By Johnny Dayang
HOWEVER one looks at it, the government’s announced plan to parcel out Boracay into small farm lots for distribution to the native Aetas of the island, seems to lack wisdom and does not look promising.
Boracay is decidedly not an economically viable agricultural land reform area. For one its terrain is hilly if not mountainous. For another, it is rocky and not suitable for long-term agricultural development. Furthermore, only a few individuals will benefit from the plan, given the island’s limited area.
These considerations have given rise to the questionable interpretations that the small parcelled farm lots can be sold to corporations and business people who are desirous to invest in them and develop them for commercial tourism purposes?
This interpretation needs clarification from government authorities. Does Presidential Decree 27 and the subsequent Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) law now allow the convenient sale and disposition of awarded lands under land reform? We are not updated on this issue but we know of a good number of land reform beneficiaries who were hailed to court in the past for having disposed their awarded farm lots.
Transforming Boracay into an agrarian reform area or an agricultural hub actually amounts to a punishment for the island. How can the government implement a good land reform program when the island, given its size, is fit for retirement and recreation, and not for economically viable agriculture.
It does not take a genius to understand that Boracay, in reality, is a tourist destination. Its environmental degradation resulted mainly from the oversights and neglect by both national and local government bureaucrats, if their outright violation of laws. Their sins cannot now be invoked to justify the island’s declaration as a land reform area that will make it grossly unproductive.
As a choice tourist destination, Boracay has significantly contributed to the government coffers. The native Aetas who have suffered neglect, can benefit more from tourism related programs than land reform.
Boracay should pragmatically be viewed not from the perspective of agriculture, but as a tourism asset which has already proven its effective wealth generating potentials. Negligent and abusive bureaucrats cannot atone for their sins of omissions and commission by pushing land reform in the island.
Let us retain and even further develop Boracay as our sustainable and productive tourism paradise island in the Pacific.