This was the challenge posed by Senator Aquilino D.L. Pimentel III to the Cordillerans during the Culminating Program of the 2015 Cordillera Month celebration held in on 15 July 2015 in Luna, Apayao.
As keynote speaker of this year’s celebration, the Senator, whose father was the author of the Local Government Code, advised the Cordillerans to learn from and take advantage of the BBL discussions.
He noted that in 1989 and 1997, when the Cordillera Region failed to ratify the two organic acts that would have created the Cordillera Autonomous Region, only a few people were aware of the implications of regional autonomy and how it could lead to modernization and development. With the present Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) discussions, people are becoming more aware of benefits of regional autonomy. The BBL discussions also triggered public interest in the powers and limitations of the Local Government Code and the benefits of decentralization and even federalism.
Also, given the discussions and deliberations on the BBL, the future Cordillera Autonomy Law will likely be more enhanced because the Cordillerans already have the opportunity to learn from the Constitutional issues raised in the BBL.
In terms of revenue sources, the present CAR autonomy bill proposes a 1 percent share of the region from the net national internal revenue collection of the BIR, less the IRA of local government units. This is in contrast to the BBL which provides for a 4% share for the autonomous region. Given that the net national internal revenue collection for 2015 amounted to P974 billion, a 4 percent share, if applied in the Cordillera Autonomous Region will reach P3.89 billion, much bigger than the P2 billion being proposed in HB 4649.
The Senator also observed that even in the region’s share in the development, exploration and utilization of natural resources, the BBL offers more. It provides for 50% as the lowest share the regional government can get from the exploration of its fossil fuels and uranium. CAR, a mineral-rich region, only set its share at 40%.
Saying that he still has until 2019 in the Senate, Senator Koko promised continued support to the Cordillera’s pursuit of autonomy, while also encouraging the Cordillerans to “jump out of the box and think of innovative ideas to improve the Cordillera advocacy and legislation for regional autonomy”, so that “we can see the birth of the Cordillera Autonomous Region in our lifetime.”