By CHARMAGNE RIMANDO
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 at the Banaue Hotel, Banaue, Ifugao province. The conference intended to solicit commitments and support from the local and international communities in the conservation of the rice terraces in the Cordillera for food security.
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 a 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. Among 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. The local government units were more into the elaboration and validation of the investment program. With the participation of the POs and NGOs 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 plan for the Cordillera rice terraces 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. The succeeding years from 2003 to 2012 under the provincial local government unit, the conservation project cost 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.
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 committed to assist in drafting a house resolution for the conservation and rehabilitation of Cordillera rice terraces. The representative from the office of Binay committed to make the roadmap their priority legislative agenda in the 18th Congress.
The convergence on the conservation of rice terraces was among the priority convergence program of former National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza. As act of appreciation, Maza was 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. Maza expressed hope that the convergence would “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 NAPC chief due to continues harassment against and as an act of protest to the government’s cancellation of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the return to power of the Marcoses.
Noel Felongco, the former chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) is now the NAPC chief. # nordis.net