MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday repeated his vow to bring Boracay back to its original inhabitants, who he said may then sell them to big businesses.
Duterte earlier promised to turn Boracay into a land reform area, as he lamented that big businesses have exploited the island paradise, resulting in the degradation of its environment.
He has ordered the agrarian reform department to study how land could be redistributed to the locals, even as Boracay’s hotels and restaurants were temporarily shut to give way to the island’s 6-month rehabilitation.
“Boracay can only take so much. It’s just a small strip. I’ll give it to the natives so by the time that the big businesses will go in, they already have the titles and may sell them. My consolation is they will have huge money,” Duterte said in a speech in Pampanga.
“That’s yours. One day, sell it. Maybe your daughter and sons will reap the money.”
Duterte said this scenario was inevitable as the locals would want to gain profit from their land.
“Eventually because of money, they will sell it. Especially if we are no longer around. I will give the land to the natives by way of land reform. In time, resorts will be established there again,” he said.
The President has said he would only want Boracay’s beach front to be used for commercial purposes, while the rest of the island would be subjected to land reform.
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, according to Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones.
Castriciones added that about 20 to 25 hectares are ready for redistribution but that the other agricultural lots will take time because there are structures built on this government land.
In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 that classified Boracay Island as a "forestland and agricultural land."
Boracay, one of the Philippines' top beach destinations, was visited by some 3.72 million foreign and local tourists in 2017, 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 said.