Ownership of Philippine Land by Foreigners

Aliens, as a general rule, are not allowed to own real property in the Philippines. By “aliens”, we don’t mean creatures from outer space, but persons who are citizens of other countries. By “general rule”, we mean that there are certain exceptions, and two of such exceptions are discussed below.

The prohibition on foreigners owning Philippine lands is embodied in no less than the Philippine Constitution. This, in fact, is one of the usual reason cited by those who want to revise or amend the Constitution.  The Constitution provides:

“Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” (Article XII, Section 7)

It’s clear from this provision that private land may be transferred only to persons or entitles who/which has the capacity “to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” Those who are qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain are as follows:

  1. Filipino citizens.
  2. Corporations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos.

In other words, the Constitution explicitly prohibits non-Filipinos from acquiring or holding title to private lands. Among the exceptions are as follows: (1) transfer to an alien by way of legal succession; or (2) if the acquisition was made by a former natural-born citizen. The 1987 Constitution provides that:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, 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.” (Art. XII, Sec. 8)

The Supreme Court reiterated this general rule in a recent case (Borromeo vs. Descallar, G.R. No. 159310, 24 February 2009). The Court also reiterated the consistent ruling that if land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently becomes a Filipino citizen or transfers it to a Filipino, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is rendered valid.

There are other exceptions to the prohibition on aliens owning real property in the Philippines, like full ownership by foreigners of condominium units, but this shall be the subject of future discussions.

For this article, let’s have this discussion — should foreigners be allowed to own land in the Philippines? Comments below.

11 Responses to “Ownership of Philippine Land by Foreigners”


  1. 1 damnvixen Jun 14th, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    personally, i feel this portion of the constitution needs to be amended to attract investors here. FDIs contribute a great deal of help to our surplus of laborers.. i think giving foreigners the security of being able to fully own real estate in our country would be mutually beneficial for us and for the latter.

  2. 2 goddess Jun 17th, 2009 at 2:35 am

    No. They should not be allowed to own land in the Philippines. It’s not the only way to attract foreign investors. Our resources should be preserved for the citizens of the Philippines. Foreign investors are still given the opportunity to own land if they invest in Philippine corporations and corporations wherein 60% of which is owned by Filipinos.

  3. 3 Hipo09 Jun 24th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    No. Because aside from other ways of attracting investors, this would evoke another “rogue-MILF wrecking havok in Mindanao” thing. Historically, when Islam was introduced by the Arabs in some parts of Mindanao those native Filipinos who embraced Islam sold their lands to the settlers, these settlers were Filipino christians and non-muslims. Right now rogue-moros are claiming by force the same land they sold before, their reason is that the land belongs to the Bangsamoro people and that it is their ancestral land, are we going to invoke the same kind of reasoning or may be thinking like the rogue-moros did?.
    Another, is that the land area of the Philippines is too small for our increasing population, how much more giving it to foreign ownership. How about the issues on CARP? we hardly share it to our Filipino brothers.

  4. 4 EOquina Jun 30th, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I have an issue here but its not foreign owning a land but an apartment in a high rise building. My partner and I bought a condo unit 3 years ago and when we bought it we clearly stated that his wife must have nothing to do with the ownership of the property but when we got the Title it was a joint ownership by my partner and his wife. We are now planning to buy bigger unit to be solely registered in his name, however, to do this we have to put single in the contract of sale. He has record already in the BIR as married and now about to register a property in his name as Single.

    Does BIR required supporting documents e.i. divorce documents if he has to change his status in Philippine as Single? (he is not yet divorce just separated for almost 15 years)

    What are the consequences that we may face if found later on by BIR that he still married and put single without supporting documents?

    Thanks.

  5. 5 rob_law Jun 30th, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    No. Allowing foreigners to acquire lands in the Philippines will drive the price of land higher. This will make it more difficult for most Filipinos to acquire their own.

  6. 6 jsg123ph Aug 19th, 2009 at 4:15 am

    If we allow aliens to own properties/real properties here in philippines… it’s like allowing america or other countries to own the whole philippines. It’s a big NO.

  7. 7 macrophor Apr 18th, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Hello everyone,

    There needs to be a change in the Filipine law relating to foreign ownership of land and property that states to the effect that any foreigner who is MARRIED to a Filipino spouse is ALLOWED to own land and have their name on the ‘title deed’ and enjoy 50% equal share along with their spouse. Whats wrong with that? All western countries automatically grant equal ownership of land and property to married couples, whats wrong with the Filipines ??

    The married foreigner is usually the one who pays for the house and land, and yet he is treated by the law like he is a worthless human being.

    I can accept that those foreigners who come to the Filipines to have a ‘good time’ only, and who never intend to marry a Filipino national, should not be allowed to own land or property, but why penalize the married foreigners who are moral people and invest in the economy with outdated laws that don’t even give them equal rights ?

    This is barbaric !!

  8. 8 Karling Mar 4th, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I’m a 48yr old single man (and father to 3 grown up sons)from Great Britain, although I’m never sure whether I should call it the UK or be more precise and say Birmingham, England; the latter is where I was both born and have lived all my life.

    Anyway, to the point of foreign non Filipino (aka ‘Alien’)exclusive ownership of land, normally in the context of land being a ‘lot’ on which property i.e. a ‘house’ is built.

    Q: Do I feel the law needs to change so as to allow foreigners to buy land? ..Yes I do.

    That said, I realise that there is already a Filipino majority share rule that allows the possibility of a foreigner to say buy and own a Condominium within a Complex in which a ‘Filipino’ coorperation/body/organisation etc own atleast 60% share value on the said complex. However, a quick look online at available real estate, sees that compared with the cost of say a house (inc. lot and house), the costs involved are greatly disproportionate and highly inflated due to what I can only assume is a cultural premise that ALL ‘foreigners’ have money and can afford to pay!!!

    I am actually sympathetic and do understand (and to a point support) the patriotic argument from everyday simple Filipino’s themselves NOT to allow foreigners (the farang) to own outright property/land etc (I quote, goddess on Jun 17th, 2009 at 2:35 am: “Our resources should be preserved for the citizens of the Philippines”]. But my question is, who are these filipino citizens? most I have come across are poor and struggle in life and are often forced to work abroad. For me, given the way of the world and more importantly those reports that are often shared with me by Pinoys themselves about the level of corrupt behaviour in the Phillipines amongst the officials etc, I do wonder who the people are behind these 60% Filipino coorperations? …and can they be said to be the kind of ‘citizens’ goddess and others refer too?

    As macrophor Apr 18th, 2012 points out, I too think its widely unfair for a foreigner (as is often the case) to be the one to shoulder the entire cost of buying both lot and land, only to also shoulder 100% risk of losing everything should the relationship with his/her filipino partner sadly fail.

    This is the constant dilemma and fear for me since when I meet a Filipina living in the Philippines who I have dreams of oneday being with and by being with help to provide a better life for. Each time I’ve met a nice filipina, it turns out she has nothing in terms of being able to contribute financially to a property (which I would say is the norm, given the low wage to cost of living ratio in what is effectively a 3rd world country aswell as the desire for many filipina to attract a foreign partner).

    So for me (and any would be filipina partner), its a relationship breaker for me not to be able to invest and protect that interest in the Philippines, whilst enjoying a loving relationship.

    In my humble opinion, not only is the Philippines backward with regards such matters of divorce (i.e. a filipina not being able to be legally free of her estranged, often two-timing husband), but also when it comes to allowing other human beings from around the world to buy and invest fairly and exclusively in land/property; especially in the context of furthering a loving relationship.

    Anyway, not sure if I’ve expressed my view fully or adequately for all to understand, but still I hope it resonates with a few guys in my situation, particularly if like me they are not wealthy ‘foreigners’ but have simply worked all their life and still whilst searching for love abroad have kids who would be greatly hurt if their father went abroad, lost everything and returned without a penny/peso.

    Best wishes and Gods blessings to ALL (regardless of where in the world they’re from).

  9. 9 psouthan Jul 14th, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I am a foreigner visiting the Philippines. I had a relationship with the city accountant of Dumaguete City for seven years. Believing her to be an honorable person and trustworthy I bought a property foolishly in her name, worth approximately 1.8 million pesos.

    I borrowed the money from the city mayor which he loaned to my former fiance. I in turn repaid the mayor in full.

    I have a lot of evidence stating from her that she would never steal from me but she has.

    Incidentally, I would say that 1 in 4 foreigners I have spoken to have been ripped of in a similar way. I can cite 11 concrete examples of my own. Sadly, I will never ever invest my money or trust in this country again. That’s 120 stand-byes I would have employed, not any more.

    A common attitude is “we” as foreigners can afford it! “We” happen to work very hard – not steal like some. Of course not all Filipino are bad but I have to say never again.

    Thank you

  10. 10 ChrisB Sep 11th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    The argument that restricting land ownership equals ordinary Filipinos will have a chance to own their own lot is a fallacy.

    80% of ordinary Filipinos are so poor they will never be able to buy land regardless of any price. What the restriction has generally done is to keep foreign competition out so the 20% of Filipinos who have money to buy land could amass hectare after hectare at low cost.

    Removing restrictions on land ownership should be part of an overall policy of encouraging foreign investment in the Philippines. More foreign investment means more jobs and more competitive pay and working conditions. Of course over time that would also mean fewer people living in poverty willing to work in menial jobs, and those are of course the people who enable the Filipino middle-class to enjoy a life-style unknown to the middle-classes of any developed country.

    So does restricting foreign land ownership really protect ordinary Filipinos? Ask a tricycle driver.

    Chris

  11. 11 dave2490 Jan 14th, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    why is this a one way topic? Many well off Filipino now buy property abroad. For many of those their are no restrictions of ownership so how would those Filipino who own property in say the United Kingdom were to find they couldn’t own it? The only issue would be if you were looking to take out a mortgage, and then you would need to have been resident in the UK for the last three years (but again, nationality is not an issue) That applies to many countries. Make it clear, if a country cant give what they expect from somewhere else they should not expect to make money from investment in a different country themselves.
    Many people are put off to invest in the Philippines simply because of issues like this. I invested here and employ 9 local workers who have stayed working with me for many years now, and yes I can only own 40%, but many more would invest if they didn’t have such restrictions that many in the rich society of the Philippines expect to not be imposed upon them when purchasing abroad. Land and house prices simply need to be restricted by government here and no purchase allowed by foreigners for the pure exploitation of profit. Is it right a man married to his Filipino wife has 2 children who he has cared all his life for finds himself in the situation that he is not next to kin when his wife dies and his children want the money from the house that he spent his life creating and making a home? Well some may say yes, but in that case we all know what type of person you are so no comment needed from those. Generally people who live here have reason to live here, either they are married and want to live here with their spouse and family, or have business here that helps the Philippine economy. In both cases that person is contributing to the economy simply for supporting a family or creating jobs for those out of work. That person should have the right of ownership. The person who just wants to retire here and own a property should not have ownership, because his foreign family if any do not have the right of profit of his death. In many cases foreign men purchases nice houses for their wives and family and the money came from their pockets, so if the wife has a affair and they part, why should he be discriminated against for his non doing. I only mention that because I know a person this actually happened to and is now left desolate while his wife is living on the expense of another man. This does happen in real life yet no protection for those left with the burden of having little left.That man can’t just pick up and go back to the US because he now has barely enough to live here so would be on the streets there. It can’t be a one way system. For those profiting from foreign properties who are often those who set many laws, they need to practice what they preach. The law needs to be changed in a way lot to let floods of foreigners buy up the Philippines as investments, but to make a law of humanity fo9r those who have bothered to contribute in some way to the country. Its easily implemented simply by not allowing the money from a sale of a property leaving the country and that money be placed in a Philippine bank with that restriction put upon it with a limit as to how much can be transferred with exception of a internet household purchase of course to something coming into the country or a plane ticket. To get investment an investor needs some security and even a marriage contract is an investment of a persons love.

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