By Michael Umaming/NEDA-CAR

The Provincial Councilors’ League of Benguet, during its assembly at the Oxford Hotel and Convention Center in Clark, Pampanga last February 27 to March 1, 2013, included Cordillera Regional Autonomy in its agenda.  The activity was attended by 170 councilors of the 13 municipalities of Benguet.

Regional Autonomy is an issue that we need to be able to discuss when our constituents ask questions about it, said an Itogon councilor in Ilocano.

Atty. Delmar Cariño, legal officer of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) and member of the RDC Regional Speakers’ Bureau on Regional Autonomy discussed the legal and historical basis of Regional Autonomy as well as the highlights of Housebill 5595 or the Act Creating a Cordillera Autonomous Region.

Cariño said there are issues affecting our people such as the Free Trade Agreement whereby a regional mechanism is wanting.  Regional Autonomy, he said, would provide that mechanism. He allayed concern of an added bureaucracy by saying this is indispensable in creating a regional government.

Cariño also encourage more discussion and advocacy on the issue especially because there is a “sea of difference” in the pronouncement of our political leaders.

On the question that Regional Autonomy, even if approved in Congress, could possibly be vetoed by the president as what happened to the Baguio Charter, Cariño explained that this could be prevented if the Cordillera people show will in establishing it.  

It is expected for the national government not to make it easy for regional autonomy because this means giving up some control, Cariño said.

Meanwhile, other recent fora on Regional Autonomy were done at the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT) in Baguio City; Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad, Benguet; and Ifugao State University (IFSU) in Nayon, Ifugao.  The NIIT forum  last February 24 was attended by 80 students; the BSU forum last March 1 was attended by 50 students and some members of the faculty; while the IFSU forum last March 8 was attended by 400 members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBAd) under the leadership of Ms. Marcelina Bahatan.