By Genalyn Kabiling
After the six-month rehabilitation of Boracay, President Duterte has pledged to give back the world famous island to the “natives,” not to the rich businessmen reportedly close to his administration.
The President asserted that he intends to place Boracay under land reform program, dispelling speculations that he would supposedly allow casino builders and other wealthy allies to take the island.
“Kagaya ng Boracay, anak ng… marami na… may mga gambling daw, ilagay ko mga kaibigan ko [Like Boracay, son of a… they say I will put gambling there, put my friends there]. You know, ang aking thinking ngayon [What I’m thinking now is] I will declare Boracay as a land reform area. Ibigay ko, ibalik ‘yan sa mga natibo, Mangyans [I will return it to the natives, the Mangyans],” Duterte said during his visit to Marawi City last Friday.
“Wala akong kaibigang negosyante na mayaman na sabihin mo, ibigay ko ‘yang Boracay [I don’t have rich businessmen friends who you say I will give Boracay to],” he added.
Duterte explained that the government only intends to clean up and rehabilitate the island and then return the lands to the residents and farmers. “Ibalik namin ‘yan sa inyo. Walang problema [We will return it to you. No problem],” he said.
The President earlier opposed any plan to put up a casino in Boracay and instead declared plans to declare the island as a land reform area. Duterte said Boracay remains a forestal and agriculture land, adding he prefers to give the land to Filipinos especially farmers, rather than foreigners.
The pollution-stricken Boracay is currently closed down to tourists amid the government-led rehabilitation efforts, including the upgrading of the sewage system and dismantling of illegal structures. The island shutdown ends on October 25.
In Executive Order No. 53 that created the Boracay inter-agency task force, the President cited an old proclamation classifying Boracay into 377 hectares of reserved forest land for protection purposes and 628 hectares of agricultural land as alienable and disposable land.
“Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, whereby all lands not privately owned belong to the State, the entire island of Boracay is state-owned except for lands already covered by existing titles,” the order read.