CORDILLERA Autonomy within a federal government can co-exist, according to former Senate President and federalism advocate Aquilino Pimentel Jr. during the 1st Northern Luzon Federal Forum held August 19.
Pimentel told participants although the passage of the Local Government Code and other legislation allowed the sharing of some power to local government units, the present democratic system remains to be unitarian and highly centralized as opposed to the federal form of government.
“If the federal government proposal is only to have a federal state of Northern Luzon including the Cordilleras, the Cordilleras can have its own autonomous region if that is the case. But maybe the Cordilleras should really have a separate federal state because it has been fighting for that since a long time ago,” Pimentel stated.
Pimentel added the recognition of the Cordillera as an autonomous region was given priority under the 1986 Constitution and it would not be hard for the region to manage their resources.
“Hindi na sila mahihirapan to assert control over a certain area so that their own culture and tradition will be respected and developed fully,” Pimentel said.
Meanwhile, Ifugao representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. told Sun*Star Baguio the Regional Development Council will continue pushing for autonomy.
“Ituloy pa rin natin itong drive for autonomy to emphasize that we, the Cordilleras wants to stand alone as a region whether an autonomous region within a federal state or a Cordillera federal state or pwede namang mauna muna yung Cordillera autonomy bago ang federalism,” Baguilat said.
Baguilat added the RDC is currently studying the difference of federalism and autonomy and if they are a complementary system which can truly co-exist.
The Ifugao solon meanwhile said there are only four federal states which can economically standalone even without a transition period during implementation of a federal system.
“Economically tatlo lang ang kayang maging self-sustaining federal states from the very start which are NCR, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog perhaps even Central Visayas. Many of the regions including regions 1 and 2 hindi nila makakaya na isustain ang kanilang operations during the first few years of federalism,” Baguilat explained.
In the federal government proposal of Pimentel, there will be a two-year adoption period and one year transition period of which the national government will allocate bigger funding for the federal states and gradually decreasing it to let the states sustain their own operations.
“Ang eknomiya naman ng regions 1 and 2 hindi siya ganun ka develop at kung ano man yung resources na makukuha natin sa pamahalaan kasama tayo sa kanila. Most of the resources will go to the provinces in Ilocos and Cagayan Valley and then we will again be discriminated,” Baguilat said.
“Sa akin I am sure malaki ang ilalaan ng government sa mga federal states sa umpisa but of course the reason why we are going federal is to become self-sustaining in the long run kasi hindi naman maganda na gusto mong maging autonomous ay habang buhay dependent ka sa national government,” Baguilat added.
Baguilat added the Cordilleras bid for autonomy lies on the intention to have control of the region's own resources, be self-sustaining and create its own policies, rules and regulations applicable for the uniqueness of the highlands.