ALL local government units (LGUs) are now required to survey and map out all the culturally important areas in their jurisdictions, according to the newly enacted Cultural Mapping Act.

Republic Act (RA) 11961, or the Cultural Mapping Act, which was enacted last week, mandates LGUs to conduct comprehensive cultural mapping of their areas of jurisdiction for both tangible and intangible, and natural and built heritage. It is an amendment of RA 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, that places focus on the role of LGUs in promoting and preserving Filipino culture through cultural mapping and heritage education projects.

On Aug. 25, Malacañang released a copy of the new law, which aims to “strengthen the conservation and protection of Philippine cultural heritage through cultural mapping and an enhanced cultural heritage education program.”

“The institutionalization of cultural mapping was sought to make heritage an inclusive tool for local and national development,” said Senate President Pro-Tempore Lorna Regina “Loren” Legarda, who co-authored the measure, in a statement.

“[Cultural mapping] employs a grassroots approach that empowers local communities to identify and assign cultural value to properties that are important to them,” she said.

The Act was passed in the Senate and House of Representatives in May this year, and President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed it into law in August.

Under the Cultural Mapping Act, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and other cultural agencies must provide technical and financial assistance to LGUs so that they can comply with the cultural mapping mandate.

Already in place are Local Cultural Inventories (LCI), one of the criteria for an LGU to qualify for a Seal of Local Good Governance. After completing this, they must also submit their cultural mapping reports.

According to NCCA Chairperson Victorino Manalo, 980 of the 1,715 LGUs around the country have complied with the submission of LCIs, but only 98 LGUs have submitted cultural mapping reports while 177 are currently in progress.

As of December 2022, the total number of properties registered with the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (Precup), including those registered by the cultural agencies, was 10,385.

Many heritage advocates welcome the new law.

The act addresses one crucial part of the entire problem — the strategy on registry and proper mapping, Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation’s communications and special projects officer Philip Paraan told BusinessWorld. Escuela Taller trains young people in the specialized skills that are needed to restore and conserve heritage structures.

“There are a lot of issues in heritage conservation but at least it’s promising that the government has renewed attention to cultural heritage through this law,” he said via Facebook Messenger.

However, there has yet to be a general audit or impact assessment of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, which could be more helpful than “approaching the issues in a piecemeal fashion,” said Mr. Paraan.

President Marcos Jr. signed RA 11961 into law on Aug. 24. — Brontë H. Lacsamana