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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
August, 2001 Vol.4 No.8







Q. What is the legally accepted boundary for foreshore areas?

A.  The legally accepted boundary for foreshore areas is provided by the Fisheries Code as “a string of land margining a body of water, the part of a seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a low tide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high tide usually marked by a beach scarp or berm” (See Figure).

A diagrammatic representation of the foreshore area (Land Management Bureau)

Q. Can foreshore areas be appropriated as private property?

A.  No, foreshore areas are part of the public domain

  • Commonwealth Act 141, Chapter IX lists the classification and concession of public lands suitable for residence, commerce and industry to include: a) lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling or other means; b) foreshore; c) marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers; and d) lands not included in any of the foregoing classes. Lands classified as items (a), (b) and (c) shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise, as soon as the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public service an are open to disposition under the same provision.
  • A recent decision of the Supreme Court G.R. No. 68166, February 12, 1997, on the titling of accretion land in Manila Bay, invokes Article 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters of August 3, 1866 to establish the fact that foreshore areas constitute public lands, i.e., “Lands added to the shores by accretions and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the sea, form part of the public domain. When they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea and are not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, or for the coast guard service, the Government shall declare them to be the property of the owners of the estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof.” The decision states that the foreshore of Manila Bay is public land and therefore may not be appropriated by a private person.

Q. Who has jurisdiction over foreshore leases?

A.  The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has jurisdiction over foreshore leases. The powers and functions of the Department include the “exercise of exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all lands of the public domain and shall continue to be the sole agency responsible for classification, subclassification, surveying and titling of lands in consultation with appropriate agencies. (Executive Order 192)

Q. What is the maximum area that may be leased?

A.  Under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, an individual may lease not more than 500 hectares and a corporation may lease not more than 1,000 hectares.

Q. What is the term of a foreshore lease?

A.  A foreshore lease has a term of 25 years, and may be renewed for not more than 25 years.

Q. What are the requirements for filing a foreshore lease application?


1) Approved plan and technical description of the land applied for;

2) Articles of incorporation and certificate of registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission (for corporations);

3) Certification that the land applied for is not needed for public service from the heads of the following agencies/offices:

a) Provincial Tourism Office

b) Philippine Ports Authority

c) District/City Engineer with concurrence of the Regional Director of Public Works and Highways;

4) Consent of the spouse, if married; and

5) Filing fee of Php50.00.

Q. What are the rights and responsibilities of a foreshore leaseholder?


1)  Utilize the area for commercial, industrial or residential purpose as stated in the lease application and contract and comply with Presidential Decree 1586 or the Environmental Impact Study System.

2)       Pay the annual lease fee amounting to 3% of the appraised value of the land plus 1% of the value of the existing or proposed improvements;

3)  Construct permanent improvements appropriate for whatever purpose is stated in the lease agreement subject to approval of the Secretary of Public Works and Highways and within 18 months from the date of the award;

4)  Ensure that the premises or any part thereof is not assigned, sub-leased or transferred to a third party without the approval (in writing) of the DENR Secretary;

5)  Waive any right to any reduction of rent on account of any loss or damage suffered by reason of extraordinary, unforeseen, fortuitous events;

6)  Submit annually to the Department of Finance for approval, a tariff of any and all rates and fees derived to be charged to and collected from any person in case any and all structures and improvements authorized to be constructed and made shall be let or hired for the use of the public; and

7)  Comply with the easements as provided by law.

Q. Who may approve foreshore leases?

A.  The approving authorities for original lease, renewal and transfer and sub-lease for foreshore areas are the following as provided for by the DENR Manual of Approvals (Department Administrative Order 98-24).

1)  Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer – up to 1,000 square meters

2)  Regional Executive Director – above 1,000 square meters to 3 hectares

3)  Department Secretary – above 3 hectares

Q. What laws govern easement rights in public lands?

A.  Presidential Decree (PD) 1067, Art. 51. “The banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas, and throughout their entire length and within a zone of 3 meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas, and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

  • PD 705, Section 16. “Areas needed for forest purposes… (7) 20-meter strips of land along the edge of the normal high waterline of rivers and streams with channels of at least 5 meters wide… (8) Strips of mangrove or swamplands at least 20 meters wide, along shorelines facing oceans, lakes and other bodies of water and strips of land at least 20 meters facing lakes…”
  • RA 1273, Section 1 (1) “That the applicant agrees that a strip of 40-meter wide starting from the bank on each side of any river or stream that may be found on the land applied for shall be demarcated and preserved as permanent timberland to be planted exclusively to trees of known economic value, and that he shall not make any clearing thereon or utilize the same for ordinary farming purposes even after patent shall have been issued to him or a contract lease shall have been executed in his favor;

Q. What are the obligations of a foreshore leaseholder?

A.  The foreshore leaseholder must guarantee and provide the general public free access to and full use and enjoyment of the beach and nearby coastal waters, either in the pursuit of the inhabitants’ lawful occupation or their recreational needs. For this purpose, the lessee shall establish and provide a road right-of-way of suitable size that in no case shall be less than three meters in width and location that will permit the public access to the beach area and seawaters without paying any toll. Failure or refusal to comply with this condition shall be valid ground for rejection of application or revocation of the lease award or contract.

--By Annabelle Cruz-Trinidad, Policy Advisor and Leo Pura, Research Assistant

Policy Component, CRMP

This article was first published Tambuli No. 6, May 2000 (Click to download)



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