Duterte to declare Boracay land reform area soon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — President Rodrigo Duterte is keen on distributing farm lands to affected residents of Boracay, currently off-limits to tourists due to rehabilitation.

"I'm declaring land reform sa entire island of Boracay. Usap na lang kami sa Congress [I will just talk to the Congress]. The entire island will be declared as a land reform area. Sagarin na natin. [Let's push it.] Give it to the people," the President said on Tuesday.

Duterte said lawmakers who want to keep commercial establishments in the island may opt to just allow it in a small portion of the tourist destination. "I would just suggest that if you really want to maintain the commercial quality of that place, maybe you can cut a strip. An inland,” he said.

Special Assistant to the President Bong Go said the order formally declaring the island as a land reform area will come soon.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, however, was quick to clarify that only some areas of Boracay will be declared as land reform areas.

“Because like in any community in the Philippines, some areas are forest land, some areas are alienable and disposable, some are not. So we have to go title by title, area by area to see exactly what those are,” Dominguez said.

He added that investors in the island should not worry about seeing their businesses shut down if they were able to secure necessary and valid permits for their shops.

"For the people who have actually made investments and have done it in accordance with law, they have nothing to worry about. But those people who did short cut and built on land they should not be building on, there will be serious repercussions there,” Dominguez said.

He shared that officials will have to check on businesses "title by title" in determining which ones can legally continue to operate and whether a certain establishment is within a business zone.

In April, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said the agency was tasked to look into the possibility of distributing farm lands to displaced residents.

Currently, the remaining four hectares of farm lands on the island can only benefit one to two farmers. But DAR said forestlands can be reclassified as agricultural land.

Boracay has been closed to tourists since April 26 at President Rodrigo Duterte's order.

He said the shutdown will be up to six months, or until October. Duterte called the world-famous tourist destination "a cesspool," and threatened to shut it down permanently if its pollution problem went unsolved.

READ: Cimatu clarifies Boracay rehab to be completed within deadline