The State Party submitted a state of conservation report to the World Heritage Centre in December 2004 together with the Ifugao Rice Terraces Master Plan, as requested by the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004).
The report submitted by the State Party summarized the progress achieved on the programmes for the conservation of the Rice Terraces, being funded from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and through the international assistance received from the World Heritage Fund. It also proposed a project on “Eco-cultural Tourism to Conserve and Enhance the Cultural and Natural Landscape of the Rice Terraces”.
With funding support from NCCA, projects were carried out to address the challenges identified in the previous Master Plan. These include water management, agricultural management, watershed management, hazard management, transport development, spatial restructuring and tourism development, cultural enhancement and livelihood development.
The Conservation Master Plan, developed with assistance from the World Heritage Fund, seeks to reverse the current deterioration of the property. It also includes the conservation and management of other clusters in the rice terraces chain proposed for inscription. The work plan draws from and is primarily based on the ten- year updated Ifugao Rice Terraces Master Plan that was developed and formulated parallel to the development of the Conservation Plan. The updated Master Plan provides the overall framework, directions and strategies as well as the indicators to measure the effectiveness of interventions for the restoration and preservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces covering the period 2003-2012. It is also reported that plans exist to expand the property.
The Plan also includes prioritized actions in four main areas: Land Management; Indigenous Knowledge Systems; Agriculture and Forestry, and Eco-tourism, which are to be developed into project proposals for national/international assistance.
The Plan also incorporates the proposed statutes for a permanent and effective management structure and system for the conservation and management of the Rice Terraces endangered World Heritage property, involving all levels of administration from international institutions to local communities, with the General Stakeholders Conference as the highest policy-making body operating through the Ifugao World Heritage Conservation Council (IWHC). These emerged from a number of consultation meetings, including the six-day Review and Stakeholders Workshop which took place in March 2004. The individual projects are meticulously formulated. For instance, Eco-tourism is well covered in a comprehensive programme, with emphasis on strengthening institutional capacity and providing training for local guides and indigenous communities.
The Secretariat, however, was informed that the Ifugao Rice Terraces Cultural Heritage Office (ICTCHO), established in early 2003 by the Provincial Government of Ifugao and in principle responsible for the implementation of the above projects, might no longer be in existence as an entity, considering that national government funding support from NCCA was terminated.
ICOMOS congratulates the State Party and UNESCO on the formulation of this Plan, which should serve as a model for comparable mixed cultural and natural properties in other countries. Its success will be dependent upon two factors: the commitment and cooperation of local communities and the availability of adequate funds for its implementation. It hopes that the State Party will provide the Committee with annual progress report on the implementation of the Plan.
It is however a matter of some concern to ICOMOS that this Master Plan, although dated June 2004, did not reach either the World Heritage Centre or ICOMOS until early 2005. It feels, moreover, that there should be another joint UNESCO-ICOMOS-IUCN expert mission to the property in order to assess the actual feasibility of the Conservation Master Plan at the site level.
Both the Secretariat and the Advisory Bodies received information in September 2004 indicating that the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) had expressed interest in assisting the State Party in the preservation and conservation of the property, whilst supporting the people of Ifugao through alternative livelihoods. A socio-economic study was conducted in the Ifugao Province with the aim of addressing the livelihood component. Subsequently, a Workshop was held focused on the viability of a hydropower plant as a local resource project most likely to generate funds for the conservation of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.
At the request of the State Party, a UNESCO reactive monitoring mission will be organized to the property from 30 May to 5 June 2005to enable the mission to assess the impact of a proposed hydropower plant project on the heritage values of the property. The mission may also participate in a National Workshop on Philippine Heritage Sites' Conservation, in particular the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, to be organized by the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO. The findings of this mission will be presented to the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.
IUCN welcomes the efforts of the Japanese Government in assisting in the conservation of the property. IUCN is of the view that the proposed hydropower plant would be useful and helpful, only when placed within the appropriate cultural, environmental and economic context. IUCN is satisfied that both the 5 year plan and Conservation Master Plan emanate from recommendations of the joint IUCN /ICOMOS mission of 2001 and notes that there is a strong commitment to address the problems identified by the mission and which led to the property being inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The present approach addresses many of the original concerns of the 2001 mission and acknowledges the role of the indigenous people of the region in decision-making. However, IUCN is concerned that the Plan does not address the need for strong land use controls over tourism development, and further notes that the Plan lacks clarity on financing mechanisms. In order to create action on the ground, it is recommended that the State Party move from planning to implementation as quickly as possible. The State Party should also determine specific benchmarks that can be agreed by the World Heritage Committee as relevant in measuring progress towards eventual removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. IUCN recommends that the State Party should not embark on plans to enlarge the property until existing problems have been effectively addressed and the property removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Further, the idea of a twinning programme put forward in the recommendations of the 2001 mission should be pursued, particularly in exploring the benefits of twinning the property with some other World Heritage Terrace Cultural Landscapes such as the Cinque Terre in Italy.
Finally, IUCN recommends that any hydropower development be subject to a comprehensive environment impact assessment (EIA) to mitigate adverse impacts on the World Heritage Property.