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House moves to save Ifugao Rice Terraces

Monday, 09 April, 2012 Written by Maricel Cruz
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A PANEL in the House of Representatives has approved a measure that will rehabilitate and preserve the Batad rice terraces in Banaue, Ifugao, which has deteriorated further  due to strong typhoons that hit the province last year.

The House Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas approved House Bill 5692, otherwise known as the “Ifugao Rice Terraces Rehabilitation and Preservation Act,” that seeks “to restore, protect and safeguard” the country’s World Heritage site.

“The Ifugao Rice Terraces is one of these priceless legacies that the Philippines is showcasing to the world,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. told the Manila Standard.

“It is a reflection of the Filipino ingenuity as it highlights one of man’s best engineering achievements without forced labor – a feat that [was recognized by] UNESCO [United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization],” Baguilat added.

He chairs the House Committee on National Cultural Communities.

The terraces were carved out of the mountains of Ifugao by the ancestors of the people farming the area, and they built them largely by hand. The farmlands are commonly referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The terraces are about 5,000 feet above sea level. They cover 10,360 square kilometers of mountainside and are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rain forests above.

Baguilat had earlier lamented that the government’s commitment to rehabilitate the terraces “had gone awry.”

“It is now, at this critical moment that we need to collectively act to save the Ifugao Rice Terraces,” Baguilat urged.

A resolution earlier filed in the House estimated that a P122.65-million funding is needed to rehabilitate the upland farms, as many terraces have already been abandoned because many portions of the ancient hydrological irrigation system are damaged. The other problem in the area is deforestation.

The bill proposes for an “Ifugao Rice Terraces Rehabilitation and Preservation Plan,” or a comprehensive framework “for the immediate rehabilitation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces and subsequent protection through participatory processes and actions.”

(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/April/10)

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