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Dry riverbeds

Can I own the dried riverbeds adjacent my house?

No. A dried up riverbed is owned by the State and is not an alienable land hence it cannot be owned by the riparian owner even after occupying it for a long period of time.

Is there a difference between accretion and a dried river bed?

Yes. Accretion is the gradual and imperceptible deposit made through the effects of the current of the water on the land adjacent to the banks of rivers. It is different from a dried up river bed. Pursuant to Article 457 of the New Civil Code, the riparian owner has a right over an accretion but not on a dried river bed.

Does the owner automatically become the owner of the land attached to their lot through accretion?

No. The accretion does not automatically become a registered land under the riparian owner’s name simply because the land where it was attached to is covered by a Torrens title. This is similar to the principle that an unregistered land purchased by the registered owner of the adjoining land, does not, by extension, become ipso facto registered land.

What happens to the dried up riverbeds?

Rivers and their beds are properties of public dominion pursuant to Article 502 (1) of the Civil Code and the same is true even if there is no longer water flowing over it unless there is a law expressly providing that the riverbeds are to belong to specific persons.

In the case of Republic of the Philippines v Santos (G.R. No. 160453 November 12, 2012) the Supreme Court is clear a dried up riverbed is not accretion. The process of drying up of a river to form dry land involved the recession of the water level from the river banks, and the driedup land did not equate to accretion, which was the gradual and imperceptible deposition of soil on the river banks through the effects of the current. In accretion, the water level did not recede and was more or less maintained. Based from this ruling, it follows that settlers in a lot adjacent to dried riverbeds cannot own these lands; they cannot build fences on it and settle in the same for they will eventually be considered as squatters subject to ejectment by the government.