MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Tourism has put the development of the Ifugao rice terraces, a world heritage site, on the back burner. A P44-million proposal to develop a tourist village in the area was not included in their proposed 2009 budget.
Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, asked to explain the deterioration of the famed terraces, said the DOT had proposed the purchase of 25 hectares of rice terraces for the tourist village but the proposal was thumbed down because it would take the department beyond its budget ceiling for next year.
Durano, in presenting the DOT?s P1.5-billion budget proposal, told congressmen that many terraces were not being tended because it was no longer economically viable for the farmers that owned them to do so.
?If we are to continue the effort to promote the rice terraces as a heritage site, we have to operate it as such,? Durano told the House committee on appropriations Monday.
Durano said the proposal was for the DOT and Department of Agriculture to jointly undertake the management of the rice terraces for tourism purposes. It calls for P100 million from the proposed DA budget and P44 million from the DOT?s.
?We have a proposal for the purchase of 25 hectares (of the rice terraces),? Durano said.
?Unfortunately, it was not included in this proposed budget,? he said.
Durano told the Philippine Daily Inquirer later the Department of Budget and Management removed the P44-million allocation to keep the DOT?s budget within limits.
The ceiling was set by the DBM, he said.
Durano said he did not know the DBM retained the part to be shouldered by the DA. ?I will discuss it with (Secretary Arthur Yap) at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow,? Durano said.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has included the rice terraces on its list of world heritage sites since 1995.
Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao raised the issue of the waning majesty of the rice terraces in view of the concerns for their maintenance.
After generations of inheritance, Chungalao said ownership of the terraces has expanded as more children divide up the lots.
He said the smaller partitions of terraced land have resulted in inefficient production.
?Before, the eldest child got everything. Now, the children have gone to school and they want their share of the land,? Chungalao said.
Chungalao asked the House budget panel to re-align funds for the rice terraces and pave the way for the DOT and DA?s program for a terraces village.
?I believe there is a need to restore the allocation,? Chungalao said.