BAGUIO CITY – “The [Cordillera] region as a whole has yet to hurdle its first major challenge as called for by the 1987 Constitution”. This is according to Department of Agriculture Secretary and Cabinet Officer on Regional Development & Security for the Cordillera, William Dar during the joint Regional Development Council and Regional Peace & Order Council (RDC-RPOC) 4th Quarter meeting on November 29. “Regional autonomy must remain as an aspiration of the people and not just some program of the government”, he added.
The Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR), chaired by Abra Governor Joy Bernos, renewed its support for the pursuit of regional autonomy towards federalism with a resolution “Requesting the President’s Support to the Pursuit of Cordillera Autonomy Towards Federalism”. Recognizing the willingness of advocates to formally assist in the pursuit, the councils also passed the resolution “Organizing the Cordillera Autonomy Advocates Group”. According to RPOC Chairman and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the RPOC also prepared its own resolution supporting the pursuit of Cordillera autonomy.
Mountain Province Congressman Maximo Dalog, Jr. said the Cordillera Congressmen agree in pursuing regional autonomy but they also want to ensure the economic stability of the Cordillera once it is autonomous. “The block grant that we are including, similar to the BOL, must be used for revenue-generating projects for sustainability of the autonomous region”, he said.
Furthermore, Secretary Dar recognized that Executive Order 220, which created the Cordillera Administrative Region and prepare the Cordillera for autonomous governance, is an “agreeable response by the government and the nation as a whole to the clamor for autonomy in the Cordillera”. He added that “as an administrative region, the Cordillera still struggles with underdevelopment, poverty, inaccessibility, the devastation of its natural resource base, and insurgency which were at the center of the call for autonomy several decades ago”.
The proposed Cordillera Organic Act was filed on December 2, 2019 as House Bill no. 5687 in the House of Representatives. It is authored by all the 7 of the Cordillera region’s Congressmen. According to the bill’s explanatory note, “it is through [the region’s] progress and growth as an autonomous political entity that the Cordillerans can tap its potentials and contribute to national success.” Additionally, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier pledged a counterpart bill in the Senate once the Lower House version was filed.
The RDC-CAR through its secretariat, NEDA-CAR, has renewed the pursuit for regional autonomy in 2006 following the two failed plebiscites of 1990 and 1998 and the deactivation of the Cordillera Executive Board and Cordillera Regional Assembly in 2000.