Phlippine Rice Terraces now out of danger – World Heritage Committee

QUEZON CITY – The World Heritage Committee formally removed the Philippine Rice Terraces in its list of World Heritage in Danger during its 36th session in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation.

The committee said the country met the Desired State of Conservation, which included factors on successful landscape restoration and conservation, protection and planning and proper management, according to a release by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

It reported that the Philippines achieved at least 50 percent restoration of collapsed terraces, and accomplished the required documentation and rehabilitation of major irrigation systems in the site.

Laws and policies for the preservation were also observed by the committee to be in place. It added that community-based land use and zoning plans are being developed, and measures ensuring the site’s proper management and its protection from natural disasters had been implemented.

“This decision is a historic moment for the Philippines,” said Ambassador Cristina G. Ortega, Philippine Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. “To have the international community recognize our commitment and effort in reinstating the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in the World Heritage List is, for us, a great honor and accomplishment. Its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger reinforces anew its grandeur and relevance as a globally important cultural landscape.”

The centuries-old Rice Terraces was first listed in 1995 in the cultural landscape category of the World Heritage list.

However, six years past, the country heritage was announced to be facing serious risks during the 25th session in Helsinki, Finland. Non-regulation of developments, weak management system and neglected irrigation systems were cited as threats.

Taking action, the Philippines established the Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office, which worked closely with supporting private and public groups in the systematic conservation of the rice terraces.

The UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, on the other hand, led the harmonization of work and support of national agencies mandated to conserve heritage.

“A great deal of hard work coordination, patience and perseverance went into our efforts to remove the Rice Terraces from the List of World Heritage in Danger,” said Dr. Virginia A. Miralao, secretary-general of UNACOM. (Nephele Fabiola S. Kirong, One Luzon E-News Magazine)