BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera gained three new autonomy allies in the person of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., HOR Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and Committee on Local Government Chair Noel Villanueva as the region celebrated its 34th Sipat Anniversary last September 13 hosted by the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR). The three delivered their support to Cordillera autonomy through video messages shown to over a hundred physical and online attendees in the event and thousands more online. They were also joined by other national officials and autonomy partners such as Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sec. Adelino Sitoy of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, Sec. Carlito Galvez of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, and Usec. Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Sec. Esperon Jr. acknowledged the Sipat’s significance in the history of Cordillera’s peace process and its role in sowing the seeds of autonomy in the region. He committed to support the Cordillera in the protection of its land and people. Other national officials, who also joined during the RDC-CAR-led Cordillera Day Celebration last July 15, delivered similar messages of support to Cordillera’s pursuit of peace, development, and autonomy.

Two key personalities in the House of Representatives likewise expressed support to Cordillera autonomy which was one of the commitments of the Sipat between the national government and the Cordillera in 1986. Congressman Martin Romualdez recognized the Cordillera’s readiness for full transition to autonomy as he recounted how the region has taken good care of its people during the pandemic and the suitability of Cordillera’s traditions in fostering safe and peaceful communities. He gave his full support to the region’s pursuit of autonomy and offered to meet with the Cordillera Congressmen to map out the most effective option to pursue sustainable development in the region with the principle of self-determination as their guide.

House Committee on Local Government (CLG) Chair Noel Villanueva similarly expressed support to Cordillera autonomy which is an important feat considering that the new autonomy bill, filed in the Lower House as House Bill No. 5687 “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)”, is currently pending in the CLG. Congressman Villanueva acknowledged the bill’s importance in fulfilling the Constitutional mandate to provide the region freedom to decide on its own affairs and developing Cordillera’s rich culture and traditions.

Baguio City representative Congressman Mark Go concluded that “it is up to us now” to continue the fight for autonomy by exhibiting true leadership, the kind that was displayed by Cordillera martyrs such as Macli-ing Dulag.  Ifugao representative Congressman Solomon Chungalao claimed that now is the “biggest chance and opening” of the Cordillera to pursue autonomy seeing how the current administration has given the same opportunity to the Bangsamoro region.  This rings true as the region also continues to gain crucial allies backed with growing support from the Cordillera people evidenced by more than a hundred of resolutions, manifestos, and statements of support to Cordillera autonomy gathered by the RDC-CAR. This includes fifty-three (53) municipalities and all provinces in the region along with the City of Baguio and seven civil society organizations. The RDC-CAR continues to gather more resolutions from Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives and other stakeholders in the region in support of having HB 5687 scheduled in the Committee Calendar of Business of the CLG.