Sponsorship Speech: “An Act Strengthening The Conservation And Protection Of Philippine Cultural Heritage Through Cultural Mapping, Amending For The Purpose Republic Act No. 10066, Otherwise Known As The “National Cultural Heritage Act Of 2009”

February 8, 2023



08 February 2023

I stood here on our first session day this year on a matter of privilege sounding the alarm for the climate. I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate that changing climate threatens our way of life, including our heritage. It is for this reason, we need changes in our heritage law, now almost fourteen years old, to include what we missed and to address new threats from a fast-changing cultural landscape brought about by a digital tidal wave.

Since we passed Republic Act No. 10066, or the “National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009,” we have had a good record of preserving important cultural properties but still lost a few structures. The collective experience of its implementation has led the cultural agencies — a) protect, preserve, conserve, and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, its property and histories, and the ethnicity of local communities; b) establish and strengthen cultural institutions; and c) protect cultural workers and ensure their professional development and well-being — to band together and seek the necessary changes we are asking for in this bill.

To further strengthen heritage conservation in the country, this bill seeks to mandate local government units (LGUs) to conduct a cultural heritage mapping of their areas for both tangible and intangible, and natural and built heritage.

The proposed amendments aim to harmonize the relationships between the cultural agencies and update definitions and coverages, taking into consideration laws and regulations since the original law was enacted in 2009.

The proposal also aims to be more sensitive to intangible cultural heritage (including heritage in the performing arts), as well as audio-visual and broadcast heritage. This includes a provision that will protect visual sightlines.

The re-classification of terminologies also includes the classification of intangible cultural heritage listed in the UNESCO register as a Grade I Cultural Properties. The same is true for properties listed in the UNESCO Memory of the World (MOW) register.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), as the agency mandated to administer the Philippine Film Archives (RA no. 9167 and Administrative Order no. 26 [s. 2012]), is made responsible for heritage in film and the broadcast arts.

The institutionalization of cultural mapping is sought as a way to make heritage an inclusive tool for local and national development. In particular, cultural mapping employs a grassroots approach that empowers local communities to identify and assign cultural value to properties – tangible and intangible, built and movable, cultural and natural – that are important to them.

The proposed amendments assign local government units (LGUs) as the lead in conducting comprehensive cultural mapping activities in their respective areas. Meanwhile, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), together with other cultural agencies, are mandated to provide technical and financial assistance to LGUs to comply with the cultural mapping mandate.

In addition to tangible cultural properties, the following are also considered as covered by the cultural mapping mandate:

a) heritage crops, products, technologies, agricultural heritage systems, food sources, and natural and nontraditional fibers;
b) natural heritage sites, including national parks, habitats of endemic species, unique biodiversity, and cultural landscapes;
c) natural dyes, traditional textiles and apparel materials, designs, techniques, processes, and machines;
d) traditional medical practices and medicinal formulations; and
e) indigenous knowledge systems skills and practices.

NCCA’s experience in working with local government units show the importance of a participatory approach in cultural preservation as a way to address issues on community consent and feedback that often comes from a centralized, outside-looking-in perspective in heritage management.

The Philippine Registry of Cultural Properties (PRECUP) was earlier mandated under Section 14 of the National Cultural Heritage Act. This is operationalized at the local level by the submission of Local Cultural Inventories by LGUs.

Based on an agreement between the NCCA and DILG, the submission of LCIs is now included in the criteria to qualify for the Seal of Local Good Governance.

As of December 2022, 980 of the 1,715 LGUs have complied with the submission of LCIs. The total number of properties registered with the PRECUP, including those registered by the cultural agencies, is 10,385.

On November 25, 2022, the Province of Antique, my home province, completed its cultural mapping. It was done in partnership with the NCCA, the University of the Philippines (UP) in Visayas, the Department of Education (DepEd), culture and history experts, teachers who hailed from various elementary and secondary schools of the municipalities of Antique as cultural mappers, the Antique provincial government, and this representation when I was a member of the House of Representatives. The 21-volume compendium record Antique’s rich heritage and significant research material.

The proposed amendment also includes stipulations on compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012, as well as the requirement for prior consultation with Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) and their free, prior, and informed consent.

Cultural heritage value is bestowed by the society. Hence it is a decision that is attended by agreement and a level of consensus as to how a society values itself and the shared experiences that make that society a cohesive one. These values include historical accounts that connect us with our shared past and provide continuity; symbolic value that lends power and meaning to our identity; spiritual value that gives sanctity and transcendence; aesthetic value for simple pleasure and inspiration and social value that makes us a cohesive whole, promotes connectedness to reduce conflict and tension. For these reasons, I propose that heritage values, including intangible cultural property and natural heritage, must be held up for greater public appreciation and collective concurrence.

What we have to do to ensure that these resources are accessible, shared and preserved is to undertake widescale cultural mapping. This bill aims to allow multiple agencies to bring this about.

Especially when threatened by climate change and biodiversity loss, our heritage values must be protected as a source of our connectedness and resilience, to help us get through the direst times in unison using the best available means that promote our interrelation.

Cultural values are not fluff, nor mere luxury. They are not soft and nor are they the first to be sacrificed in the face of trial. They are, in fact, our bridge to each other and to the other side of these twin crises.