MANILA, Philippines – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he would place the "entire" Boracay island under land reform, it turns out only 8 hectares of it can be distributed to indigenous peoples for agricultural purposes – for now.
Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said 7.8 hectares is the "final" figure his department came up with on the land area in Boracay that can be distributed under agrarian reform.
"We started with 150 hectares and then, based on the evaluation, bumababa (it went down). The final figure now, as submitted by the DENR and DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), is about 7.8 or 7 hectares, less than 8 hectares," he said on Tuesday, October 23, in a Malacañang news briefing.
This is not even 1% of the 1,032-hectare island. It is only a little over 1% of the 628.96 hectares of land classified as agricultural land (alienable and disposable) under Proclamation No. 1064 issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
"Agricultural land based on Proclamation 1064 is 600 hectares agricultural, alienable and disposable. Of this, only 8 hectares can be distributed," said Leones.
The size of this land is so small that Leones worries that if they are distributed to families of Boracay's original Ati community, which DAR pegs at 31 families, their individual plots of land would be too small to serve as farmland.
"Because what will happen is, if we will distribute this size of land to individual families, maybe they will just get small plots of land so it might become like a residential area instead of agricultural area," said Leones.
This reality is a far cry from Duterte's vision of turning Boracay into a "land reform area for the Filipinos," specifically for the island's native Ati community. The President, however, has mistakenly referred to them as "Mangyans."
Back in April, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones said some 400 hectares of Boracay land could be placed under land reform "if Duterte says so." An undersecretary in the department, David Erro, had also been quoted by PhilStar as saying 845 hectares may be subjected to the government's agrarian reform program.
Distribution by Christmas
The 8 hectares is "already available for distribution," but the DAR is still working out how to proceed with the distribution.
If all goes well, developments this week may ensure their distribution to Ati families before Christmas.
"Based on my updates this morning with the DAR, they are now preparing tenurial instruments, like CLOA, but they are still evaluating the status of the land," said Leones.
A Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) is the document given to agrarian reform beneficiaries to show they have been given land by the government.
"Perhaps before Christmas the DAR can resolve how to distribute these lands," said Leones.
He said directives came from Duterte himself to keep Malacañang updated on the status of land distribution. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.