Regional summit on autonomy set

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Thursday, April 10, 2014


THE unity – and passion - needed to flesh out autonomy for the Cordilleras may yet be at hand as leaders of this upland region - including its seven congressional representatives - have set a region-wide summit on the issue of self-rule on April 30 at the Baguio City National High School.

The summit comes 27 years after ratification of the 1987 Constitution that provided for the creation of autonomous regions for the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao to "accelerate (the) economic and social growth and development" of said regions which, despite their natural wealth, continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

It comes after two organic acts to establish self-rule were rejected in two plebiscites, reportedly mainly due to lack of understanding and appreciation of autonomy resulting from a weak and limited grassroots information campaign.

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The April 30 powwow was forged during a meeting March 11 among Cordillera congressional representatives with governors, mayors and members of the Regional Development Council who traveled to meet them at the House of Representatives.

In a meeting of the preparations committee last Tuesday, Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping explained the Cordillera solons agreed to come up with a new autonomy bill based on inputs during the whole-day summit.

Aliping said the solons will set up a committee to help them draft the new measure which will also be based on House Bill 5595 which was filed during the previous Congress and earlier documents.

In preparation for the summit and as agreed during the consultation with the Cordillera solons, provincial, city and other local consultations are continuing, according to regional director Milagros Rimando of the National Economic and Development Authority.

The promise of active engagement of most or all of the Cordillera representatives during and after the summit – especially their eventual drafting and filing of a new organic act – has boosted hopes for warming up the national government’s support to the constitutional mandate for autonomy in the region.

"Cordillerans led by its officials have to deliver one message to the national government that we want autonomy," Baguio City mayor Mauricio Domogan, who will host the summit with Rep. Aliping, noted recently. "To be united is the only way we can drive home the point and for us to be heard."

Domogan feels that Malacanang is not receptive to the push for Cordillera autonomy as it would mean devolution of some of its key powers and function and additional fund provisions called for under an autonomous region set-up.

In a recent forum here, former provincial planning and development officer Bial Palaez of Benguet also stressed the key to achieving autonomy is for the region’s leaders to spearhead the push. He said while he and others worked for approval of the first autonomy bill, it was rejected in Benguet because the key leaders of the province campaigned against it.

The mayor, who has been pushing the quest for self-rule in numerous forums, maintained the drive must done peacefully, unlike the forging of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao which was marked by violence and war.

"Getting into war may appear to be an effective means to get the needed attention from the government, but let us make a difference and show them that we can attain our autonomy goal through peaceful means even if it will take us a long time to do it," the mayor said.

The mayor headed the committee mandated by the Regional Development Council that crafted the draft of the third organic act for Cordillera autonomy which became HP 5595 and Senate Bill 3115.

He noted the crafting was guided by five principles to provide the Cordillera a permanent regional identity, greater freedom and power to manage its affairs, develop and benefit from its natural resources and enjoy more financial benefits from the national government and be abreast with the other regions of the country which are benefiting from the exploitation of its resources.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 11, 2014.

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