Assistance sought for Banaue Rice Terraces restoration
The mayor of Banaue, Ifugao, which recently created the new brand “Your Stairways to Great Wonders”, is appealing to government agencies and organizations for interventions in its bid to restore the famed Banaue Rice Terraces that is observed to be slowly being converted into gardens.
Mayor Joel Bungallon said though two of Banaue’s barangays, Batad and Bangaan, that have been declared as a Unesco world heritage sites remain intact, some areas of the rice terraces in one of the barangays are converted into gardens due to economic reasons since planting crops is more sustainable for allowing them to harvest three to four times compared to farming rice which is harvested only once a year.
He said being a fourth-class town with minimal fund sources, the municipality cannot sustain the rice terraces and thus needs financial support for the restoration of the rice terraces, including those that are not within the declared heritage site since these remain a part of the tourism site.
“Financially, we cannot sustain the Banaue Rice Terraces that is why we are asking support from the national agencies and other organizations to extend their programs and financial support to maintain it. It is unfortunate the rice terraces are now converted to gardens so we are appealing to help us restore it and so we can prevent the number of areas being converted into gardens from increasing further,” said Bungallon who was among the guests of an event hosted by the Department of Tourism-Cordillera in Baguio City on March 22.
He also considers House Bill 2141, which seeks to create an Ifugao Rice Terraces Commission filed by Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao in July 19, 2022, as their only hope for the recovery, restoration, preservation, and maintenance of the Ifugao rice terraces, considered the only living social and cultural heritage inscribed by in the world heritage list in 1995 by the Unesco.
“If this bill is approved, that will cover five municipalities – Banaue, Mayoyao, Asipulo, Hungduan and Kiangan – which are the areas that have heritage sites as we will have an Ifugao Rice Terraces Commission office and funds will be appropriated for the implementation of its mandate for the restoration, preservation, and maintenance of the rice terraces. If that will not happen, each of these LGUs cannot sustain it because of very low internal revenue allotment as fourth class municipalities. We need interventions of other agencies,” Bungallon said.
Among other functions, the commission will be tasked to immediately formulate a 10-year Ifugao Rice Terraces Master Plan within one year upon its creation and establishment to restore, preserve, and maintain the area’s terraces, protect its ecological balance, and enhance its environment; initiate, plan, undertake and supervise the restoration, maintenance and development of the rice terraces walls, irrigations, dikes, paddies, watersheds, access roads and view decks; and provide livelihood opportunities as an alternate employment for the constituents of these municipalities.
Bungallon said there were already efforts focused on the same purposes where more than P200 million was allocated but the amount was spent for irrigation to support the rice terraces and fields and construction of pathways and riprap to support the area as a tourist site.
He said representatives of a Japanese organization were in Banaue recently and they talked about possible efforts to recover some of the converted areas with their assistance. – Hanna C. Lacsamana