The original inhabitants of Boracay Island may soon get back their lands under the agrarian land reform program and then sell it to businessmen for a profit, President Rodrigo Duterte said late Tuesday.
Speaking in Pampanga during the oathtaking of newly elected barangay captains, the President said he would only want Boracay’s beach front to be used for commercial purposes, while the rest of the island would be subject to land reform.
The chief executive said the resort island can only take so much because it’s just a small strip of land.
“I’ll give it to the natives so by the time that the big businesses will go in, they already have the titles and may sell them. My consolation is they will have huge money,” the President said.
Duterte ordered a total rehabilitation of the popular island teeming with beach resorts for six months and placed the entire Boracay off-limits to tourists while it is being cleaned up.
In his speech, the President reiterated his desire to turn Boracay into a land reform area, as he bewailed big businesses for exploiting the island paradise that led to the degradation of its environment.
The President described the island as a “cesspool” after discovering Boracay’s establishments disregarded environmental laws.
“That’s yours [the land]. One day, sell it. Maybe your daughter and sons will reap the money,” the President told Boracay’s natives.
He also ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform to study how the land on the island could be redistributed to the locals.
“The locals would want to gain profit from their land. Because of money, they will sell it. Especially if we are no longer around. I will give the land to the natives by way of land reform. In time, resorts will be established there again,” Duterte said.
The President even cited a presidential order signed in 2006 by then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that classified Boracay as a “forestland and agricultural land.”
Some 400 hectares of forestland will be restored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while another 400 hectares will be redistributed to local farmers, according to Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones.
Boracay, the Philippines’ top beach destination, was visited by some 3.72-million foreign and local tourists in 2017, data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines showed.
The island recorded about P56 billion in tourism receipts in the first nine months of 2017, a group of hotel and tours operators said previously.