MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an audit of land claims in Boracay amid his bid to give the island to farmers, an official said Tuesday.
Duterte on Monday promised to turn Boracay into a "land reform area" and give it to farmers, insisting that the whole island is fully owned by the government under the law.
"Noong Cabinet meeting natin, inihayag na rin ng ating Pangulo na kasabay ng ating pagre-rehabilitate sa Boracay island ay i-audit din iyung mga land issues niyan," Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones told DZMM.
(During our Cabinet meeting, the President said that in time with the rehabilitation of Boracay island, the land issues there should be audited.)
With the President's directive, the Department of Agrarian Reform will join an inter-agency task force that will lead Boracay's rehabilitation while it is closed off to tourists for 6 months starting April 26.
The DAR, in particular, will examine if Boracay can still be used for agriculture, said Leones.
He noted that in 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation 1084, which classified Boracay into 2 areas: forestland and agricultural land.
Under the proclamation, some 40 percent of the 1,028-hectare island was deemed as forestland while 60 percent was classified as agricultural land, he said.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the proclamation in 2008, but some Boracay land claimants questioned the ruling, asserting ownership over their properties. The High Court eventually junked the claimants' petition, saying that no private entity can hold property in Boracay, Leones added.
The court, he said, further ruled that claimants can only avoid eviction from their property if their land titles date back to before June 12, 1945, under the Property Registration Code.
Those who do not satisfy this requirement may apply for a homestead or sales patent if their property is not part of agricultural land, Leones said.
Duterte's announcement on Boracay's land reform came a month after Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp (LRWC) announced the building of a $500-million integrated resort in Boracay.
Duterte has said no casinos nor any other businesses will be built on Boracay amid its shutdown.