Duterte insists on putting Boracay under land reform
ILOILO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday defended the planned land reform on Boracay Island amid questions on its practicability and feasibility.
In a speech before more than 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries at the Cabatuan town in Iloilo, the President dismissed criticisms that the land on the island resort is unsuitable for farming.
“Wala akong pakialam diyan [I don’t care],” he said. “It’s the problem of the Department of Agriculture. It is not mine. If it is an arable land, fine. If it is not, then it is up to [Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel] Piñol. He’s an Ilonggo.”
The President made his speech before leading the ceremonial distribution of 3,772 Certificate of Land Ownership Award to the beneficiaries who came from provinces in Western Visayas.
He ordered the closure of Boracay Island to tourists for six months starting on April 26 after he called the island a “cesspool” because of untreated water being dumped into the island’s waters.
Amid the stoppage of operations of most commercial establishments and loss of livelihood to tens of thousands of workers and residents, he later ordered that most of the island would be subjected to agrarian reform and the land would be distributed to the Ati tribe members, considered the earliest settlers on the island.
The President had also said that the land reform beneficiaries could later sell the land so they would have additional income.
Several lawmakers, environmental groups and many residents and business operators have questioned the lack of clear and comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of the island.
In his speech, which he also repeated when he guested at the Philippine Councilors’ League conference at the Iloilo Convention Center in Iloilo City, the President said the land in Boracay would be returned to “legitimate owners” with titles.
“But remember, Boracay, the whole island, is forestal [and] agriculture. It was never meant to be a commercial and residential [area],” he said.
He said he would leave it to Congress to legislate measures on the operation of commercial establishments along the beach and up to a kilometer inland.
The rest of the island would be distributed to the earliest owners of the land, he said. /atm
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