Have you own a property near the river or sea? This topic will interest you. First we must differentiate accretion from alluvium.
- Alluvium is the soil imperceptibly and gradually deposited on lands adjoining the banks of rivers caused by the current of the water.
- Accretion is the process whereby the soil is so deposited. (Pineda, Property, p. 124, 1999 ed)
Requisites of accretion
- The deposit of soil or sediment be gradual and imperceptible;
- It is the result of the current of the waters (river/sea); and
- The land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers or the sea coast.
Alluvion must be the exclusive work of nature.
To whom does accretion belong
- Accretions on the bank of a lake – belong to the owners of the estate to which they have been added.
- Accretion on the sea bank – still of public domain, and is not available for private ownership until formally declared by the government to be no longer needed for public use (Republic v. Amanda Vda. De Castillo, G.R. No. L‐69002 June 30, 1988).
The land adjoining the bank of the river is the principal and the alluvial deposits along such riparian land constitute the accessory. (Rabuya, Property, p. 262, 2007) Accessory follows the principal.
Non‐registrable lands (property of public dominion) are outside the commerce of man, they are not subject to private appropriation. Thus, if the area of a non‐registrable land is increased due to accretion, the alluvial deposits are not subject to private ownership. (Agcaoili Reviewer, p. 83, 2008 ed)
Accretion does not automatically become registered. If the land, the area of which is increased by accretion, has already been registered, there is still a need to register the alluvion.
Registration does not protect the riparian owner against diminution of land through accretion. Accretions become the property of the owners of the banks and are natural incidents to land bordering on running streams and the provisions of the Civil Code thereon are not affected by the Land Registration Act (now Property Registration Decree). (Republic v. CA and Tancinco, G.R. No. L‐61647, Oct. 12, 1984)
Let us examine this problem given during the 2008 Bar Exam
The properties of Jessica and Jenny, who are neighbors, lie along the banks of the Marikina River. At certain times of the year, the river would swell and as the water recedes, soils, rocks and other materials are deposited on Jessica’s and Jenny’s properties. This pattern of the river swelling, receding and depositing soil and other materials being deposited on the neighbors’ properties have gone on for many years. Knowing this pattern, Jessica constructed a concrete barrier about 2 meters from her property line and extending towards the river, so that when the water recedes, soil and other materials are trapped within this barrier. After several years, the area between Jessica’s property line to the concrete barrier was completely filled with soil, effectively increasing Jessica’s property by 2 meters. Jenny’s property, where no barrier was constructed, also increased by one meter along the side of the river.
Can Jessica and Jenny legally claim ownership over the additional 2 meters and one meter, respectively, of land deposited along their properties?
Jenny can legally claim ownership of the lands by right of accession (accretion) under Article 457 of the Civil Code. The lands came into being over the years through the gradual deposition of soil and silt by the natural action of the waters of the river.
Jessica cannot claim the two meter‐wide strip of land added to her land. Jessica constructed the cement barrier two meters in front of her property towards the river not to protect her land from the destructive forces of the water but to trap the alluvium. In order that the riparian owner may be entitled to the alluvium the deposition must occur naturally without the intervention of the riparian owner (Republic v. CA 132 SCRA 514 ).
If Jessica’s and Jenny’s properties are registered, will the benefit of such registration extend to the increased area of their properties?
No, the registration of Jessica’s and Jenny’s adjoining property does not automatically extend to the accretions. They have to bring their lands under the operation of the Torrens system of land registration following the procedure prescribed in P.D. No. 1529.
Assume the two properties are on a cliff adjoining the shore of Laguna Lake. Jessica and Jenny had a hotel built on the properties. They had the earth and rocks excavated from the properties dumped on the adjoining shore, giving rise to a new patch of dry land. Can they validly lay claim to the patch of land?
Jessica and Jenny cannot validly lay claim to the price of dry land that resulted from the dumping of rocks and earth materials excavated from their properties because it is a reclamation without authority. The land is part of the lakeshore, if not the lakebed, which is inalienable land of the public domain.