July 23, 2018, 3:07 pm
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.06891 UAE Dirham
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.8925 Gambian Dalasi
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.14047 Guatemala Quetzal
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.58555 Uruguayan New Peso
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Duterte declares Boracay a ‘land reform area’

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said he would declare Boracay Island as a “land reform area” and distribute the land to farmers after the world-famous tourist destination is rehabilitated.

The President, in a pre-departure press conference held at the Davao International Airport, also rejected the establishment of casinos in the area. He said Filipinos are unlikely to gain anything from casinos.

The 1,032-hectare island is set to be closed for six months starting on April 26, so it could be cleaned up and rehabilitated. Among problems in the island, which Duterte said has become a “cesspool,” is a lack of sewerage system and occupation by commercial establishments of forest lands.

Business interests in the island and other sectors are opposing the total closure, raising the issue of lack of livelihood for locals and its effects on the tourism industry, among others.

Duterte said Boracay, under the law, is classified as a forestland and agricultural land and he would implement the law.

“The law says it is forestal, agricultural. Why would I deviate from that?” he said.

“… I’m going to make the announcement. It’s going to be a land reform area for the Filipinos,” he also said.

On the planned establishment of casinos, he said the casinos are owned by the rich and foreigners or non-islanders. He said he would rather give the land to the farmers. “Who owns the casinos?... Hotels? Big ones? Who owns them? Eh iyung mga mayaman pati iyung mga dayo.

Eh agricultural man kaya iyan, eh ‘di ibigay ko sa farmers (The rich, including some foreigners? It’s agricultural, I’ll just give it to the farmers),” he said.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s has approved a $500-million integrated casino resort project of Galaxy Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group and its local partner, AB Leisure Exponent Inc.

“I never said anything about building anything or even a -- a nipa hut there. What I said is that that island itself is owned by the government. I’ve said it before, it’s agricultural and forestal… In the meantime, there is no plan (to build a casino). My order was to clean it up. So during clean-up, it’s close. There is one way in and one way out,” he said.

In May 2006, then President Gloria Arroyo issued Proclamation 1064 that classified Boracay Island as a protected forestland and an agricultural land, based on the recommendation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In October 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the proclamation order and said Boracay is a public domain owned by the state and that private establishments and beach owners cannot get titles for their properties unless Congress enacts a law allowing it.

Last week, Duterte approved the recommendation of the DENR, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Tourism for a total closure of Boracay to tourists for a maximum period of six months starting April 26.

Duterte said he would issue a corresponding order declaring a state of calamity in Boracay and set aside P2 billion to assist the “poor Filipinos” who would be affected by the closure.

He said he would not allow a single centavo from the calamity fund to be spent for owners of inns or hotels and big houses, or foreigners who have establishments in the in the islands.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has issued an advisory that prohibits temporarily suspended businesses in Boracay from terminating  workers.

Bello said employers may only observe the principle of “no work, no pay” or require the employees to go on forced leave by using their leave credits.

“Employees are expected to be recalled back to work upon the lifting of the temporary closure of Boracay island,” he said.

There are some 17,300 registered workers and at least 9,300 unregistered laborers in Boracay.

Interior assistant secretary Epimaco Densing III said some businessmen in Boracay “were giving scary stories to residents that they won’t get anything from government and that they will lose their jobs and they won’t eat for six months.”

He said he learned this from workers of the social welfare and labor departments who went to Boracay last week. – With Gerard Naval and Raymond Africa
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