Land titles – I am a former Filipino, can I still own land?

Dear Atty. Duran-Schulze,

My wife, currently a Philippine citizen, owns five properties in Davao City, Philippines. She is applying to become a naturalized USA citizen. Can she continue to own her Philippine properties when she loses Philippine citizenship?

We would like to visit the Philippines in December if the quarantines are lifted. If my wife can obtain US citizenship before December 2021, will she be able to go to Davao in December and get an appointment somewhere to get her Philippine citizenship reinstated?

Thanks!

Dear writer,

To answer your first question, properties without a lot or land, i.e. condominiums, shares of stock and automobiles, can be acquired and owned by foreigners without restriction. Otherwise, if your properties include a lot/land, you should be aware of the limitations imposed by the Philippine laws.

Under Section 8, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.

Said limitations are provided by the following laws:

  • Private land for residential use: BP 185
  • Private land for business use: RA 7042 (as amended by RA 8179)

i. For residential use

Under Section 2 of BP 185, any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private land up to a maximum area of 1000 square meters for urban land, or 1 hectare for rural land, only to be used as residence.
For married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege granted under BP 125. But if both of them shall avail, the total area that they will acquire should not exceed the maximum area stated in the paragraph 1 of Section 2.
A transferee can only acquire not more than 2 lots situated in different municipalities or cities anywhere in the Philippines, as long as the total area of both does not exceed the maximum area provided for urban and rural areas, respectively. Also, he cannot acquire both rural or urban land. “A transferee who has already acquired urban land shall be disqualified from acquiring rural land, and vice versa.”
ii. For business use

Under Section 10 of Foreign Investments Act RA 7042, as amended by RA 8179, any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private land up to a maximum area of 5000 square meters for urban land, or 3 hectare for rural land, for business and other purposes. Land purchased as investment may be used for various business activities, except the buying and selling of the said land.
For married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege granted under RA 7042, as amended by RA 8179. But if both of them shall avail, the total area that they will acquire should not exceed the maximum area provided.
A transferee can only acquire not more than 2 lots situated in different municipalities or cities anywhere in the Philippines, as long as the total area of both does not exceed the maximum area provided for urban and rural areas, respectively. Also, she cannot acquire both rural or urban land.
Considering that your wife has 5 properties (assuming all of these are land), there is a necessity to determine the size and its local (whether rural or urban) to determine whether she can keep all of the said properties at the same time.
Iii. Dual citizens

On the other hand, Filipinos who reacquired their Philippine citizenship and dual citizens have the same rights as natural-born Filipinos in the acquisition and ownership of private lands. RA 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003 provides that “those who retain or re-acquire Philippine citizenship under this Act shall enjoy full civil and political rights” as any other Filipino citizen.

To answer your second question: This pandemic, the travel guidelines in and out of the Philippines change from time to time. It would be best to inquire at the PH embassy in the US for up-to-date information.

As to your wife’s dual citizenship, you should consider applying at the PH consulate/embassy in the US because it takes longer to process this in the Philippines. If you do decide to push through with the application in the Philippines, you may file a Petition for Dual Citizenship and Issuance of Identification Certificate under RA 9225 at the Bureau of Immigration.

I have heard from other clients that the PH consulate in the US processes dual citizenship in 3 days time (pre-quarantine).

We hope we are able to answer your query. Please be informed that the foregoing legal opinion is based solely on the facts that you have provided us and our appreciation of the same. In case you need further assistance, our firm is open and ready to assist you. Thank you.