In a virtual meeting on March 18, Congressmen Mark Go of Baguio City and Maximo Dalog, Jr. of Mountain Province convened the House of Representatives Committee on Local Government technical working group (TWG) on the proposed bills establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. The CAR Congressmen invited officials, resource persons and legal experts from the central offices of DILG, DOF, CSC and the Cordillera region
Congressmen Go and Dalog, who co-Chair the TWG, set out to review the provisions of House Bills 5687 and 7778 to eventually come up with a substitute bill as proposed by Congressman Go last November 26, 2020 in the Committee on Local Government deliberation on the proposed bills. The TWG gathered positions and recommendations of the different national government agencies for the improvement of the proposed bills. Further, NEDA-CAR provided the group with position papers from Cordillera line agencies and local government units as well as the questions, comments and recommendations gathered during the NEDA-CAR-led information, education and communication (IEC) activities since 2017.
This is the first meeting of the TWG since Congressman Noel Villanueva, who chairs the Committee on Local Government, called for its formation to review the proposed bills in relation to other existing laws. “We cannot approve this very important piece of legislation in a single sitting”, said Congressman Villanueva in a CLG hearing of the proposed bills last November 26. “We must comply with existing laws, otherwise, our efforts may go for naught”, he added. More meetings are expected within this year as Congress races to provide an Organic Act that is acceptable to the people of the Cordillera and will be ratified through a plebiscite.
Based on the roadmap of the Cordillera Regional Development Council for achieving Cordillera Autonomy in the 18th Congress adopted in February 2019, progress is on track despite some challenges. The roadmap achieved its goal of filing a bill by 2019. However, due to the global pandemic, the goal of having an Organic Act passed in Congress by 2020 was delayed. An Organic Act inches closer in 2021 to passing in Congress, just in time before the 2022 national elections.
By Marlo Lubguban, NEDA-SPCAR