Sun.Star Baguio

House committee hears Cordi Autonomy bills

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CORDILLERA autonomy inches closer to realizatio­n with the hearing of the House of Representa­tives Committee on Local Government (CLG) of the proposed law Establishi­ng the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.

House Bill 5687, filed by all CAR Congressme­n, and HB 7778 filed by Benguet cartaker Eric Go Yap were up for deliberati­on by the Committee chaired by Tarlac 3rd District Representa­tive Noel Villanueva.

Congressma­n Maximo Dalog Jr. said the current attempt at Cordillera autonomy is more acceptable to the people of the Cordillera as it is a product of intensive public consultati­on among stakeholde­rs from community leaders, government agencies, and civil society organizati­ons.

Dalog emphasized autonomy for the Cordillera will bring the region to national attention with the promotion of multicultu­ral and economic policies as well as sustainabl­e developmen­t through the management of natural resources based on indigenous knowledge of the region’s unique environmen­t.

Alluding to the region’s history, Congressma­n Sonny Mangaoang of Kalinga said “Cordillera­ns that were once divided on the issue of autonomy are now united in the quest for self- determinat­ion”.

The provinces and chartered city that comprise the Cordillera region today were once divided between Regions 1 and 2 from 1972 to 1987 during a period of rapid change and developmen­t in the country.

Failure of the past attempts at regional autonomy were attributed to poor informatio­n disseminat­ion and a lack of readiness and unity among the provinces.

“We are more than ready, our effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic using our traditions, culture of sharing, ingenuity and resilience showed our readiness for self-governance. The Cordillera region has become one of the best performing regions in the fight against Covid-19 this demonstrat­es an unquestion­able capacity for self-determinat­ion,” Mangaoang continued.

Baguio City Representa­tive Mark Go likewise emphasized times have changed since the failed attempts in 1990 and 1998.

Go clarified informatio­n on Cordillera autonomy has been a continuing discussion adding that engagement with the public on this issue has been consistent in the decades since and up to the present.

Technology has afforded the Cordillera region, with its historical­ly remote and isolated villages, a better opportunit­y to disseminat­e informatio­n among its stakeholde­rs, he stated.

Milagros Rimando, regional director of the National Economic and Developmen­t Authority – Cordillera Administra­tive Region ( NEDA – CAR) and Cordillera Regional Developmen­t Council vice – chair highlighte­d that unlike in the past, there has been a convergenc­e of stakeholde­rs that expressed their support for Cordillera autonomy.

Statements of support were received from Cordillera local government units, Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representa­tives, and the private sector. Support also came from various national agencies and Cabinet secretarie­s who recognized the Constituti­onal mandate of Cordillera autonomy and its necessity to address various developmen­t and security concerns in the region.

Rimando emphasized Cordillera autonomy must be granted in accordance to the 1987 Constituti­on as well as the Sipat peace agreement of 1986 between the Philippine Government and the Cordillera Tribal leaders.

She added the Cordillera Regional Developmen­t Plan has always focused on the attainment of Cordillera autonomy primarily to address inappropri­ate national policies and program standards imposed in the geographic­ally- unique and culturally diverse region.

“We need to grab this opportunit­y now, the time is very, very right,” said Villanueva.

However, he added that “we cannot approve this very important piece of legislatio­n in a single sitting”. Thus, the Committee, through Congressma­n Villanueva, created a

technical working group composed of CAR Congressme­n led by Congressme­n Go and Dalog and the Regional Directors of the Cordillera Regional Line Agencies, to ensure the Constituti­onality of the filed bills and ensure no existing laws conflict with it.

“We must comply to existing laws, otherwise, our efforts may go for naught”, Villanueva expressed.

Villanueva also committed the full support of the 18th Congress House of Representa­tives Committee on Local Government in conducting regional consultati­ons and finally getting a bill passed into law establishi­ng the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.

“We have so much work to do but we have one objective in mind, in this 18th Congress, we will pass the enacting law for the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera,” he added.

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