(Left) Mr. Gary Pekas discussing the history of the Cordillera and struggle for autonomy during the Youth Forum on Cordillera Autonomy.

Baguio City – The Regional Development Council (RDC – CAR) in partnership with the Provincial Local Government Unit of Benguet (PLGU – Benguet) conducted a Youth Forum on Cordillera Autonomy last August 22, 2018 at the Ben Palispis Hall, La Trinidad, Benguet. The forum aimed to increase the awareness among the youth and further engage them in the autonomy advocacy.

Governor Cresencio Pacalso welcomed the 250 participants from different municipalities of Benguet and gave a brief overview on the Cordillera struggle for autonomy. He emphasized that autonomy defines more of our culture, customs and traditions in the Cordillera. Board Member Robert Namorro also inspired the youth by saying that autonomy is for the youth and for their future.

Mr. Gary Pekas, member of the Autonomy IEC Speakers’ Bureau, elaborated the history of the Cordillera and the struggle for autonomy while Mr. Mike Umaming presented the three core messages of Cordillera Autonomy which are enhanced Cordillera identity, responsive policies for the Cordillera, and progress for all. Lastly, Mr. Vladimir Cayabas explained the salient features of Cordillera Regional Autonomy, and the youth in HB 5343. Clearly, the HB 5343 gives protection and empowerment of Cordillera youth (Section 19 and 144), more schools and better educational facilities and opportunities (Section 101, 33, 104, 127, 122 and 124), culturally sensitive education (Section 121 and 126), more hospitals and better health care services (Section 101, 32 and 137), and more employment opportunities because of implementation of development projects (Section 32, 36, 38, 39, 40, 88, 101, and 168). In terms of employment, Section 31 of the HB 5343 gives priority to qualified Cordillerans.

A mock plebiscite was also conducted wherein, 87.5% of the participants voted for Yes, 2.78% voted for No, and 9.72% are still undecided.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA – CAR) as the secretariat of the Regional Development Council will continue to conduct IECs for the youth as they are identified as one of the priority sectors based on the SPCAR ComPlan 2018-2019. Similar activities will also be conducted in the grassroots. (gigi g. estacio, NEDA-SPCAR)