Tanowong Bwasao Irrigation II, Philippines

Resource System
Watershed and associated topography
Resource Units

This paper is an update on a prior case study about the Bwasao irrigation system (Case Nos. 38 and 39) analyzing Albert S. Bacdayan’s 1980 case study on the Tanowong people of three distinct villages in the northern Philippines.

For purposes of this report, the SES study boundaries were expanded to include the entire Cordillera region in the northern Philippines. 

Case Summary:  Since the Tanowong people built the Bwasao irrigation canal in 1954 to accommodate the villages’ growing irrigation needs for rice cultivation, the agricultural SES has decreased in robustness due to the following:

1.      Globalization and growing economic opportunities outside the villages have been drawing younger people to leave the villages resulting in less capacity to maintain the irrigation canal system.

2.      Population surges and tourism development in surrounding urban areas are increasing demands on limited water sources leading to legal challenges of the villagers’ exclusive rights to the Bwasao river system.

3.      Government interference under the auspices of “increasing tribal motivation” has resulted in the opposite – a decrease in collective action among villagers.

Potential solutions to the problems include:

4.      Sharing arrangement with the nearby city of Sagada in which the city pays for the maintenance of the irrigation system and shares the Bwasao water resources with the villagers; and

5.      Commuvatization as proposed by the Cordillera Social Venture Capital Foundation, which would create a communal cooperative with the community retaining legal rights to its water resources.  Water is purchased by community members according to usage, and surplus sold to outside communities.  The revenues generated, along with public and private grants, will provide the necessary funding for village improvements, social projects and other community needs.