Duterte defends Boracay land reform
ILOILO CITY — President Duterte on Wednesday defended the planned land reform in Boracay amid criticisms that the island was hardly arable.
“I don’t care. It’s the problem of the Department of Agriculture, not mine. If it is arable land, fine. If not, then it’s up to (Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel) Piñol (to fix it), he’s an Ilonggo,” Mr. Duterte said.
The President made the remarks before distributing 3,772 Certificates of Land Ownership Award to about 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Cabatuan town, some 20 kilometers from this city.
The President ordered the closure of the world-famous vacation island for a six-month cleanup starting last April 26. He had described Boracay as a “cesspool.”
He later said that most of the island would be subjected to agrarian reform, with the land distributed to the Ati tribe, considered the earliest settlers on the island.
Last week, President Duterte said land reform beneficiaries could later sell the land so they would have additional income.
The President acknowledged that “the whole island is forestal (and) agricultur(al)” and was “never meant to be a commercial and residential (area),” but said that it was up to Congress to legislate measures on the operation of commercial establishments along the beach and up to a kilometer inland.
Meanwhile, lawmakers expressed concerns over the low availment of livelihood and employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in Boracay, as well as the low utilization of funds two months after the island’s closure.
At the hearing of the House committee on natural resources on Thursday, Assistant Labor Secretary Ma. Joji Aragon said that as of Wednesday, the utilization rate of the agency’s P450-million budget for the six-month closure was only 24 percent, instead of the 85-percent target they had set.
As of June 18, the Dole said it had disbursed P1.3 million for 2,900 formal sector workers under its adjustment measures program, and another P20.3 million for about 3,000 informal sector workers under its 30-day emergency employment program.
Aragon said the Dole would still accommodate those who had yet to avail themselves of the programs as long as they submit one government ID and a certificate of employment. —WITH A REPORT FROM PATHRICIA ANN V. ROXAS
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