BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE – The Cordillera Cooperative Development Authority, in coordination with NEDA-CAR, conducted a half-day forum on Cordillera autonomy to gain support from various cooperatives in the Cordillera during the Cooperative Month Celebration in Bontoc, Mountain Province on October 25.

Autonomy Advocates Paulino Tumapang and Gary Pekas discussed the background of the continued pursuit of regional autonomy in the Cordillera and its key features. Tumapang emphasized that cooperatives have been represented in the pursuit of autonomy with active leaders among cooperatives in CAR, such as Emerita Fuerte, who are also involved in drafting the proposed Cordillera Organic Law.

Tumapang shared a provision from the proposed draft bill forwarded to the CAR Congressmen which states that the ARC “shall promote and encourage the creation and organization of cooperatives as instruments of economic development, social justice, and people empowerment.

The forum also included a mock plebiscite for Cordillera autonomy. From over 200 mock voters, 71% voted yes to Cordillera autonomy, 26% remained undecided and only 3% said no. Both “undecided” and “no” voters urged for more extensive information dissemination drives to gain greater understanding and support to the movement. They also expressed hesitation due to the lack of a filed bill in Congress.

Pekas added that while the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region helped improve the situation of the region, it is only a temporary set-up and is less than what is envisioned in the 1987 Constitution. One participant asked if autonomy would lessen corruption in the region to which Pekas replied that the issue of corruption remains a concern as long as people vote corrupt officials. Tumapang and Pekas emphasized that autonomy is necessary for the Cordillera not for the ending of corruption but to correct the injustices of the past while addressing unfitting laws and policies which relegated the unique culture and geography of the region.

Further, Cordillera Autonomy was adopted by the Cordillera Regional Development Council as the overarching theme for regional development. The RDC recognizes autonomy as the best way to accelerate socio-economic development in the region. The NEDA-CAR, as the secretariat of the RDC, engages partners in both the private and government sectors to raise awareness and gain support for Cordillera Autonomy.