KIANGAN -- With the dual goal to maintain and improve the quality of life of local communities engaged in rice-terraces farming and to rehabilitate the rice terraces, the Ambangal Minihydro plant will be inaugurated on January 25.

Developed in collaboration with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Provincial Government, the Ifugao mini-hydro project was implemented under the leadership of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) on behalf of the E8.

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The local government units of Kiangan and barangays Ambabag, Pindongan and Mungayang helped in the development of a run-of-river mini-hydropower plant (200 kw) at the Ambangal brook coupled with the establishment of a rice terrace conservation fund to be financed by the revenues generated from the project's power sales.

The project seeks to support local activities to conserve the 2,000 years old Ifugao rice terraces world heritage site; provide a model of local sustainable energy-based development and regional vitalization; promote the development of sustainable mini-hydro power resources in the rural areas of the region and the Philippines.

Launched in 2006, the project's development included extensive environmental and social impact assessment. During the 10-month construction phase, over 180 workers were mobilized daily under the supervision of competent engineers and foremen.

The significant involvement of local community, stakeholders during the pre-feasibility and feasibility phases was key to the success of the project. Several public hearings, surveys and outreach activities were conducted during the pre-construction phase to ensure the local stakeholders' broad understanding, support and empowerment of the Ifugao mini-hydro project.

In 1995, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) registered the rice terraces here as outstanding examples of the living cultural landscape.

These ancient rice terraces also referred to as the stairways to heaven have been listed as World Heritage.

In 2001, citing deficiencies in rice terraces conservation planning and deterioration in the condition of the rice terraces; Unesco placed the said terraces on the list of world heritage in danger. (Vency D. Bulayungan)