Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today that a special government committee will be assembled to determine the true owners of land on Boracay. The Philippines top executive also reiterated his determination to block any attempts for the construction of a gambling resort on the island.
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Back in February, President Duterte called the island a “cesspool” due to findings that it lacked a proper sewerage system. The official further pointed out that he would close Boracay, known to be one of the Philippines’ most popular tourism destinations, to conduct an environmental cleanup and bring down all illegal structures on the island.
A special unit was appointed to review Boracay’s environmental state and assess how long it would be needed for the island to be rehabilitated. It was then shuttered for business on April 26 for a period of six months.
Speaking at an event celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, President Duterte said today that the true owners of land on the island should be determined and that a special committee would be established to complete that task.
The country’s top official said that Boracay has never been intended to be opened for commercial purposes, despite the huge volume of tourists it has been handling over the past several years. President Duterte further pointed out that he would make sure that land on the island will only be used for forestry and agricultural purposes.
The land thus will be given to natives and not to big businesses. The President reiterated his administration’s plan to include Boracay into a planned land reform. Under a draft executive order from last month, the land reform would be carried out in three phases and would cover nearly 900 hectares of land.
The first phase will include 25 hectares of land that has no structures built on it and is ready to be distributed. The second phase will cover 220 hectares of land. Some parcels of that second portion of land include existing structures.
Phase three will include 623 hectares of agricultural land.
No Gambling on Boracay
President Duterte also said today that he would not allow gambling on the island after its planned reopening late in October. The official actually said that he would not allow any big businesses, as a whole, as the land will be distributed to residents.
With his latest comments, the President referred to Macau casino company Galaxy Entertainment Group’s plan to build a $500-million integrated resort with casino on Boracay. The gaming and hospitality giant originally presented its plan late last year, but began seeking the necessary authorization earlier in 2018 at precisely the same time when politicians were gearing up for the island’s closure.
President Duterte is well-known for his negative attitude toward gambling and its proliferation in the Philippines. The official has been particularly vocal against Galaxy’s proposal for a casino on Boracay. He has said previously that he would not allow the project mainly because of the “deleterious effects” that go along with gambling.