MANILA -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) will rehabilitate the famed Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao by end of 2018 or next year, a Tourism official revealed Thursday.

In an interview, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) Chief Operating Officer Pocholo Paragas said DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat will visit Ifugao Friday (July 27) to discuss with the local government DOT's biggest infrastructure project yet -- the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration.

Paragas said the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration project, supported by the Congress with an allocation of at least PHP80 million, will be split into two parts -- the rehabilitation of TIEZA-operated Banaue Hotel and the stonewalling of the rice terraces that deteriorated over time.

"In the stonewalling, I think we're already at the final stage of designation because it's very critical in that site that you cannot just bring any contractor, it should be by them. Because it's a heritage piece, you can't use ordinary cement but stones (found in the area)," he told reporters.

"The secretary will go there tomorrow (July 27) to discuss with the LGU there what will happen. We are really proud to say that the biggest infrastructure program or the investment of infrastructure there will be coming from TIEZA," he added.

The Banaue Rice Terraces, one of the country's national cultural treasures, were built by the Ifugaos by hand some 2,000 years ago.

Among the famous terraces found in Banaue include the Batad Rice Terraces and the Bangaan Rice Terraces. 

Recently, the Municipality of Banaue reported that there are more than 500 hectares or 33.6 percent of the Banaue Rice Terraces that have been damaged, eroded, or abandoned over time.

The private sector has also launched the Banaue International Music Composition Competition (BIMCC) which concluded on Wednesday night after the grand finals at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The competition, partly a fundraising activity, shared the same vision with the government -- to bring back the grandeur of the rice terraces through music.

The grand prize winner was Leon Firšt from Slovenia with his composition "The Story of Ifugao" played by an orchestra at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo in CCP.

Two runners-up named were Alessandra Salvati from Italy with her composition "Hudhud", and Jem Robert Taraloc of the Philippines with his piece "Kabunyan".

Romulo-Puyat, in her message for the participants and organizers, lauded the initiative.

"I am sure that these musical masterpieces would make for a powerful invitation for tourists all over the world to rediscover the majesty of the Banaue Rice Terraces," she said, adding this would inspire the business and entrepreneurial communities to join hands in preserving the landmark.

The BIMCC was launched by Milagros How, United Harvester, Inc. president and the municipal government of Banaue.(PNA)