President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has signed into law Republic Act No. 11961, also known as the “Act Strengthening the Conservation and Protection of Philippine Cultural Heritage through Cultural Mapping and an Enhanced Cultural Heritage Education Program, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 10066, Otherwise Known as the ‘National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009′” on August 24, 2023.
The new law aims to enhance the preservation and promotion of the country’s rich and diverse cultural heritage by requiring the conduct of cultural mapping at the national, regional, provincial, city, municipal, and barangay levels. Cultural mapping is a process of identifying, documenting, and analyzing the cultural resources and expressions of a community or a place.
The law also mandates the integration of cultural heritage education in the basic and higher education curricula, as well as in the training programs of relevant government agencies and cultural workers.
The law defines cultural heritage education as “the teaching and learning of the history, significance, conservation, and management of tangible and intangible cultural heritage”.
Furthermore, the law provides protection for UNESCO designated properties and elements (World Heritage Sites, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Memory of the World, Global Geoparks, and Biosphere Reserves), ASEAN Heritage Parks, and Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. These are natural or cultural sites or elements that have outstanding universal or regional value and are recognized by international or regional conventions or programs.
The law also strengthens the roles and responsibilities of various government agencies and stakeholders in safeguarding the country’s cultural heritage. It also imposes penalties for violations such as unauthorized alteration, destruction, excavation, exportation, or sale of cultural properties.
The law was authored by Senator Loren Legarda and Representative Roman Romulo, who are the chairs of the Senate and House committees on cultural communities, respectively. They were supported by Senator Nancy Binay, Senator Koko Pimentel, Representative Dette Escudero, Representative Christopher De Venecia, and Representative France Castro.
The law was also a result of the collaboration among different agencies and organizations such as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), UNESCO-Philippine National Commission (UNACOM), National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and Heritage Conservation Society (HCS).
The law is expected to contribute to the development of a culture of appreciation and respect for the Philippine cultural heritage among Filipinos and foreigners alike. It is also hoped to foster a sense of pride and identity among Filipinos as they discover and celebrate their diverse and unique cultural heritage.