(UPDATE) Property boom threatens Philippine schools
DepEd to secure land titles
MANILA, Philippines — A property boom threatens thousands of public schools across the Philippines by targeting the land they sit on for redevelopment, the government said Monday.
Philanthropists donated the sites for a number of schools but their heirs have gone to court to reclaim them to cash in on the building boom, the environment and natural resources department said.
In response, the Department of Education (DepEd) has signed a memorandum of agreement with three other agencies to expedite the awarding of titles to the lands occupied by public elementary and high schools nationwide, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said.
The three agencies are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the Land Registration Authority (LRA).
“Greed. It’s another kind of disaster facing the country’s public school system,” the DENR said in a statement.
But Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes acknowledged that the government had left the problem unattended for some time.
“The problem had been swept under the rug for a long time,” Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said. “Solving this problem confronting our public schools sites should have been done a long time ago.”
The inter-agency undertaking aims to protect public schools from encroachment, segregation, illegal occupation, and adverse claims of ownership by other individuals or parties, Lapus said.
Lapus estimated that there could be land ownership questions for more than 10,000 of the government’s 43,000 public school sites.
Currently, there are 8,000 untitled and unregistered sites occupied by public elementary and secondary schools.
Lapus said legalizing ownership of these lands has been a problem by the education department for decades and should be resolved to preserve the existence of the schools.
“These threatened school sites are now classified as prime lots located in the poblacions (population centers),” Lapus said. “Now we are getting claims by heirs of donors of these lots, especially those that are not covered with titles.”
The first phase of the undertaking aims to solve the ownership of these lands that had been donated by private groups or by the government but have not been titled or transferred officially to the DepEd, said Lapus.
The DENR will work on the technical output encompassing the survey of public and privately owned lands, field validation, and preparation of draft proclamations for approval by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Lapus said.
There are 5,132 untitled school sites that can qualify for a presidential proclamation that reserves the land for educational purposes, said Lapus.
Likewise, DAR will facilitate the issuance of the Deeds of Transfer of school sites that are located in Resettlement Areas and Landed Estates, said Lapus.
The LRA will issue decrees, original as well as transfer certificates of title, and register previously unregistered lands, he said.
DepEd will cover the expenses required for the survey, registration, field works and related documentation requirements, he said.