Boracay folk ask Duterte ‘ano ba talaga’ amid confusion
ILOILO CITY—What does President Duterte really want to do with Boracay?
Several residents and business operators in the resort island, shuttered for six months for a cleanup campaign, found themselves asking this question in reaction to Mr. Duterte’s latest statement about distributing land, which beneficiaries could sell to investors to make money for themselves.
One expatriate, who had called Boracay home for the last 25 years, said it now “has become clear” that the closure of Boracay was “not about saving the island but to clear the island.”
“This whole thing about saving the island through a massive infrastructure rehabilitation within six months was not realistic from the beginning,” said the expatriate who, like another source interviewed for this story, asked that his name not be mentioned for fear of repercussions should his comments anger Mr. Duterte.
In a speech at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga on Tuesday, the President said he wanted Boracay land distributed to natives of the island so they could sell it to big businesses to earn money.
Mr. Duterte made the statement less than two months after approving Boracay’s closure for six months starting on April 26.
He had called Boracay a cesspool because of water and land pollution.
He previously declared that he would subject nearly the entire island to agrarian reform and leave only a small portion for tourism and commercial use.
It was followed by a Department of Agrarian Reform announcement that at least 868 hectares of the island’s 1,032-ha area would be covered by agrarian reform.
The government plan was based on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that all land in Boracay, except for some 300 ha that were titled, were state-owned.
‘Ano ba talaga?’
This had raised concerns and generated protests from residents and business operators who have paid taxes for decades and invested billions of pesos on structures in the island.
Yolanda Alejado, a Boracay resident and one of the organizers of the group We Are Boracay, said many people, especially Boracay residents, would lose land and homes if land was distributed and sold to investors.
“We are not priority in this rehabilitation,” she said.
She said people’s lives had been made difficult by the closure and made worse by high prices.
A business operator, who asked not to be identified to avoid reprisal from the President, said the pronouncements of Mr. Duterte had further caused confusion among residents and further fanned uncertainty among residents.
“We are exasperated,” said the business operator. “We don’t know what will happen next every time he says something about Boracay. Ano ba talaga? (What is it really?),” the business operator added.
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