How to claim unregistered land (Agricultural Free Patent)

If you are wondering how to claim unregistered land, then this step-by-step guide will help you.

Who is eligible to claim unregistered land under an Agricultural Free Patent in the Philippines?


For you to claim unregistered land and title it under your name, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • A Filipino who does not own more than 12 hectares
  • The land is without a title (was never registered)
  • You or your predecessor in interest have continuously occupied and cultivated alienable and disposable agricultural land for at least 20 years before applying for an Agricultural Free Patent.
  • The real estate tax declaration in your name or if not in your name, the Deed of Sale, Extrajudicial Settlement, Deed of Donation, etc. as applicable

Remember that this process is used to claim unregistered land to put the title in your name.

If the land already has a title and you are trying to get a title in your name, this process is not applicable to your situation.

Also, this process is for agricultural land.

If you are trying to claim residential land without a title, read my article on Residential Free Patents instead – the process is very similar but it does have differences.

What are the documentary requirements to claim unregistered land under an Agricultural Free Patent in the Philippines?


To claim unregistered land in the Philippines through an Agricultural Free Patent, you will need to submit an application with the following documents to the DENR CENRO office:

  1. A document showing your claims such as a Certified True Copy Tax Declaration, of a Deed of Sale, Deed of Donation or an Extrajudicial Settlement as applicable
  2. Certified True Copy Certification from the Regional Trial Court or applicable Court of no pending registration case involving the land
  3. CENRO Agricultural Free Patent Application
  4. CENRO Certification that the Land is alienable and Disposable
  5. Survey Plan with Technical Description Form V37
  6. LRA Certification of the land status if there is no cadastral map

Okay, so I realize that you likely have questions.

I’ll discuss some of the requirements to claim unregistered land under the Agricultural Patent Process – and frequent causes for the delay – down below.

If you feel that your situation is very complicated or you need more support, you can always contact us to book a consultation with a Land Lawyer.

A Survey is likely needed to claim unregistered land (and other CENRO requirements)


First, let’s briefly discuss the LRA Certification of the land status.

You might not need this since this is only required if a cadastral survey was completed by the DENR. So, ask the DENR if you really need this when you make your first stop at their office.

Also, the CENRO office is where you get either the actual requirement or guidance for items 3, 4 and 5.

The CENRO Agricultural Free Patent Application is easy to fill out.

The CENRO Certification is also something that is relatively alright to get although it takes time since the CENRO office has to dig through its files (so many CENRO offices are manual) and it takes them so much time to get information – in fact, it is one of the major causes of delay.

The DENR is working on computerization through LAMS, but currently, their processes are really, really slow.

The Survey Plan with Technical Description however is where people struggle because this takes time but also because they might be able to pay a Geodetic Engineer.

Often, several families live on one piece of land without a title.

The DENR requires that each family determine the lot boundaries through a survey. A Geodetic engineer must thus survey each lot to submit the survey to the DENR. Expect the survey to take time since the geodetic engineer must get approval and information from the DENR to begin (Remember that the DENR has trouble getting information out – so much of their data is still manual).

A survey is a major problem – people might not continue due to a lack of funds to pay the surveyor; families might not agree on how to split the property; so many things can stop the process.

Agreement between the future landowners is important.

Agreement between future land owners is needed to claim unregistered land in the Philippines


Agreement between future landowners is also extremely important when the tax declaration is not in the land owner’s name.

For example, when the Tax Declaration is in the name of a deceased and all the children live on the property.

To claim unregistered land in this situation, an Extrajudicial Settlement must be submitted and all the heirs must sign.

Disagreements over property boundaries for the survey or the future land owners are common, and often land without a title may remain untitled because of this.

If the heirs do not sign or there are conflicting claims, then people might have to go to court to finally claim unregistered land and put it in their names.

What is the process to claim unregistered land in the Philippines?


The process to claim unregistered land under an Agricultural Free Patent is very similar to the process for how to title untitled land under a Residential Free Patent.

On the CENRO side, there are about 20 steps just to complete the AFP process – and that’s not counting the approval process at PENRO or the work done at the RDO to finally release the title.

You will also have to do several steps (and lots of follow-up) if you want to claim unregistered land under AFP:

  1. Go to CENRO to see if the land is eligible for Agricultural Free Patent. (If you want to check if the land is really untitled, you can go to the RD and request a CTC of the land title)
  1. If AFP can be applied to the land without a title, CENRO will give you a list of documents to gather.
  • This is where you will likely need to hire a geodetic engineer to do a full survey. It takes time to do a survey since the landowners must agree on the boundaries and the DENR must provide information to the surveyor (which can take time),
  • You may need to complete an EJS or formalize a Deed of Sale. For both of those documents, you will need all the signatures of the landowners.
  • You must also get Certification from the regional trial court or court that has jurisdiction over the area, which is relatively simple to do.
  1. Submit the Agricultural Free Patent application form with complete attachments and pay the Application Fee. If the preliminary assessment is alright, CENRO will assign a Land Management Inspector. If the preliminary assessment is not alright, CENRO will reject the application.
  1. LMI will assess documents and post notices at the barangay, municipal or city hall regarding your AFP. He will also investigate the parcel of land without a title – including an ocular inspection.
  1. LMI will forward it to the PENRO who will approve if it is less than 5 hectares, RED will approve if 5 to 10 hectares and the DENR secretary will approve if from 10 to 12 hectares.
  1. If approved, it will be transmitted to the Registry of Deeds.
  1. The Registry of Deeds will create the Original Title.

For land without a title, the processing is completely through the government.

You shouldn’t have to go to court unless you and the other landowners do not agree on how the property should be divided.

In this situation, you really must work with a Land Lawyer through the court to claim the unregistered land in a way that satisfies all the parties.

FAQs on how to claim Unregistered Land through Agricultural Free Patents


I am an OFW. Can I still claim unregistered land through an Agricultural Free Patent?


Yes, you can.

So long as you are a Filipino citizen and you meet the other requirements, you can go through the Agricultural Free Patent process to title untitled land.

You would need to go through more processes than above – such as getting a SPA or authenticating other needed documents – but it is definitely possible.

If you need help on a SPA or other aspects of the AFP, you may need to consult with a Land Lawyer so that you understand these additional steps.


What is the purpose of registering land?


Registering land allows you to be recognized as the owner of the land.

If you only have land rights, you are not the recognized owner and your land may be taken away from you.

This is a major concern because it happens all the time.

As the owner of the land, you are protected by the law.

Furthermore, you can now apply for a mortgage and sell or lease the property with banks, companies and other institutions.

If you are not the owner of the land, you might be able to get credit informally.

But when something goes wrong, you won’t be able to go to court to defend your ownership of the property.

How much does it cost to register land in the Philippines?


Expect it to cost at least Php 55,000 pesos or so with major costs being the land survey at about Php 15,000, the EJS drafting at about Php 25,000 and document gathering to take up the rest. Government fees are minimal. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS COST VARIES PER LOCATION AND SITUATION A LOT.

But still, this is far cheaper than having your untitled land taken away from you and starting all over again elsewhere.

Let me explain the costs a little bit more.

A major cost to claim unregistered land is paid to the surveyor. You will likely need a surveyor.

A frequent example is when there are multiple families on the land who might have inherited from a parent or grandparent.

The DENR requires that each parcel of this land without a title be surveyed so that the boundaries are clear.

So, a survey will need to be completed and a geodetic engineer hired.

A geodetic engineer costs a lot because a geodetic engineer has to coordinate with the DENR to get Survey Authority first, land records, and then other data like Lot Computation Data.

This means many trips back and forth in some cases.

Another major expense is getting an EJS done. You need a Land Lawyer to draft it and there is a lot of lawyer time involved, especially if he has to guide you in getting the information and he has checked back with you.

Usually, part of a Land Lawyer’s job is educating you on what you need to get and answering your questions.

This eats up time.

It also takes time for him to get the information needed.

I’ve never really seen a client with complete and correct information – and I’ve been settling estates for some time.

Another major expense when registering land without a title is getting the documents needed.

For an EJS, you will need birth, death, and marriage documents as well as other documents.

In general, some of these documents are easy to get.

However, the names might be spelled wrong or it may have a Negative Result in the PSA and then rectifying or getting the document because very complicated.

(For these situations, get a Lawyer. It can be a Land Lawyer or other lawyer, but you are going to need help.)

There are also other documents that may be needed. This is highly situation specific but many times these documents are hard or costly to get.

How long does it take to register unregistered land?


It can take at least 315 days but likely more to claim unregistered land because getting the requirements takes so much time and effort.

In the previous section, I explained the sources for the cost of titling land without a title through an agricultural-free patent.

The items that generate the same cost are the items that also generate delays.

Major causes of delay are:

  • Getting the requirements
  • Getting the survey was done due to the DENR having difficulty accessing the information needed for it as well as doing the survey itself.
  • Getting information from the DENR on the status of the Agricultural Free Patent
  • Paying any unpaid real estate taxes

A lot of issues are caused by the DENR not being computerized.

It takes such a long time for them to check the status or to get the required maps to give to your geodetic engineer.

And because so many steps are in their hands, this means that the Agricultural Free Patent process can drag on for years.

Second, delay happens because people cannot afford to pay the unpaid realty taxes or they cannot afford to pay the geodetic engineer. This causes delay.

But the major cause of the delay is that getting the requirements together is really hard.

It can be complicated if people live abroad because coordination is tough. It can also be difficult if people do not have basic documents like an ID, PSA documents, etc.

And if people do not agree or sign documents such as the EJS or Deed of Sale, it can be very much delayed and you will really need a Land Lawyer.


Is it okay to buy Land with Rights only?


Yes, but I would never advise you to do that.

Rights are not land ownership. A Tax Declaration is not proof of ownership. Only an Original Title is ownership.

If you have rights, it is very possible that the land can be taken away from you.


What is the difference between Land Rights vs Land Titles?


“Land rights” is often a tax declaration in someone’s name while a Land Title is a document showing who owns the land.

They are different things.

A Tax Declaration in someone’s name just shows that someone paid real estate taxes for a property. It is supporting proof of ownership and it is required to be submitted when processing an Agricultural Free Patent but it is not ownership.

A Land Title is proof of ownership.


Can Land Rights be titled in the Philippines?


Yes, Land Rights can be titled in the Philippines for land without a title.

This can be done through a Homestead Application, Residential Free Patent, Agricultural Free Patent, Sales Patent, Special Patent etcetera.

Those processes do not require a Land Lawyer.

However, if the land has a title and you only have a tax declaration in your name you will need to create an Extrajudicial Settlement, and process a Deed of Sale or Donation or other documents before titling the land.

It takes months, even with LAMs.

20 steps, just at CENRO.

Geo engineer needs to secure permission before he starts and needs to get information from the CENRO

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