The local government in upland Ifugao province has taken steps to preserve the environment and beauty of the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces.
The 2,000 terraces have been described as the “eighth wonder of the world” or the “stairway to heaven” and are included in Unesco’s list of world heritage sites.
These man-made rice paddies along the mountain slopes of Ifugao continue to attract thousands of tourists to the mountainous region all year round.
Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog said the terraces would not suffer the same fate as Boracay Island, which is now closed for six months for “environmental rehabilitation”.
In 2016, the local government and the Department of Health distributed 136 large plastic septic tanks to establishments catering to tourists, so wastewater doesn’t drain into the rivers.
Now private contractors are used to collect solid waste from the tanks. “We do not have a treatment plant in Banaue, that is why we cannot connect the establishments to a town drainage system that will lead to a treatment facility and compost solid waste from residential and accommodation facilities,” Mayor Dalipog said.
He also mentioned the ongoing construction of a four-storey car park big enough for 114 vehicles.
“Our roads are narrow and there is no parking space in the area,” he said. “That is why we decided to construct a four-storey parking space for the vehicles of the tourists.”
He added that the town was still looking for other sites for parking to address traffic congestion in the town due to illegal parking on roadsides.
As for the restoration of damaged terraces, Dapilog said walking trails were now being fixed.
There are currently 1,607 rice terraces being restored with help from the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, private companies and individuals.
Banaue’s indigenous families still practice their age-long tradition of maintaining “muyong” or forest areas on top of their terraces.
The mayor noted that the practice not only provided water to the terraces, but also served to conserve the environment.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has declared a selective logginh ban in Banaue, where locals can only cut trees they planted on their muyongs.