Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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Duterte: Idle lands next target for distribution

HUNGRY SECTOR Eastern Visayas farmers rally near Malacañang in February to demand genuine land reform and subsidy to rice producers. — GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MULANAY, QUEZON — President Duterte on Wednesday said here he would launch a land distribution program targeting thousands of hectares of idle private and government land that would make these productive.

“I do not see any sense in holding to lands that to the government has no use [for],” President Duterte said in a speech before beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program at the town plaza.

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“It should all be given away,” he said. “Let us let go of all that. It is not productive,” he added.

“Why do we not embark on a second phase of land reform? I have to resume land reform because it is really needed,” he said.

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The President, however, said he would need the cooperation of Congress to launch another land reform program.

 

Savings

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, which created the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, had already lapsed after it was extended by the Congress.

President Duterte said he would finance the new land distribution program with savings that his administration would earn from its anticorruption campaign.

“I do not see any reason why this cannot be done,” the President said.

He said he also does not see any reason for the government to hang on to unproductive lands.

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Addressing farmers who had received certificates of land ownership awards, President Duterte said all they had to do was find “reformable” lands, inform the Department of Agrarian Reform about it and “I’d be happy to oblige.”

Boracay not commercial

He reiterated his plan to implement land reform in Boracay.

“Boracay is agriculture. Do not push me to the wall. It is not yet commercial, it isn’t residential,” the President said.

He said he would not allow the classification of Boracay to be converted to commercial.

“I will put that on land reform,” he said. “I will give that to the people,” he said, adding that if he did not implement land reform in Boracay, “those who would benefit would be the hotel owners.”

He said there was no law or presidential order that segregates commercial areas in Boracay.

The President added that the government would earn more than P5.6 billion, the annual estimated tourism revenue in Boracay, if lands in the resort island were made agriculturally productive.

“How much would we earn if we make the land more productive?” the President said.

“The weakest link is agriculture,” he said.

“Other businesses profit,” he added.

He said agriculture had so much potential but had not taken off. “Let us push on with [land reform],” he said.

Increased productivity

“Let us give lands to the people to make everybody more innovative and produce more for the country,” President Duterte said.

He said if the Cabinet and Congress decided to segregate a small part of the 1,032-hectare Boracay for tourism and keep the rest of the island as agricultural, productivity would increase.

If tourists were drawn to Boracay because of its white sand beach, the President said in jest that he would simply order a shipload of dye and color all beaches in the country white.

Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson for the farmers’ group Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan, welcomed the President’s support for another land reform program.

He said, however, that the government should first finish the current program and “not lose focus” because thousands of hectares tagged as land reform areas had yet to be distributed.

Geronimo said targeting idle public lands in Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula would also be problematic.

“Land reform covering idle public lands hardly moved because of the DENR,” he said, referring to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which has jurisdiction over the lands.

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TAGS: Boracay, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, land distribution, land reform program, President Rodrigo Duterte
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