Technical sessions convened by the RDC from mid-2016 to February 2017 to review and enhance the provisions of the draft autonomy organic act previously filed as HB 4649.
House Bill 5343 “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)” was officially filed on Monday, March 20, 2017 during the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress.
Affixed in the bill were signatures of all CAR district representatives – Cong. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (Ifugao), Cong. Joseph Sto. Niño Bernos (Abra), Cong. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang (Apayao), Cong. Ronald Cosalan (Benguet), Cong. Maximo Dalog (Mt. Province), Cong. Mark Go (Baguio City), and Cong. Allen Jesse Mangaoang (Kalinga) – signifying a unified position among Cordillera leaders to pursue autonomy as a preparatory step towards the federal transition.
The CAR chief executives cited in the bill’s explanatory note:
“Cordillera autonomy is seen as the most effective option to provide the region with the needed solid foundation to pursue sustainable development as the region hopes to benefit from the management and use of its natural resources. Cordillera autonomy will bring the national attention as well as the benefits of accepting and promoting cultural diversity through the formulation of multi-cultural policies for Indigenous Peoples (IPs).”
HB 5343 responds to the concerns raised by both local and national stakeholders. Several Technical Working Group sessions were convened by the RDC for this purpose. The new and enhanced house bill draws inputs from various sources: the CRCC bill of 1988, HB 4649, RA 8438, RA 9054 of the ARMM, HB 5811 (BBL), and suggestions from regional consultations, workshops, IEC fora, meetings, conferences, round table discussions, and reviews, documented by NEDA-CAR from 2014 to 2017.
HB 5343 provides for the establishment of an Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) as compared to HB 4649 filed in the 16th Congress, which maintains the old CAR acronym. It can be recalled that the latter was subjected to region-wide public hearings by the Lower House Committee on Local Government, and was approved by the same on February 1, 2016.
The bill has 175 Sections and 19 Articles as compared to the previous HB 4649 with 173 Sections and 17 Articles. Some changes adopted were the titling of sections, identification of the powers to be devolved to the regional government, deletion of the option of provinces/city not voting in favor of the organic act to join the ARC through petition, emphasis on the primacy of the Organic Act over other national laws, and expansion of policies on mining, among others.
The three-year RDC autonomy roadmap hopes that by 2019 the new bill – now HB 5343 – will be ratified in a plebiscite to establish the ARC.
The filing was preceded by a Cordillera Leaders’ Fora convened by the RDC earlier this year where a unified position among CAR congressmen to immediately file the bill was gained. It was likewise encouraged by the constant support from OPAPP Sec. Jesus Dureza, and the recent statement from President Dutere who also expressed his support for Cordillera’s aspiration to become autonomous as mandated by the constitution.
by Mark Allen Ponciano, SPCAR