SEVERAL Civil Society Organizations (CSO) are now backing the call for Cordillera’s long struggle in becoming an autonomous region.
National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)-Cordillera Administrative Region assistant director Jedidia Aquino said they remain optimistic on attaining regional autonomy at the earliest possible time with the support of the civil society.
Aquino said this was observed during the meeting with Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process in Mt. Data, Bauko, Mountain Province last week.
"What happened was there are CSOs who have joined the talk including members of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army, Cordillera Bodong Administration and others who have gave their support for the regional autonomy," Aquino said.
Aquino added Dureza is willing to be a champion of regional autonomy for the Cordillera and has urged the different groups to have their unity.
“At the end, as a matter of fact, they came up with a manifesto or a declaration of support for the regional autonomy for the Cordillera region,” Aquino said.
Close to 200 local officials, civil society organization and tribal leaders from the different parts of the Cordillera signed the Mount Data declaration of support for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) towards the realization of the planned shift from the existing presidential to federal form of government by the Duterte administration.
The signing of the declaration was done by the Cordillera officials and tribal leaders after the conduct of a forum entitled “Pioneer Autonomy Advocates, Getting Together” which was spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) on April 24.
“We, the Cordillerans, recognize our differences but we remain united by our shared goal to achieve regional autonomy in order to establish our permanent Cordillera identity, to accelerate the region’s socio-economic development and to have responsive policies for the Cordillera within the context of our common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic structures and other relevant characteristics do declare our commitment to support the establishment of an autonomous region of the Cordillera towards federalism,” the declaration stated.
The Cordillera leaders, tribal elders, and civil society heads declared their commitment by collectively urging President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as priority and urgent House Bill (HB) No. 5343 which is an Act establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera; exert all necessary efforts available to ensure that HB 5343 will be enacted into law without substantial change; support the establishment of regional autonomy in the Cordillera while awaiting the establishment of a federal system of government, and pushing as separate federal state by itself once a federal form of government is operationalized; adopting the 2017-2019 road map for achieving autonomy towards federalism as our guide in pursuing autonomy in the region.
The leaders also committed to continue capacitating themselves on the current discourse on federalism vis-à-vis autonomy to become effective advocates; conduct consistent information, education and communication activities to increase awareness and support among our fellow Cordillerans and constituents; active in engaging in programs, projects and activities of the RDC-Cordillera in forwarding autonomy at various levels; pursue a process of healing, reconciliation and building back cohesive relationships to advance the advocacy for the attainment of regional autonomy and support the initiatives of the OPAPP that facilitate the region’s autonomy advocacy together with Muslim Mindanao.