FACT CHECK: Is Duterte right that Boracay is agricultural land?

Sofia Tomacruz

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FACT CHECK: Is Duterte right that Boracay is agricultural land?
A 2006 proclamation signed by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classified Boracay Island as forestland and agricultural land

MANILA, Philippines – Saying Boracay is composed of agricultural and forest land, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, April 9, said he will make Boracay a “land reform area for the Filipinos.”

Duterte said he wants to “give” Boracay to farmers. 

Is Duterte right that Boracay is made up of agricultural and forest land?

Signed by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Proclamation 1064 in 2006 classified Boracay Island as forestland (for protection purposes) and agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The proclamation’s validity was later affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines signed in 1975, defined alienable and disposable lands as public lands that have “been the subject of the present system of classification and declared as not needed for forest purposes.”

According to Arroyo’s Proclamation 1064, around 628.96 hectares of land are considered agricultural land (alienable and disposable), while 281.81 hectares are considered forestland.

LAND REFORM. Denying there's a planned casino in Boracay, President Duterte says he would instead give the land to farmers. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

How can land be used?

The ways these lands can be used can be found in PD 705 and Commonwealth Act 141, also known as the Public Land Act.

Under PD 705, lands classified as forestland cannot be used if no permit is issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In addition to this, Commonwealth Act 141 states that agricultural land is considered public land, which means that the government can decide how the land is to be used. 

According to Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, an exception is if the land was issued a title before June 12, 1945, based on the registration code of the Philippines.

He added that if no title exists, the government can choose how to use or dispose of land classified as alienable and disposable.

“If there is none (title), that means the government can decide how to dispose of the A and D (alienable and disposable) agricultural land,” Leones told Rappler.

As public lands, Leones also said it depends on the president whether these agricultural lands will either be titled or given to farmers.

“It’s the discretion of the president and government how to give it away, to farmers or to the stakeholders there,” he said.

Possible farm land?

Although agricultural land may be given to farmers, can it truly be used for farming purposes?

“Foreshore, the land with sand is not agricultural land. That’s why we are taking out structures in the easement,” Leones said.

During the 6-month period of closure, Leones said the DENR will assess how land is used, as well as the status of land titles. After this, recommendations will be given to the President on what to do with the land. – with reports from Pia Ranada / Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.