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Baguio City—a conference on the
conservation and rehabilitation of Cordillera rice terraces organized by the
National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) was held last November 20 to 22, 2018
at the Banaue Hotel, Banaue, Ifugao province. The conference intends to solicit
commitments and support from the local and international communities in the
conservation of the rice terraces in the Cordillera for food security.

NAPC-initiated
5-year roadmap

The Cordillera rice terraces
conservation and rehabilitation was sought by the Cordillera NAPC provincial
focal persons for NAPC to initiate a convergence aimed at pooling efforts and
resources to address issues on food security in the region. It covers 24 municipalities
in the four provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region namely Benguet,
Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga.  The selection process were based on four
criteria: (a) rice is the main and sole source of survival or communities not
engaged in commercial vegetable production, small scale mining or other
conversion of agricultural lands to other cash crops, (b)socio-economic
profile, (c) hard to reach communities and (d) connected by common water source
or river system.

The convergence platform has
undergone series of workshops from identification of challenges, strengths,
gaps to elaboration of strategies and goals and finally to the investment
program.  These workshops were actively
participated by people’s organizations, non-government organizations, concerned
local government units and regional line agencies.   Coming from the people’s organizations were
the Alyansa dagiti Pesante ti Taeng Kordilyera, Cordillera People’s Alliance
and Cordillera Elder’s Alliance.  From
the non-government organizations were the Center for Development Programs in
the Cordillera (CDPC), and the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development
Services (CORDisRDS).

All these POs and NGOs were part in
the elaboration of problems, strategies and goals.  For the elaboration and validation of the
investment program, these were more from the local government units.   It was from the participation of the POs and
NGOs that issues on ancestral land and domain, agricultural development, human
capital development, and socio-economic empowerment  were reached as common ground and that these
be founded on and be consistent with the indigenous peoples’ economic,
political and socio-cultural knowledge and practices.

Sharing
from Stakeholders

The conference in Banaue served
as venue for the presentation of the proposed 5-year conservation and
rehabilitation of the Cordillera rice terraces and in turn to generate
commitments of support from multi-sectoral bodies, both local and
international.  Consistent with the
earlier elaborated core framework on building on the indigenous knowledge
systems and practices, both the resource speakers Rhoda Dalang of the CDPC and
Leah Abayao of UP Baguio reiterated that the socio-cultural integrity of
indigenous peoples and the communal ethos binding them and regulating their
lives is anchored on the communal forest which is the source of communal
irrigation for the private owned rice terraces. 
Dalang reiterated that conservation and rehabilitation program should
build on the communal ethos in the utilization, protection and conservation of
rice terraces and natural resources, which prevail although in varying levels
of persistence and disintegration. 
Further, Dalang recounted that the road map be premised on the primacy
of the ancestral land/domain/territory where the attendant right to
self-determination is being exercised and asserted.

Abayao also noted that it is
important to strengthen cultural platforms that promote collective thinking,
workmanship, and responsibility in the conservation of Cordillera rice
terraces. She also emphasized the need for institutional support for culture
revitalization. Contemporary cultural platforms that are relevant should also
be included in the plan.

Practical tips, experiences and lessons in the
conservation and rehabilitation of the Ifugao rice terraces were shared by
Roscoe Kalaw, senior tourism operations officer of the Provincial Government
Unit of Ifugao.  The Ifugao rice terraces conservation started under the
presidency of Fidel Ramos, continued by Joseph Estrada then Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo and now under the provincial local government unit. For the first 9
years in 1994 to 2002, the project cost was PhP224,150,000.00.  The
succeeding years from 2003 to 2012 under the provincial local government unit, the
conservation project was at PhP287,562,000.00.  According to Kalaw, there
was inadequate delivery of financial commitment of only 16 to 21% delivered
compared to the budget under the master plan.  Kalaw further lamented
that there was weak support of other stakeholders.  From these
observations, Kalaw recommended that harmonization of all plans related to the
conservation and cooperation among stakeholders should be paramount for the
project to achieve its goals.  

Commitments

The Philippine Council for
Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources and Development (PCCARD),
International Rice Research Institue (IRRI), Department of Agriculture,
National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA), and the Rural
Reconstruction Movement  pledge their
support. Also, the Senate committee on Social Justice, Welfare, and Rural
Development chaired by Senator Nancy Binay commits to assist draft a house
resolution for the conservation and rehabilitation of Cordillera rice terraces.
It will be a priority roadmap legislative agenda in the 18th
Congress.

The convergence on the conservation of rice terraces was an effort started under Secretary Liza Masa, former lead convenor of NAPC. Maza was even adopted as the daughter of the Mountain Province  in one of the workshops conducted in the province. She was named “Kuliplipan” in recognition of her manifest crusader. In a report, Maza expressed hope that after the workshop the participants would have “come –up with a long term communal view for a food production system that shall sustain future generations in the Cordillera region.” Maza resigned as the anti-poverty commission chief to protest the cancellation of peace talks with communists and the return to power of the Marcoses. She was replaced by Noel Felongco, the former chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP)

Published in Northern Dispatch Weekly December 2, 2018 

Convergence to protect Cordillera Rice Terraces

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