The Manila Times

Nurturing our cultural and natural heritage

Maria Adiel Aguiling, Doctor of Business Administration, is an assistant professor at De La Salle University, Manila. Email addressZ

CLUSTERS of rice terraces lie in different municipalities of the Ifugao province. Two millennia ago, ethnic tribes used mud clay and stones to construct rice terraces and maintained these with water from mountains. Unesco (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared the sites a “priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity.”

Hailed as a Unesco Heritage Site, the opportunity to travel to Ifugao Rice Terraces beckoned. It was not the best season to travel, yet we had an awesome view of Banaue Rice Terraces, just as it is depicted on the P20 bill. The rice paddies were green, brown and yellowish. A red plant, called donglah, sporadically appeared to indicate lot boundaries. Our guide intoned the Hudhud chant, which is sung during the sowing and planting seasons.

From Banaue Viewpoint, we headed towards Barangay Batad. The road obliged us to get out of the vehicle and embark on the 30-minute hike to our lodging. After trudging on the rugged terrain until the entrails of the village, we reached our venue with a clear vista of one of the Unesco heritage sites. After lunch, we trekked up Batad Rice Terraces through rocks, wooden steps, narrow pathways, and muddy grounds. Paddies that were not used for harvest were turned into fish ponds. Indeed, present-generation farmers maintain sustainable agriculture. From above, we marveled at the amphitheatershaped rice terraces.

The breathtaking landscape and narratives of our native guide sparked off an epic adventure. It was a delectable experience, except for one thingZ litter. The sign to keep the area clean was denied by chip wrappers and plastic bottles tucked in corners. Presumably, these were traces of tourists, local and foreign alike. Yet, how can we keep the area clean?

Unfortunately, the maintenance of clean surroundings is not our national pride. One day on a beach in Negros, I found pieces of cloth, papers, wrappers, and broken bottles on the shoreline about 200 meters from the resort. In the metropolis where I live, garbage bags with mixed waste park hours on the streets, and rubbish whirls down crevices and potholes all day long.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 aims for sustainable consumption and production. It targets the management of waste to minimize its harm to human health and the environment. How can we hit the target if we do not throw trash in the right place?

In the year 2000, Republic Act 9003 established the National Solid Waste Management Commission to address the garbage problem and move towards sustainable development. However, the Commission on Audit (COA) Performance Audit Report (PAO) 2023-01 reported that refuse has steadily increased in the past two decades and reached 16.63 million tons in 2020.

A tenacious multi-sectoral approach is exigent to drive home the message that litter is ugly, dirty, and deadly.

The comprehensive research of COA featured many vital items for action. I offer various recommendations. This includes rigorous government oversight of waste policies, annual sustainability reporting, recycling initiatives, heritage site cleanups, youth education, media campaigns on responsible consumption, public-private partnerships for environmental protection, and community engagement in developing green cities.

Through a dedicated and concerted effort, we achieve a blend of aesthetics, healthy living, and a less toxic environment. In doing so, we can esteem and uphold our heritage, preserving our natural resources in their pristine state and embracing the value of cleanliness.

Business Times




The Manila Times