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Digest: Heirs of Emiliano Navarro v. Intermediate Appellate Court

Digest: Heirs of Emiliano Navarro v. Intermediate Appellate Court, et. al., G.R. No. 68166. February 12, 1997

Principle of Accretion

Facts: On October 3, 1946, Sinforoso Pascual filed an application for foreshore lease covering a tract of foreshore land in Sibocon, Balanga, Bataan, having an area of approximately 17 ha. The applicant owns the property adjoining the land sought to be registered. The property is bounded on the (1) Talisay River (east); (2) Bulacan River (west); (3) Manila Bay (north). The Talisay River and the Bulacan River flow down towards the Manila Bay and act as boundaries of the applicant's land.

On January 15, 1953, Pascual’s application and motion for reconsideration was denied. Subsequently, petitioners' predecessor-in-interest, Emiliano Navarro, filed a fishpond application with the Bureau of Fisheries covering 25 ha. of the foreshore land. Initially denied, but eventually however the grant was given. Pascual claimed that the land is an accretion to his property. The Talisay River as well as the Bulacan River flow downstream and meet at the Manila Bay, depositing sand and silt on Pascual's property resulting in an accretion thereon (accretion as the riparian owner).

On March 25, 1960, the Director of Lands, represented by the Assistant Solicitor General, filed an opposition stating that neither Pascual nor his predecessors-in-interest possessed sufficient title to the subject property, as it is part of public domain and, therefore, belongs to the Republic of the Philippines.


On November 6, 1960, Pascual filed a complaint for ejectment against Navarro. Navarro is alleged to have unlawfully claimed and possessed, through stealth, force and strategy, a portion of the subject property. They were alleged to have built a provisional dike thereon, thereby depriving Pascual of the premises sought to be registered. This, notwithstanding repeated demands for defendants to vacate the property.


During the pendency of the trial, Navarro died on November 1, 1961 (substituted by his heirs). Subsequently, on August 26, 1962, Pascual died (substituted by his heirs)


On November 10, 1975, the court a quo rendered judgment that the subject foreshore land is part of the public domain, not subject to land registration proceedings. On appeal, the respondent court reversed the findings and granted the registration of the subject property excluding certain areas. A motion for reconsideration was filed by in the CA but the same was denied. Hence the case at bar.

Issue: Whether or not the petitioners can rightfully claim the land under the principle of accretion

Held: No. The land is an accretion not on a river bank but on a sea bank, or on what used to be the foreshore of Manila Bay (north boundaries). The principle of accretion is only applicable to owners whose estates are adjacent to rivers as stated in Art. 457 of the Civil Code:


Art. 457, requires the concurrence of the following requisites: (1) that the accumulation of soil or sediment be gradual and imperceptible; (2) that it be the result of the action of the waters of the river; and (3) that the land where the accretion takes place is adjacent to the bank of the river. Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited, while alluvium is the soil deposited on the estate fronting the river bank; the owner of such estate is called the riparian owner.

Riparian owners are distinct from littoral owners, the latter being owners of lands bordering the shore of the sea or lake or other tidal waters. The alluvium, by mandate of Art. 457 of the Civil Code, is automatically owned by the riparian owner from the moment the soil deposit can be seen but is not automatically registered property, hence, subject to acquisition through prescription by third persons


The applicable law is not Art. 457 of Civil Code but Art. 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. The property is an accretion on a sea bank, Manila Bay being an inlet or an arm of the sea. Art. 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters provides as follows:


"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."


Petitioners utterly fail to show that either the executive or legislative department has already declared the disputed land as qualified, to be the property of petitioners as owners of the estates adjacent thereto.

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