by Jimmy Laking

Strike Home,Baguio Midland Courier, August 23, 2009

Assuming we got it right, the National Economic Development Authority in the region is reportedly requesting for a whopping P48-million kitty from the national government to bankroll its autonomy fund for 2010.

This was considered apart from the P33 M spent for 2007 and 2008 to drumbeat one group’s ambitious agenda to convince this region to adopt an autonomous setup.

If this is correct, the NEDA in this region must be a rarity of a kind, the only “regional NEDA” that is more focused on a political agenda than in fulfilling its primary mandate of ;“formulating continuing, coordinated, and fully integrated social and economic policies, plans, and programs.”

What is the reason indeed behind the regional NEDA’s barnacle-like persistence in beating a dead horse that is clearly not within its mandate?

Within the government itself, there is a call addressed to the region’s congressmen not to include the current request in the 2010 budget. The reason is that there are more pressing needs of the Cordillera than the campaign for autonomy and that it is not in the interest of wise and prudent spending of people’s money.

Pertinent questions have also been raised apropos to the above. After two years of giving money for autonomy (P15 M in 2007 and P13 M in 2008) is any worthwhile accomplishment worth that much? Why is the NEDA director also the acting Regional Development Council chair?  Are there no able and qualified Cordillera leaders who can do the job or was it meant to be that way by President GMA?

Concern is also raised that while the RDC may have approved the pursuit of autonomy, the detailed work program is a work of NEDA, which makes the RDC a rubber stamp of NEDA.

And what is supposedly in the detailed work program? “It is all about studies and researches recycled from past studies, with money being given out to agencies to do the studies. Some line agencies are even convinced by all means to accept these projects even if they may not be fully sold to the idea of the project.”

Concern is also raised that most of the “autonomy activities” were concentrated in Baguio, where most of the spending may have been done.

The letter addressed to this region’s congressmen by one who described himself as a concerned Cordilleran added: “No indications at all if all Cordillera leaders are united for autonomy or if they were ever consulted at all except for budget appropriation perhaps.

“July, celebrated as Cordillera month should have shown an indication on the passion of Cordillerans for autonomy. No Cordillera personalities attended it except for some Baguio representatives again. The convention center was filled with government employees who were there not for passion for autonomy but were required to be there and for other compensatory benefits. Even line agency executives, there was no full participation, no provincial participation.

“From my own personal assessment, it is just NEDA (NEDA director) who is passionate for autonomy but you can validate this with RDC members as I never encountered an occasion wherein RDC members (governors, mayors, congressmen) were one in discussing what they all want for autonomy.

“Again, in the interest of wise and prudent spending, allocate the fund for more pressing needs of the Cordillera but not for autonomy. If all line agencies really do their own mandates give it their best, Cordillera will improve a lot. Put autonomy aside, let’s remain an administrative region and do the best. Let us not look as at autonomy as a magic wand to improve the Cordillera. We can do it even if we are an administrative region if all sectors do their mandates right always, every time, all the time.”