Presidential Decree No. 1726-A

To understand Philippine treasure hunting law, begin with Presidential Decree No. 1726-A, entitled Providing Guidelines on Treasure Hunting, signed on October 1, 1980 by former President Ferdinand Marcos.

This decree applies to treasure-hunting on government property and basically states that a treasure-hunter must first obtain a permit, that the government will oversee the digging and take possession of all items recovered and sell them, that deductions for government expenses will be made, and that the remaining value will be divided equally between the government and the permittee-finder. If the treasures consist of war spoils of booty or anything of value buried by Imperial Japanese Forces during World War II, the split will be 75/25 toward the government's favor.

Again, this decree is relevant to treasure-hunting on government property only and specifically states in Section 7 that "treasures found in private properties shall be governed by the Civil Code."

The Civil Code of the Philippines

Republic Act No. 386, approved on June 18, 1949, known as the Civil Code of the Philippines, consists of 2270 articles.

Only a handful of the articles mention hidden treasure, the most significant of which being Article 438, which clearly states that "hidden treasure belongs to the owner of the land, building, or other property on which it is found." This means that the legal landowner is 100% owner of all treasure located on or under his property.

Article 438 also affirms that, assuming a treasure-hunter is not tresspassing (e.g. holding a contract to excavate), he is entitled to 50% of the find on another's property.

It should be noted that these laws pertaining to treasure found on private property have been in place since 1949 and that no effort has since been made to change, repeal, or modify them.

National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act

Republic Act No. 9072, dated April 8, 2001, is known as the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act. The Act is mainly concerned with the protection of animals living within natural caves and the defacing of natural mineral formations such as stalactites and stalagmites.

Section 14 states that "Presidential Decree No. 1726-A is hereby modified" and that "treasure hunting in caves shall be governed by the provisions of this Act."

The term "cave" is defined in Section 3(a) as "any naturally occurring void, cavity, recess or system of interconnected passages beneath the surface of the earth or within a cliff or ledge and which is large enough to permit an individual to enter," therefore man-made caves and tunnels are not covered by the Act. However, all natural caves, whether on public or private property are covered.

World War II Treasure in the Philippines