Republic Act No. 11961 (“R.A. No. 11961”), entitled ‘An 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”’, was signed into law on 24 August 2023, reinforcing the State’s constitutional mandate to conserve and protect the nation’s cultural heritage through cultural mapping and the institution of an enhanced Cultural Heritage Education Program.
R.A. No. 11961 defines cultural mapping as “the identification, recording, and use of cultural resources of communities.”
Under R.A. No. 11961, local government units (“LGUs”) are now mandated to conduct a comprehensive cultural mapping of their areas of jurisdiction with respect to both cultural property and natural property of cultural significance, the results of which shall be submitted for registration in the Philippine Registry of Heritage. In the conduct of cultural mapping, LGUs are tasked to coordinate with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (“NCCA”) and other cultural organizations and agencies, such as the Commission on Higher Education (“CHED”), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”), the Department of Education (“DepEd”), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (“DFA”), among others.
Indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples (“ICCs/IPs”) likewise now have the “right to conduct a comprehensive cultural mapping of their tangible and intangible heritage, whether or not located within their ancestral lands/domains”, for which they may also seek assistance from cultural organizations and agencies. In addition, ICCs/IPs have the “right to determine whether their cultural map shall be entered in whole or in part into the Philippine Registry of Heritage.”
With respect to the Cultural Heritage Education Program, R.A. No. 11961 seeks to enhance the same by requiring that the DepEd, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (“TESDA”), and the CHED “integrate into their respective curricula the teaching of Philippine Cultural Heritage, and ensure that the same is earnestly pursued by all schools and at all education models and levels.” For higher learning institutions in particular, they are mandated to focus on developing certain cultural heritage education competencies among students, such as research and documentation of heritage in various platforms, and music, sound and audiovisual archiving, among others.
Among the other salient amendments to the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 include the categorization of cultural property and natural property of cultural significance into three (3) Grade Levels, namely, Grade I Level, Grade II Level, and Grade III Level, and the establishment of a Philippine Registry of Heritage where all cultural properties and natural properties of cultural significance shall be registered. However, information on registered cultural properties and natural properties of cultural significance which are privately-owned shall remain confidential, in accordance with R.A. No. 10173 or “The Data Privacy Act of 2012”.
In sum, the specific mandates imposed by R.A. No. 11961 on the conduct of cultural mapping and the institution of an enhanced Cultural Heritage Education Program serve to further strengthen the conservation and protection of our cultural heritage not only at the national level, but at the local level as well. R.A. No. 11961 likewise ensures the preservation of our cultural heritage both for Filipinos today and for future Filipinos.