Lower Bicutan, Taguig. According to Urbina, the Modestos, through stealth, scheme, and machination, were able to occupy a portion of his property. Thereafter, the Modestos negotiated with Urbina for the sale of said lot. However, before the parties could finalize the sale, the Modestos allegedly cancelled the transaction and began claiming ownership over the lot. The Modestos claimed that Urbina could not be the lawful owner of the lands because it was still government property, being part of the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation. ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the land subject of the controversy, is indeed, government property, hence, cannot be privately owned. 2. Whether or not petitioner have a better right of possession since they were in actual, adverse, public, and continuous possession of the property. HELD: 1. Yes. The SC upheld the factual findings of the Land Management Bureau (LMB), the administrative agency tasked with assisting the DENR in the management and disposition of alienable an disposable lands of the public domain when it invalidated the claim of respondent of possessory rights over said property since it was not yet alienable and disposable lands prior to then President Cory Aquinos public declaration of P.D. No. 172 reclassifying it to be alienable and disposable lands on October 16, 1987. 2. Yes. The Court resolved the issue by applying the legal provisions covering the subject property which was P.D. No. 172 implementing guidelines M.O. No. 119 where one of the qualifications to ownership is that one must have constructed a house in the proclaimed area for disposition on or prior to January 6, 1986 and actually residing therein. As reported by the special investigator and other land inspectors, it was the Modestos who were the actual occupants of the area unlike Urbina who never occupied the land and instead has been residing in Makati City.

Almagro vs. Kwan, et al.


G.R. No. 175806 and 175810 October 20, 2010 Ponente: Carpio, J.

FACTS: This case involves a 17,181 square meter land which is known as Lot No. 6278-M located at Maslog, Sibulan, Negros Oriental and inherited by respondents from their parents who died in 1976 and 1986 respectively. On September 18, 1996, respondents filed with the MTC an action for recovery of possession and damages against petitioners as well as those who are occupants within the boundary of the land in controversy. During the pre-trial, the Court and the parties designated geodetic engineer Suasin to perform the task of verification and relocation survey of said lot and which was accordingly executed on September 12-13, 2000.

In the written report of Engr Suasin, it contained, inter alia, that the big portion of the lot is submerged under the sea and a small portion remain as dry land, and that some of the defendants have constructed buildings or houses inside the dry land. In the Courts judgment dated May 11, 2001, the MTC dismissed the complaint on the ground that the remaining dry portion of Lot No. 6278-M has become foreshore land and should be returned to the public domain. Respondents appealed to the RTC, which subsequently concluded upon conducting two ocular inspections, that the disputed remaining portion is not foreshore land because it remained dry even during high tides. Petitioners moved for reconsideration, but were denied. They also filed separate petitions for review with the Court of Appeals. ISSUE: Whether or not the disputed portion of Lot No. 6278-M is still private land or has become foreshore land which forms part of the public domain, as contended by petitioners. HELD: The SC held that the disputed portion is private land and is rightfully owned by respondents, in contravention to the claim of petitioners that is has become foreshore land and therefore owned by the public domain, and that they have foreshore lease permits from the DENR on claimed foreshore land, albeit failing to present evidence to prove validity of such claim.

Sec. of DENR vs. yap g.r. no. 167707

Facts: Respondents-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first Public Land Act.[32] Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition. Issue: Is PGMA's presidential proclaimation no. 1064 classifying boracay island into 400 hectares of reserved and forest land and 628 hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable) valid and constitutional? Ruling: In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain, presumably subject to existing vested rights. Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the Office of the President. Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes. Contrary to private claimants argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular, much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. CELESTINA NAGUIAT, Respondent. G.R. No. 134209 January 24, 2006

This is an application for registration of title to four (4) parcels of land located in Panan, Botolan, Zambales, filed by Celestina Naguiat on 29 December 1989 with the Regional Trial Court of Zambales, Branch 69. Applicant [herein respondent] alleges, inter alia, that she is the owner of the said parcels of land having acquired them by purchase from the LID Corporation which likewise acquired the same from Demetria Calderon, Josefina Moraga and Fausto Monje and their predecessors-in-interest who have been in possession thereof for more than thirty (30) years; and that to the best of her knowledge, said lots suffer no mortgage or encumbrance of whatever kind nor is there any person having any interest, legal or equitable, or in possession thereof. On 29 June 1990, the Republic of the Philippines [herein petitioner]. . . filed an opposition to the application on the ground that neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question since 12 June 1945 or prior thereto; that the muniments of title and tax payment receipts of applicant do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona-fide acquisition of the lands applied for or of his open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of (an) owner; that the applicants claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of . . .; and that the parcels of land applied for are part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation. the trial court rendered judgment for herein respondent Celestina Naguiat, adjudicating unto her the parcels of land in question and decreeing the registration thereof in her name, With its motion for reconsideration having been denied by the trial court, petitioner Republic went on appeal to the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001. As stated at the outset hereof, the CA, in the herein assailed decision of May 29, 1998, affirmed that of the trial court, Hence, the Republics present recourse on its basic submission that the CAs decision "is not in accordance with law, jurisprudence and the evidence, since respondent has not established with the required evidence her title in fee simple or imperfect title in respect of the subject lots which would warrant their registration under (P.D. 1529 or Public Land Act (C.A.) 141." In particular, petitioner Republic faults the appellate court on its finding respecting the length of respondents occupation of the property subject of her application for registration and for not considering the fact that she has not established that the lands in question have been declassified from forest or timber zone to alienable and disposable property. Issue: whether or not the areas in question have ceased to have the status of forest or other inalienable lands of the public domain. public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State remain part of the inalienable public domain. 13 Under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, the prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands of the public domain, i.e., from forest or mineral to agricultural and vice versa, belongs to the Executive Branch of the government and not the court. 14 Needless to stress, the onus to overturn, by incontrovertible evidence, the presumption that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable or disposable rests with the applicant.15 respondent never presented the required certification from the proper government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land applied for as alienable and disposable. declassification of forest and mineral lands, as the case may be, and their conversion into alienable and disposable lands need an express and positive act from the government.21

REPUBLIC v. NAGUIAT

FACTS: Respodent Celestina Naguiat applied for registration of title to 4 parcels of land in Botolan, Zambales. She alleges that she owns the land, having acquired them by purchase from LID Corporation and that their predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the land for more than 30 years. The Republic opposed the application because neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands and that the parcels applied for are part of the public domain and not subject to private appropriation. ISSUE: WON the parcels of land could be registered under respondents name. RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT: The parcels of land could be registered in her name. RULING OF THE COURT OF APPEALS: CA affirmed the decision of the Trial Court. RULING OF THE SUPREME COURT: THE LAND IS NOT REGISTRABLE. CA assumed that the land was already alienable and disposable but in truth, it was still questionable. Respondent never presented the required certification from the proper government agency or official proclamation reclassifying the land applied for as alienable and disposable. Land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed; it requires proof. The documents she presented are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Declassification of forest and mineral lands, and their conversion into alienable and disposable lands need an express and positive act from the government. The issue of WON respondent and her predecessors-in-interest have been in open, exclusive, and continuous possession of the parcels of land does not matter. Unclassified land, cannot be acquired by adverse occupation or possession and occupation cannot ripen into private ownership.

PICOP V. BASE METALS

G.R. No. 163509 December 6, 2006 Ponente: Tinga FACTS: In 1987, the Central Mindanao Mining and Development Corporation (CMMCI for brevity) entered into a Mines Operating Agreement with Banahaw Mining and Development Corporation whereby the latter agreed to act as Mine Operator for the exploration, development, and eventual commercial operation of CMMCI's 18 mining claims located in Agusan del Sur. Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Banahaw Mining filed applications for Mining Lease Contracts over the mining claims with the Bureau of Mines. On April 29, 1988, Banahaw Mining was issued a Mines Temporary Permit authorizing it to extract and dispose of precious minerals found within its mining claims. Since a portion of Banahaw Mining's mining claims was located in petitioner PICOP's logging concession in Agusan del Sur, Banahaw Mining and petitioner PICOP entered into a MOA whereby petitioner PICOP allowed Banahaw Mining an access to its mining claims. In 1991, Banahaw Mining converted its mining claims to applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA for brevity). While the MPSA were pending, Banahaw Mining, on December 18, 1996, decided to sell/assign its rights and interests over 37 mining claims in favor of private respondent Base Metals Mineral Resources Corporation. The transfer included those covered by its mining operating agreement with CMMCI. Upon being informed of the development, CMMCI, as claim owner, immediately approved the assignment made by Banahaw Mining in favor of private respondent Base Metals, thereby recognizing private respondent Base Metals as the new operator of its claims. On March 10, 1997, private respondent Base Metals amended Banahaw Mining's pending MPSA applications with the Bureau of Mines to substitute itself as applicant and to submit additional documents in support of the application. Area clearances from the DENR Regional Director and Superintendent of the Agusan Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary were submitted, as required. On November 18, 1997, petitioner PICOP filed with the Mines Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB), an Opposition to private respondent Base Metals' application because it violate the non-impairment clause and will be prejudicial to herein petitioner. The Panel Arbitrator initially ruled for petitioner, but upon appeal to the

Mines Adjudication Board, judgment was in favor of respondent, CA affirmed stating that the Presidential Warranty of September 25, 1968 issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos merely confirmed the timber license granted to PICOP and warranted the latter's peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. It was only given upon the request of the Board of Investments to establish the boundaries of PICOP's timber license agreement. The Presidential Warranty did not convert PICOP's timber license into a contract because it did not create any obligation on the part of the government in favor of PICOP. Thus, the non-impairment clause finds no application. Issue: W/N the concession area of petitioner is closed to mining activities and that the conversion of the agreement into MPSA will run counter to the non-impairment clause of the Constitution. NO, a Timber license agreement is not a contract, but a mere privilege. RATIO: We should state at this juncture that the policy of multiple land use is enshrined in our laws towards the end that the country's natural resources may be rationally explored, developed, utilized and conserved. In like manner, RA 7942, recognizing the equiponderance between mining and timber rights, gives a mining contractor the right to enter a timber concession and cut timber therein provided that the surface owner or concessionaire shall be properly compensated for any damage done to the property as a consequence of mining operations. Firstly, assuming that the area covered by Base Metals' MPSA is a government reservation, defined as proclaimed reserved lands for specific purposes other than mineral reservations, such does not necessarily preclude mining activities in the area. Sec. 15(b) of DAO 96-40 provides that government reservations may be opened for mining applications upon prior written clearance by the government agency having jurisdiction over such reservation. Sec. 6 of RA 7942 also provides that mining operations in reserved lands other than mineral reservations may be undertaken by the DENR, subject to certain limitations. Secondly, RA 7942 does not disallow mining applications in all forest reserves but only those proclaimed as watershed forest reserves. There is no evidence in this case that the area covered by Base Metals' MPSA has been proclaimed as watershed forest reserves. DENR Memorandum Order No. 03-98, which provides the guidelines in the issuance of area status and clearance or consent for mining applications pursuant to RA 7942, provides that timber or forest lands, military and other government reservations, forest reservations, forest reserves other than critical watershed forest reserves, and existing DENR Project Areas within timber or forest lands, reservations and reserves, among others, are open to mining applications subject to area status and clearance. Lastly, PICOP failed to present any evidence that the area covered by the MPSA is a protected wilderness area designated as an initial component of the NIPAS pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order as required by RA 7586.

ASAPHIL V. TUASON

G.R. NO. 134030 April 25, 2006 Ponente: Austria-Martinez FACTS: On March 24, 1975, respondent Vicente Tuason, Jr. entered into a Contract for Sale and Purchase of Perlite Ore with Induplex wherein Induplex agreed to buy all the perlite ore that may be found and mined in Tuasons mining claim located in Taysa, Daraga, Albay. In exchange, Induplex will assist Tuason in securing and perfecting his right over the mining claim . Thereafter, Tuason executed an Agreement to Operate Mining Claims in favor of petitioner Asaphil Construction and Development Corporation. Later, Tuason filed with the Bureau of Mines, DENR a complaint against Asaphil and Induplex for declaration of nullity of the said Contracts. Tuason alleged in his complaint that the stockholders of Induplex formed and organized Ibalon Mineral Resources, an entity whose purpose is to mine any and all kinds of minerals, that this is in violation of the condition imposed by the Board of on Induplex in its Joint Venture Agreement with Grefco, Inc, prohibiting Induplex from mining perlite ore, through an operating agreement or any other method; that Induplex acquired the majority stocks of Asaphil and that 95% of Ibalons shares were also transferred to Virgilio R. Romero, who is a stockholder of Induplex, Asaphil and Ibalon. Tuason claimed that said acts adversely affected, not only his interest as claimowner, but the governments interest as well.

Asaphil filed its Answer, praying for the dismissal of the complaint on the ground that the DENR has no jurisdiction over the case. Induplex filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaint, also on ground of lack of jurisdiction. Induplex contended that to fall within the jurisdiction of the DENR, the controversy should involve a mining property and the contending parties must be claimholders and/or mining operators; and that the dispute in this case involves mineral product and not a mining property, and the protagonists are claimholders (Tuason) and a buyer (Induplex). DENR affirmed, but the Mines Adjucation Board reversed, stating that the complaint is for the cancellation and revocation of the Agreement to Operate Mining Claims, which is within the jurisdiction of the DENR under Section 7 of PD 1281. The MAB also found that the acquisition by Induplex of the majority stocks of Asaphil, and Induplexs assumption of the mining operation violated the BOI prohibition. Issue: W/N the DENR has jurisdiction over Tuasons complaint for the annulment of the Contract for Sale and Purchase of Perlite Ore between Tuason and Induplex, and the Agreement to Operate Mining Claims between Tuason and Asaphil; and second, WON the MAB erred in invalidating the Agreement to Operate Mining Claims. YES. RATIO: In several cases on mining disputes, the Court recognized a distinction between (1) the primary powers granted by pertinent provisions of law to the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (and the bureau directors) of an executive or administrative nature, such as granting of license, permits, lease and contracts, or approving, rejecting, reinstating or canceling applications, or deciding conflicting applications, and (2) controversies or disagreements of civil or contractual nature between litigants which are questions of a judicial nature that may be adjudicated only by the courts of justice.The allegations in Tuasons complaint do not make out a case for a mining dispute or controversy within the jurisdiction of the DENR. While the Agreement to Operate Mining Claims is a mining contract, the ground upon which the contract is sought to be annulled is not due to Asaphils refusal to abide by the terms and conditions of the agreement, but due to Induplexs alleged violation of the condition imposed by the BOI in its Joint Venture Agreement with Grefco, Inc.. Also, Tuason sought the nullity of the Contract for Sale and Purchase of Perlite Ore, based on the same alleged violation. Obviously, this raises a judicial question, which is proper for determination by the regular courts. The DENR is not called upon to exercise its technical knowledge or expertise over any mining operations or dispute; rather, it is being asked to determine the validity of the agreements based on circumstances beyond the respective rights of the parties under the two contracts. Thus, the DENR Regional Executive Director was correct in dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over Tuasons complaint; consequently, the MAB committed an error in taking cognizance of the appeal, and in ruling upon the validity of the contracts.

METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY vs. CONCERNED RESIDENTS OF MANILA BAY

G.R. Nos. 171947-48 December 18, 2008 FACTS The government agencies namely, MWSS, LWUA, DENR, PPA, MMDA, DA, DBM, DPWH, DOH, DECS, and PNP did not take notice of the present danger to public health and the depletion and contamination of the marine life of Manila Bay. According to the Concerned Citizens, the respondents, the condition of Manila Bay did not matched to the intended SB level standard of water quality in such a way that swimming, ski diving and etc. are unallowable. Thus, the RTC ordered the government agencies to participate in cleaning the Bay. The RTC involved in this case through hearing and conducting ocular inspection of the Manila Bay. Authorities from DENR and MWSS testified in favor of the petitioners that the bay is in safe-level bathing and that they are doing their function in reducing pollution. However the RTC decided in favor of the respondents and ordered the government agencies in violation of PD 1152 to rehabilitate the bay. The petitioners went to the CA and argued that PD 1152s provisions only pertain to the cleaning of specific pollution incidents and do not cover cleaning in general. However, CA affirmed the RTC decisions. ISSUES (1) Whether or not cleaning Manila Bay is the ministerial act of the petitioners that can be induced by mandamus. (2) Whether or not Section 17 and 20 of Presidential Decree 1152 only pertain to the specific cleaning of pollution (and not general cleaning). RATIO DECIDENDI

(1) The cleaning and rehabilitation of Manila Bay can be compelled by Mandamus. Petitioners claimed that it is not their ministerial duty to clean up the bay because for them it is a discretionary duty which cannot be compelled by mandamus. According to the Supreme Court, the obligations to perform the duties (as defined by law) of the petitioners and on how they carry out such duties are two distinct concepts. The former pertains to the discretionary duties of the petitioners while the latter is their ministerial duty. As for this case, it is the discretion of the petitioners to choose not to perform or to perform their duties as defined by law. And when they have chosen to perform their duties, the way they carry out those duties are called ministerial acts. It is very clear in their charters that aside from performing their main function as an agency, they are also mandated to perform certain functions relating directly or indirectly to the cleanup, rehabilitation, protection, and preservation of the Manila Bay. (2) In the second issue, the Supreme Court held that Sections 17 and 20 of the Environment Code include cleaning in general. Section 17 provides that in case the water quality has deteriorated, the government agencies concerned shall act on it to bring back the standard quality of water. On the other hand, Section 20 also mandates the government agencies concerned to take action in cleaning-up in case the polluters failed to do their part. In the succeeding section 62(g) and (h) of the same Code, provide that oil spilling is the cause of pollution that should be done in clean-up operations. This provision actually, expanded the coverage of Sec. 20 because it included oil-spilling as one of the causes of pollutions that need to be cleaned-up by the government agencies concerned. Moreover, Sec. 17 emphasizes that government agencies should clean that water for the sake of meeting and maintaining the right quality standard. This presupposes that the government agencies concerned have the duties of cleaning the water not only in times when the water is polluted. Moreover, even without such provisions, it is the inescapable duty of everyone to protect the water and prevent pollution, because of the tenable need of present and future generations as provided in Art. 2 Sec. 16 of the 1987 Constitution, that the State shall protect and advance the right to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

GR No. 171726

Vicente Yu Chang and Soleda Yu Chang VS Republic of the Philippines

February 23, 2011


FACTS: Petitioners father L. Yu Chang executed an Agreement to Exchange Real Property with the Mayor of Pili, Camarines Sur, Justo Casuncad. Office of Solicitor General (OSG) filed an opposition, saying that the land is legally classified as Public Domain, forest land. HELD: Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act as amended by PD 1073 provised that: The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose title have not been perfected or completed, may apply to Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a Certificate of title thereof, under the Property Registration Decree. In order that petitioners application for registration of title my be granted, they must first establish the following: 1. That the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the Public Domain 2. That they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945. Jose Amunategui vs Director of Forestry provides that: A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. The classification of land is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.

G.R. No. 171726

February 23, 2011

VICENTE YU CHANG AND SOLEDAD YU CHANG, Petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. VILLARAMA, JR. J.: DECISION

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assails the Decision1 dated August 26, 2005 and the Resolution2 dated February 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CAG.R. CV No. 67430. The CA reversed and set aside the April 28, 2000 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur, Branch 31, in LRC No. P-115, LRA Rec. No. N-68012, which granted petitioners application for registration of title over two parcels of land, denominated as Lots 2199 and 2200 of Cad. 291, Pili Cadastre. The antecedent facts, as culled from the records, are as follows: On March 22, 1949, petitioners father, L. Yu Chang4 and the Municipality of Pili, Camarines Sur, through its then Mayor, Justo Casuncad, executed an Agreement to Exchange Real Property5 wherein the former assigned and transferred to the Municipality of Pili his 400-square-meter residential lot in Barrio San Roque, Pili, Camarines Sur, in exchange for a 400-square-meter piece of land located in San Juan, Pili. Thereafter, L. Yu Chang and his family took possession of the property thus obtained and erected a residential house and a gasoline station thereon. He also declared the property in his name under Tax Declaration No. 017946 and 017957 and paid the real property taxes thereon as evidenced by twenty-eight (28) official receipts from February 21, 1951 up to March 10, 1976. When L. Yu Chang died on September 30, 1976, his wife, Donata Sta. Ana and his seven children inherited the property and succeeded in the possession of the property. On March 1, 1978, a Deed of Transfer and Renunciation8 of their rights over the property was executed by L. Yu Chang's five children, Rafaela, Catalina, Flaviana, Esperanza, and Antonio, in favor of herein petitioners. After the transfer, petitioners had the subject property surveyed and subdivided into two lots, Lot 21999 and Lot 220010 of Plan SWO-05-000888, Pili Cadastre. Petitioners also declared the lots in their names for taxation purposes as shown in Tax Declaration No. 0263311 and paid the real property taxes thereon. On February 21, 1997, petitioner Soledad Yu Chang, for herself and in representation of her brother and co-petitioner, Vicente Yu Chang, filed a petition12 for registration of title over the aforementioned lots under the Property Registration Decree. In their petition, they declared that they are the co-owners of the subject lots; that they and their predecessors-in-interest "have been in actual, physical, material, exclusive, open, occupation and possession of the above described parcels of land for more than 100 years"13; and that allegedly, they have continuously, peacefully, and adversely possessed the property in the concept of owners. Hence, they are entitled to confirmation of ownership and issuance and registration of title in their names. In support of their application, petitioners submitted the following documents, to wit: 1. Agreement to Exchange Real Property; 2. Deed of Transfer and Renunciation; 3. Approved Plan of Lot 2199 and Lot 2200, Cad. 291, Pili Cadastre; 4. Approved Technical Description of Lot 2199; 5. Approved Technical Description of Lot 2200; 6. Field Appraisal and Assessment Sheet (FAAS) A.R.P. No. 026-044 for Lot 2199 Cad. 291; and 7. Field Appraisal and Assessment Sheet (FAAS) A.R.P. No. 026-043 for Lot 2200 Cad. 291 Pili Cadastre. The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed an Opposition14 to the application, alleging, inter alia, that: (1) neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (2) the muniments of title, tax declarations and tax receipts do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the land; and (3) that the parcels of land applied for are portions of the public domain and are not subject to private appropriation. No other parties filed their opposition. Thus, on December 14, 1998, an Order of General Default15 was issued by the trial court. After hearing, the trial court rendered a Decision granting petitioners' application. The fallo of the trial courts decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, decision is hereby rendered as follows: 1. Confirming the imperfect title of the herein applicants Vicente Yu Chang and Soledad Yu Chang over the two (2) parcels of land described in paragraph two (2) page 2 of the Petition, particularly Lot 2199, Plans S"0-05-000888, Cad. 291, Pili Cadastre and Lot 2200, Plan SWO-05-000888, Cad. 291, Pili Cadastre; both Filipino citizens, residents of #14 Joaquin St., Corinthian Garden, Quezon City and San Juan, Pili, Camarines Sur respectively; 2. Ordering the dismissal of the application in the Cadastral proceeding with respect to Lots 2199 and 2200, Cad. 291, Pili Cadastre under CAD Case No. N-9; 3. After finality of this decision, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued by the Administrator, Land Registration Authority to the herein applicants above-mentioned. SO ORDERED.16 The Republic appealed the decision to the CA on the ground that the court a quo erred in granting petitioners application for registration of Lots 2199 and 2200 despite their failure to show compliance with the requirements of the law. In addition, the Republic asserted that the land was classified as public forest land; hence, it could not be subject to appropriation and alienation. As aforesaid, the CA reversed the trial court's decision on August 26, 2005, and dismissed petitioners application for land registration. The CA considered the petition to be governed by Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 141 or the Public Land Act, as amended, and held that petitioners were not able to present incontrovertible evidence that the parcels of land sought to be registered are alienable and disposable.17 The CA relied on the testimony of Lamberto Orcena, Land Management Officer III of CENRO, Iriga City, who testified that prior to October 30, 1986, the entire area encompassing the right side of the Naga-Legaspi Highway, including the subject properties, was classified as forest land. According to the CA, even if the area within which the subject properties are located is now being used for residential and commercial purposes, such fact will not convert the subject parcels of land into agricultural land.18 The CA stressed that there must be a positive act from the government declassifying the land as forest land before it could be deemed alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.19 Additionally, the CA noted that the lands sought to be registered were declared disposable public land only on October 30, 1986. Thus, it was only from that time that the period of open, continuous and notorious possession commenced to toll against the State. Aggrieved, petitioners are now before this Court via the present appeal, raising the sole issue of whether the appellate court erred in dismissing their application for registration of title on the ground that they failed to prove compliance with the requirements of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. Petitioners insist that the subject properties could no longer be considered and classified as forest land since there are buildings, residential houses and even government structures existing and standing on the land.20 In their Memorandum,21 petitioners point out that the original owner and possessor of the subject land was the Municipal Government of Pili which was established in 1930. The land was originally part of the municipal ground adjacent to the Municipal Building located at the right side of the Naga-Legaspi National Highway.22 From 1949, when L. Yu Chang acquired the property through barter and up to the filing of petitioners application in 1997, petitioners and their predecessors-in-interest had been in actual physical and material possession of the land in the concept of an owner, notorious and known to the public and adverse to the whole world. The Republic, through the OSG, for its part, maintains that petitioners failed to prove their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject lots for the period of time required by law. The OSG also submits that the subject lands were declared as alienable and disposable only on October 30, 1986. We deny the petition for lack of merit. Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. 1073, under which petitioners application was filed, provides: SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Property Registration Decree, to wit:

xxxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors[-]in[-]interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. x x x x23 Under this provision, in order that petitioners application for registration of title may be granted, they must first establish the following: (1) that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain and (2) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier.24 Applicants must overcome the presumption that the land they are applying for is part of the public domain and that they have an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in their names arising from an imperfect title.25 In the instant case, petitioners did not adduce any evidence to the effect that the lots subject of their application are alienable and disposable land of the public domain. Instead, petitioners contend that the subject properties could no longer be considered and classified as forest land since there are building structures, residential houses and even government buildings existing and standing on the area. This, however, is hardly the proof required under the law. As clarified by this Court in Heirs of Jose Amunategui v. Director of Forestry,26 a forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted with crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way places. The classification of land is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.27 Unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.28 As aptly held by the appellate court: [T]he fact that the area within which the subject parcels of land are located is being used for residential and commercial purposes does not serve to convert the subject parcels of land into agricultural land. It is fundamental that before any land may be declassified from the forest group and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes, there must be a positive act from the government. A person cannot enter into forest land and by the simple act of cultivating a portion of that land, earn credits towards an eventual confirmation of imperfect title. The Government must first declare the forest land to be alienable and disposable agricultural land before the year of entry, cultivation and exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title.291avvphil Moreover, during the hearing of petitioners' application, the Republic presented a Report30 of Rene Gomez, Land Investigator/Inspector, CENRO No. V-2-3, which disclosed that the lots applied for by the petitioners were classified as alienable and disposable under Project No. 9-E, L.C. Map No. 3393 and released and certified as such only on October 30, 1986. A Compliance31 dated January 19, 1999 submitted by OIC-CENR Officer Joaquin Ed A. Guerrero to the trial court also stated that Lots. 2199 and 2200 of Cad. 291 were "verified to be within Alienable and Disposable area under Project No. 9-E, L.C. Map No. 3393, as certified on October 30, 1986 by the then Bureau of Forestry". Evidently, therefore, the subject lots were declared alienable and disposable only on October 30, 1986. Prior to that period, the same could not be the subject of confirmation of imperfect title. Petitioners possession of the subject forest land prior to the date when it was classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession.32 To reiterate, it is well settled that possession of forest land, prior to its classification as alienable and disposable land, is ineffective since such possession may not be considered as possession in the concept of owner.33 The adverse possession which can be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot commence until after forest land has been declared and alienable.34 Much as this Court wants to conform to the States policy of encouraging and promoting the distribution of alienable public lands to spur economic growth and remain true to the ideal of social justice, our hands are tied by the laws stringent safeguards against registering imperfect titles.35 Here, petitioners failed to present "well-nigh incontrovertible" evidence necessary to prove their compliance of the requirements under Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141. Hence, the Court of Appeals did not err in dismissing their application for confirmation and registration of title. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated August 26, 2005 and the Resolution dated February 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67430 are hereby AFFIRMED.

With costs against the petitioners.

The foregoing considered, the issue of whether or not respondent and her predecessor-in-interest have been in open, exclusive and continuous possession of the parcels of land in question is now of little moment. For, unclassified land, as here, cannot be acquired by adverse occupation or possession; occupation thereof in the concept of owner, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership and be registered as title. Factual findings of administrative agencies generally accorded respect and even finality. Factual findings of administrative agencies are generally respected and even accorded finality because of the special knowledge and expertise gained by these agencies from handling matters falling under their specialized jurisdiction. Given that the LMB is the administrative agency tasked with assisting the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the management and disposition of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, we defer to its specialized knowledge on these matters. Pio Modesto and Cirila Rivera-Modesto vs. Carlos Urbina, substituted by the heirs of Olympia Miguel Vda. de Urbina, et al., G.R. No. 189859, October 18, 2010.