MANILA - Tourism establishments in Boracay may soon be limited to beachfront spaces as the government seeks to restore and redistribute the island's agricultural lands to farmers, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte last week declared Boracay as a land reform area, but said that the government is still studying the possibility of putting up "only a small area for tourism."
"We would still maintain Boracay as a tourist destination but we would probably limit it in the areas which are near the beaches because apparently those are the areas where tourists - both foreign and local - are more interested," Castriciones told ANC's Headstart.
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.
About 20 to 25 hectares are ready for redistribution, but the other agricultural lands will take time because there are structures built on these government land, Castriciones said.
"[It] would take sometime [to recover and redistribute some lands] because we see some resistance because of the investments they made there, because they will probably bring it to the courts," he said.
Boracay, one of the Philippines' top beach destinations, was visited by some 3.72 million foreign and local tourists in 2017 alone, data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) showed.
The island recorded about P56 billion in tourism receipts in the first 9 months of 2017, a group of hotel and tours operators in Boracay said.
The island was ordered close in April for a six-month rehabilitation after Duterte saw videos of murky water being discharged directly into the beach.
"We would like to maintain its [Boracay's] tourism quality [but] if we go on with the way that Boracay is being abused, i'm very sure that we will lose Boracay in the end," Castriciones said.