Duterte mulls giving Boracay land to farmers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants to give Boracay to farmers after the island's rehabilitation.

"It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipinos. Lilinisin ko lang naman tapos ibalik ko sa Pilipino ang lupa nila," he said on Monday in his departure speech before flying to China for the Boao Forum for Asia.

[Translation: It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipinos. I will clean it up then I'll give back the land to Filipinos.]

He added, "The law says it is forestland. Why will I deviate from that? I-land reform ko lahat 'yan (I will reform the land) then I'll give it to the farmers."

In 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation No. 1064 classifying Boracay into forestland and agricultural land.

The 1,028-hectare island was classified into two areas: 400 hectares (40 percent) of Boracay forestlands were for "protection purposes," while the 628-hectare agricultural land (60 percent) was "alienable and disposable."

In 2008, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the proclamation, after some Boracay land claimants questioned the ruling, asserting ownership over their properties.

The High Court ruled the petition had no legal basis as no private entity can own land in Boracay.

"The island is State property," it said, adding that for a land to be "alienable," or subject to private ownership, the state must declare it as such.

State of calamity

The island will be closed from tourists for six months starting April 26 to make way for its rehabilitation.

Duterte said he will sign the proclamation to declare Boracay under a state of calamity for the disbursement of a P2 billion fund to assist more than 35,000 displaced workers.

But he clarified it is only for the "poor Filipinos."

"I will not spend a single centavo for hotel owners. Sa magagandang bahay, don't expect me to pay for anything," he said.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones on April 5 also said workers from establishments who violated environmental rules are excluded from the help from the calamity fund. He said these workers should be financially assisted by their employers.

"(Calamity fund) will only go to legitimate hoteliers and businesses," he said.

The calamity fund will also be used to help indigenous people from the island.

"Sila ang nawalan. We will help them in this time of rehabilitation," Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said.