Drilon grills DAR on proposal to place Boracay under land reform

Who advised President Rodrigo Duterte to place Boracay Island under the agrarian reform program?

At Wednesday’s environment committee hearing on Borocay’s rehabilitation, Senator Franklin Drilon asked the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) who gave the President the advice to place the resort-island under land reform.

DAR Undersecretary Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan said it was the President’s own decision.

“The statements made by the president, the directive to cover Boracay in the agrarian reform program are the initiative of the President, Mr. Senator,” Pañgulayan said.

“It was an instruction given to all agencies of the government that after the implementation of [the] master development plan and the clean-up of Boracay, the second phase will include coverage of agricultural lands under agrarian reform,” he added.

READ: Duterte puts entire Boracay Island under land reform

But Pañgulayan explained that even before President Duterte gave the order, DAR has already initiated to review areas in Boracay that can be covered by land reform program.

He insisted that there are areas in Boracay that can be converted into agricultural land.

But Drilon grilled Pañgulayan on how the department plans to convert the island’s forest lands into agricultural lands, particularly the proposal to cover forest lands with topsoil.

Earlier, DAR Undersecretary David Erro said the government would place 30 centimeters to 1 meter of topsoil in areas that that will be distributed to farmer-beneficiaries.

“Huwag kayong humingi ng appropriation to buy topsoil and cover [lands in Boracay],” (Don’t ask for budget for buying top soil),” Drilon told DAR.

The DAR official, however, said that Erro’s pronouncement was not the position of the department.

Meanwhile, Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar told DAR to be responsible in making pronouncements so as not to confuse the people.

Villar said more or less 200 hectares of the 1,000-hectare land area in the resort-island may be eligible for possible agricultural conversion. Some 689 hectares have already been titled.

“Mabuti mag-aral muna kayo (Maybe you should study this more carefully) and clarify what you can do. We’re not against giving the land to the people as long as it is within the bounds of the law,” she said. /ee

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