The Department of Agriculture (DA) has set aside P20 million to repair the damaged rice terraces in four Ifugao towns, which were eroded through years of abnormally high rainfall, a top agency official said on Sunday.
Assistant Secretary Dante Delima, director of the DA national rice program, said the money would be distributed evenly among the towns of Banaue, Hungduan, Mayoyao and Kiangan so repairs could be completed by March, in time for the rice planting cycle.
Another P10 million from the pork barrel fund of Senator Francis Pangilinan would be coursed through the National Irrigation Administration to fund repairs of the ancient irrigation system that sustained the terraces of Banaue.
Combined, the terraces of these towns were enshrined as World Heritage Sites in 1995 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Banaue hosts terraces in the town proper and the villages of Batad and Bangaan, while terraces in Hungduan are found in the villages of Hapao, Dakkitan, Maggok and Bakung. Other rice terraces clusters are found in Mayoyao town and Kiangan (Nagacadan and Julungan).
In 1991, these terraces were placed under Unesco’s endangered list of heritage sites “in recognition of the human-induced threats to the site and the need to concentrate national and international energies on short-term and long-term remedial and protective actions,” according to the 2008 Unesco publication, “Impact: Sustainable tourism and the preservation of the World Heritage Site of the Ifugao Rice Terraces Philippines.”
“The Ifugao people are reputed for their hard work … The government must help [repair] the Ifugao rice terraces because [these] have become the symbols and models for food sufficiency which our ancestors practiced centuries ago,” said Delima, whose team visited Banaue on Sunday morning.
The DA has coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which would look for 250 volunteers to repair the terraces under the agency’s cash for work and food for work programs, he said.
Another team of agricultural engineers and technicians is returning to Banaue next week to oversee the repairs, which would be administered by local farmers who work on the terraces.
The Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office reported in 2011 that monsoon rains, including the typhoons that struck last year, had washed out 102,663 cubic meters of soil in the terraces. This amount of soil could fill 8,500 six-wheel dump trucks.
The farmers also need to fix 5.1 kilometers of communal irrigation canals. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon