Unesco cites Vigan, Banawe Rice Terraces for heritage achievements


By Augusto F. Villalon/Philippine Daily Inquirer – Year 2012 is a banner year for the Philippines in conservation and management of World Heritage properties.

Last month, the Unesco World Heritage Center announced in Paris that the Historic City of Vigan won the highest award for the Best Conservation Management of World Heritage Properties.

Last June, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera was removed from the World Heritage in Danger List, with high recognition being given to the Ifugao community by the members of the World Heritage Committee during its 36th Annual Session in St Petersburg, Russian Federation.

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera, a World Heritage property composed of five terrace-clusters in Ifugao province, had been placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of the site’s deterioration over the years due to overlapping factors, including weak management systems; conflict between traditional and 20th-century agricultural and cultural practices, which resulted in neglected irrigation and the degradation of the terraces.

The criteria for the decision to remove the property from the In Danger List included successful site restoration and conservation, as well as planning and proper management.

Most significantly, members of the World Heritage Committee warmly applauded the Ifugao community which worked closely to save their terraces with the local government, the private sector, and with some assistance from the international community.

The rice terraces were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995 as an “extraordinary example of an evolved, living cultural landscape,” terraces carved by Ifugaos following steep mountain contours, a tradition still retained today after centuries of use.

The terraces today are “the fruit of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, and the expression of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance.”

Outstanding is the role of the Ifugao people in the conservation process of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera that was done mostly through local, community-based effort and stakeholder participation.

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