CAR’s requisites for socio-economic development. At the core of CAR’s sustainable development strategy is the promotion, protection and preservation of its rich and diverse indigenous history, culture, knowledge, traditions and practices. CAR will promote, protect and enhance the region’s unique cultural heritage while pursuing development, and will integrate indigenous knowledge, systems and practices to enrich the development of the region. The Cordillera will show that indigenous culture and tradition can enhance socio-economic development, that in fact economic development can benefit from indigenous culture and tradition.

CAR will also need to interconnect major development areas through an efficient transportation and communication network. It will need to address the issue of lessening the cost of doing business in the region to attract new investments and improve the delivery of basic social and economic services. CAR will therefore need to be physically integrated as a region to improve access and mobility.

With CAR still having the poorest national road system in the country, key to the region’s physical integration is the completion of the regional trunkline that will link together all Cordillera provinces comprising five major road components, and several major road laterals that will link CAR with neighboring Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions to increase inter-regional trade and also strategically link major growth areas within CAR to increase inter-provincial trade.

The region’s economic growth strategy must result to better quality of life and total human development of all Cordillerans. But conscious that the benefits of economic growth will not be equally spread and shared by all, CAR will need to address the most basic social needs of the most vulnerable sectors of Cordillera society especially the poorest of the poor.

Regional autonomy as the most solid foundation towards enabling CAR to pursue its sustainable development agenda

The Cordilleras’ past history of exploitation, marginalization and neglect led to calls in the early ‘70s for the right of indigenous peoples to protect their homeland and their right to self-determination. With patience and persistence, such calls culminated in the inclusion of Article 10, sections 15-21 in the 1987 Constitution enshrining these rights and specifically providing for the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordillera. On July 15, 1987, then President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law Executive Order 220 creating the Cordillera Administrative Region as a transition and preparatory set-up for an autonomous region in the Cordillera.

Twenty-two years on and with already two failed plebiscites, this Constitutional provision remains to be realized. And 22 years on, the Cordillera Region remains on the sidelines under a national government operating within a framework where the population criteria is given the biggest premium in regional budget allocation and where national development priorities also dictate regional thrusts and priorities. CAR, being the least populated region in the country, continues to lose out lagging behind the rest of the North Luzon regions.

Autonomy will provide the Cordillera Region greater flexibility in deciding and implementing programs and projects and in allocating resources slanted towards regional thrusts and priorities thus hastening socio-economic development. Regional autonomy will provide CAR the most solid foundation to pursue a development path that is in keeping with the Cordillera peoples rights, history, culture and tradition. This goes with it the region’s long-time advocacy for the formulation of separate planning standards for highland regions dominantly inhabited by indigenous peoples to respond to the higher cost of delivering basic economic and social services.

CAR will continue with its social preparation activities towards regional autonomy currently being funded by the national government through a Special Autonomy Fund granted to it starting in 2007. In order not to allow a third time rejection of any future organic act, CAR through its Agenda on Regional Development and Autonomy will pursue intensive and extensive information, education and communication activities on regional autonomy as the most viable option towards hastening CAR socio-economic development. It will also continue phasing-in regional and local government functionaries in gradually assuming roles and responsibilities to be devolved to a future autonomous regional government. Until the creation of an autonomous region, CAR will continue to seek national government support for these social preparation activities.