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GMA signs Free Patent Act

March 18, 2010

Law allows Filipinos to acquire titles for their home lots


March 18, 2010, 5:07pm

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed into law a measure that would allow many Filipinos to legally acquire titles to the land that they have been in possession for more than 10 years, Malacañang said Thursday.

Republic Act No. 10023 or an Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands was approved by the President last March 9.

The Free Patent Act, ratified by the two houses of Congress last December, seeks to ease the requirements and procedures in the titling of residential lands and bring to life such dormant wealth.

An estimated 39 million Filipinos living in unregistered lands are expected to benefit from the new law that amended the Public Land Act.

Prior to the enactment of the law, the landowners could only acquire title through the court under the present Public Land Act that often resulted in tedious process.

For starters, the newly signed RA 10023 cut down the period of eligibility for titling from 30 years to 10 years.

Any Filipino who has paid all the real estate taxes for 10 years shall be entitled to free patent for such parcel of land in all municipalities and cities.

Only alienable lands that are not needed for public service or public use can be subject to free patent.

Rather than hire a lawyer and wait for years for court approval, the landowner can easily lodge an application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to acquire title through free patent.

Other salient features of the law are the issuance of free patents without payment of outstanding real estate taxes and removal of restrictions after issuance of free patents.

The government expects the Free Patent Law to secure the property rights of the owner and spur entrepreneurial activity in the country.

At present, an estimated 46 percent of the 24.2 million parcels of land in the country remain untitled. Of these, 70 percent or 7.8 million are residential lands.

Without the free patent law, land authorities earlier said it would take several decades to secure title for the 7.8 million residential land parcels.

Arroyo OK’s tax info exchange
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is now authorized to exchange information on tax matters with foreign counterparts to help fight international tax evasion based on Republic Act No.10021.

This, after President Arroyo signed into law the measure allowing the country to comply with the Internationally Agreed Tax Standards (IATS) for exchange of tax information with the country’s tax treaty partners.

The new law, which amended some provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, sought to strengthen the government’s capacity to implement the country’s commitments under existing tax conventions or agreements.

A consolidation of House Bill 6899 and Senate Bill 3220, the new law authorizes the BIR commissioner to inquire into bank deposits and other related information held by financial institutions to supply information to a requesting foreign tax authority.

RA 10021 will also allow requesting foreign tax authority to study the income tax returns of taxpayers upon order of the President subject to rules and regulations on the necessity and relevance that may be promulgated upon enactment of the law.

It will also penalize BIR personnel for unlawful divulgence of information obtained from banks to persons other than the requesting foreign tax authority.

The law also provides sanctions for bank officers who refuse to supply requested tax information. The requesting foreign tax authority likewise is mandated to maintain confidentiality of the information received.

The Arroyo government expects the new law to promote a tax environment that contributes to a favorable climate of international trade and investments.

The government earlier found difficulty to comply with the provisions on the exchange of information set by international organizations due to some legal restrictions, particularly the country’s strict bank secrecy laws.

The Philippines was earlier included as one of four countries in the list of tax jurisdictions that have not committed to the IATS. The country was eventually removed from the list prepared by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and avoided sanctions.

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