PH Natcom and WHITRAP partner on extensive World Heritage Capacity-Building Series

Over 60 local government officials, site managers, their staff, and representatives from national agencies attended the 2019 International Capacity-Building Series for World Heritage Sites and Tentative List held at Midas Hotel, Pasay City from 21-25 October 2019.

Organized by UNACOM in partnership with Shanghai-based UNESCO Category II Center World Heritage Institute for Training and Research in Asia-Pacific (WHITRAP-Shanghai), the Series will be the first of many initiatives focused on strengthening site management, enhancing various levels of coordination between and among sites and national agencies, and exploring available opportunities within the wider UNESCO system.

As a result of previous consultations and assessments with site managers, the Series paid particular attention to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary and two Tentative List sites: Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape and Mt. Mayon Natural Park. UNACOM and Dr. Simone Ricca, Vice-Director, WHITRAP-Shanghai, also selected these sites based on a recent field mission to the Philippines in August and September 2019.

Revisiting the 1972 World Heritage Convention Before discussing the topic of site management, Dr. Ricca emphasized the need for national agencies and site managers to first have a deeper understanding of the 1972 World Heritage Convention. The Convention was ratified by the Philippines in 1985 to signify the country’s commitment in upholding the highest standards of heritage preservation.

Mr. Karl Albais, World Heritage Sites Coordinator, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Mr. Daniel Garino, Jr., Ecosystems Management Specialist II of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) outlined their agencies’ initiatives in protecting cultural and natural heritage and implementing the 1972 Convention. Both Mr. Albais and Mr. Garino agreed that there is still much to be done to raise awareness on the importance of a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

In order to ensure the proper implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention at the local level, Dr. Ricca underlined the importance of harmonizing the Convention with national legislation, such as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018, and the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

While there may be difficulties in integrating the Convention within national and regional legal frameworks, Dr. Ricca mentioned that local government officials can, in the meantime, legislate local ordinances and issuances to further strengthen the protection of World Heritage and Tentative List Sites within their municipalities and provinces.

Ms. Joana Rizza Bagano, Programme Officer for Culture, presented how the Philippines has benefitted from being a State Party to the Convention and how site managers of properties such as the Historic City of Vigan and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary showed their commitment in protecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of their sites.

Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site

To give site managers and national agencies a better picture of their place in the international community, Dr. Ricca provided presentations on the organizational framework of UNESCO, trends in heritage preservation, case studies of implementing the Convention in other countries, and various platforms for exchanging knowledge and expertise in World Heritage site management.

Representatives from the various sites present also gave their own presentations, which provided WHITRAP-Shanghai and national agencies a detailed perspective of how they are managing their sites and the support that they need from the national government and UNESCO.

Dr. Ricca emphasized that threats and challenges faced by UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines are not isolated cases, and that local site managers can tap into the vast experience of World Heritage Site managers in Southeast Asia and beyond. This is especially important in the area of disaster risk reduction and management, which is an evolving theme in heritage preservation and a very relevant discussion for the Philippines.

Dr. Anna-Paola Pola, Director for Urban Planning, WHITRAP-Shanghai discussed the importance of maps as a tool in site management. She encouraged site managers to develop and use maps in identifying and addressing issues within their sites, as well as in observing how their sites develop overtime. According to her, maps can be definitive in the way they show a property’s integrity and authenticity, and thereby its OUV.

Both Dr. Ricca and Dr. Pola also discussed the blurring of the culture-nature divide, which is an important consideration in managing natural sites with a significant cultural dimension. In particular, Dr. Ricca recommended Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape to explore the property’s cultural and anthropological facets and integrate these in the nomination dossier. According to him, this will set apart the property from other natural sites that focused on the same biodiversity component.

Enhancing linkages within the PH
The Series was indeed an important initiative in providing site managers with new knowledge on how to maximize opportunities and address challenges within their properties. More importantly, it served as a venue for site managers to connect with national agencies and form stronger relationships with them.

Site managers and technical staff from the national agencies engaged in discussions surrounding legislation, coordination, and allocation of resources, as well the implementation of national projects within their properties. Natural sites also touched base with NCCA to explore how the latter’s cultural programmes can enhance the protection of their sites’ natural heritage.

UNACOM, DENR, and NCCA all gained a better perspective on the 1972 World Heritage Convention and the important roles that they play in bringing the sites closer to the international community where they belong.

Follow-ups to this Series will include discussions with cultural agencies and relevant national agencies such as the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). UNACOM and WHITRAP will also invite more UNESCO World Heritage and Tentative List Sites in the Philippines, to enhance and establish the holistic and sustainable protection of our country’s rich cultural and natural heritage.

“Beyond capitalizing on the tourism value of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we can tap the international community for support in education, capacity-building, and conservation of our sites. This training series is an example of an international collaboration with UNESCO’s wider system of experts and trainers,” Ms. Lindsay Barrientos, EnP, Deputy Executive Director II, UNACOM said.