Banawe Rice Terraces rehab nears completion

Manila, Philippines -- The rehabilitation of Banawe Rice Terraces, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, will be completed by June 30, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

At least P24 million was allocated for the restoration of rice terraces, while additional P10 million will be spent to further develop and increase the production of traditional or "heirloom" rice varieties for both domestic and export markets, said DA Assistant Secretary Dante Delima, also the coordinator of the National Rice Program.

He noted that the restoration of damaged terrace walls and irrigation canals, particularly in Barangay Batad, Banawe, Ifugao, will be completed by June 30, 2013. Several portions of the Batad rice terraces were damaged by typhoons "Pedring" and "Quiel" in 2011.

At present, 98 of the damaged terrace walls was restored, 21 communal irrigation systems were repaired, and five solar dryers were established in different sites, including a community seed bank.

After the rehabilitation, Delima said Ifugao farmers will then be able to plant their traditional or heirloom rice varieties in the world-renowned Banawe Rice Terraces.

The DA spearheaded the Banawe rice terraces restoration project, which started in March 2012, by sharing P24.3 million of the total project cost of P26.5 million. It was initiated by Secretary Proceso Alcala when he visited Ifugao on November 25, 2011.

Other agencies that pitched in are the provincial government of Ifugao (P1.05 million), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P1 million), municipal government of Banawe (P50,000), and Barangay Batad (P20,000).

Delima said the DA is allotting another P10 million to enhance the development and increase the production of traditional upland or heirloom rice varieties like tinawon, unoy, and dalican.

"DA aims to help maintain the sturdiness of the rice terraces and empower Ifugao farmers so they could sustain the production of heirloom rice varieties for domestic and export markets," Delima said.

He instructed DA-Cordillera Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina to help farmers identify, assess, verify, and consolidate their project initiatives and include these in the DA-Cordillera regional work and financial plan for implementation this year.

The planned projects will include the establishment of a regional heirloom rice processing center (RPC) in Lamut, Ifugao, and satellite village RPCs which will be equipped with micro mills, pedal threshers, and appropriate mechanical and solar dryers, and construction of tramlines.