Towards inducing responsive policies in the Cordillera with regional autonomy, the Regional Development Council (RDC) – CAR in partnership with the University of the Philippines – Baguio Cordillera Studies Center (UPB – CSC) formulated the Declaration of Principles on Environmental Governance (DPEG) for CAR containing policies and guidelines for sustainable resource management in the region.

The document was crafted after a series of provincial and regional consultations to gather inputs from all stakeholders.

The DPEG has identified upland agriculture, water resources, urban growth, tourism and mining as the priority sectors of sustainable resource management.

Underlying the endeavor in crafting the DPEG, budget constraints inherent in the inability of the region to adopt modern technologies and its weak enforcement of environmental policies by institutions have been some presupposed determinants of undermined environmental governance. Hence, it endorses its four principles on environmental governance: 1) Strong institutions for environmental governance, 2) Planning processes that are sensitive to local conditions in the Cordillera and that conform to sound management practices, 3) Quality and meaningful citizen participation, and 4) Rights-based environmental governance.

In its further design, the DPEG recommends the implementation of policies and laws which support payment for environmental services, alongside the use of economic instruments such as subsidies, taxes, and fines to contain the excessive resource extraction in the management of the region’s natural resources. Furthermore, it advocates the revival and adoption of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) in environmental management.

It appeals for policy-makers and stakeholders to continue the debate on Cordillera regional autonomy since most of its provisions are grounded on enforcing policies and guidelines that are adaptive to the unique features of the Cordillera which are constrained by national policies and laws prejudicial to the region.

In its final note, the DPEG advocates the decentralization of natural resources management, such as through regional autonomy to grant the Cordillera stakeholders and policy-makers greater local ownership and control over the utilization of the region’s natural resources.

by Mark Allen Ponciano, SPCAR