BAGUIO CITY – The members of the drafting committee for the Organic Law establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) held their first meeting on April 26 in Baguio City. The meeting aimed to finalize the strategy in drafting the new organic autonomy law, the committee membership, and its schedule in relation to the Regional Development Council (RDC) roadmap to achieve Cordillera autonomy by 2021. A consensus was reached to finalize the first draft in a workshop with more resource persons on May 22-24, after the elections. The members further agreed to conduct consultations on their first draft in order to ensure all sectors are represented.

The drafting committee is divided into 7 clusters, namely: (1) Relationship Between National Government and Regional Government, (2) Political Structure of Regional Government, (3) Justice Systems, Customary Law, and Peace & Order, (4) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, (5) Finance, Business and Economy, (6) Culture, Education, Social Services, Science & Technology and Religion, and (7) Environment & Natural Resources. NEDA-CAR and the drafting committee agreed to bring in and consult with subject matter experts during the May 22-24 workshop to ensure that all clusters are represented and the relevant and necessary provisions will be included in the draft bill.

The members will also refer to the history of the past bills and laws establishing the ARC as well as other relevant laws like the Bangsamoro Organic Law, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, and Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code, among others.

Committee Chair Philip Tinggonong emphasized that the region is consistent with the current administration’s advocacy of establishing a federal form of national government. The pursuit of autonomy first towards federalism will continue to ensure that the Cordillera remains intact regardless of the form of federal government the current administration decides to follow. Thus, the Bayanihan Federal Constitution and Resolution of Both Houses no. 15 (RBH 15) amending the 1987 Constitution will also so be considered in drafting the Cordillera organic law. Each cluster will, likewise, examine these when drafting their respective provisions during the workshop.

Consultations will then be held to gather inputs on the draft bill to be finalized for RDC endorsement to the newly-elected Cordillera representatives to the 18th Congress by July.

The committee is co-chaired by Atty. Tomas Kiwang of Mountain Province with Emerita Fuerte of Baguio City as Vice-Chair. Other members include representatives of regional line agencies, indigenous peoples’ rights groups, civil society organizations, and the academe from the Cordillera provinces and cities.