Regional Identity – Autonomy advocate Gary Pekas of the Mountain Province LGU engages with the campus journalists from various higher education institutions in the region during the 20th Regional Higher Education Press Conference.

BAGUIO CITY – CHED coordinated with NEDA-CAR to bring the message of Cordillera autonomy to higher education institution campus journalists during the 20th Regional Higher Education Press Conference in Baguio last November 29 and 30. Autonomy advocate Gary Pekas of Mountain Province with NEDA-CAR provided information on the basic concepts of autonomy, its history, and highlights of the renewed pursuit of Cordillera as detailed in the proposed Organic Act (HB 5343) establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.

History

Pekas discussed that indigenous Cordillerans, along with other indigenous peoples in the Philippines, are the best representation of the Philippines before colonialism. “Look at depiction of Lapu-lapu and you’ll see similar articles of clothing and accessories: bahag, bolo; we come from the same roots”, he added.

He added that Cordilleran sense of self-determination was simply a matter of survival. He referred to various development programs in the 20th century that disenfranchised many Cordillerans and highlighted the Chico river dam project as the breaking point.

Cordilleran autonomy is based upon on the historical and cultural differences built over centuries of colonialism and the subsequent inappropriate laws and policies that failed to take account of these differences.

Challenge

Pekas challenged the campus journalists to raise awareness of Cordillera autonomy. He emphasized that Cordillera autonomy is granted to us by the citizens of the Republic of the Philippines since the Constitution was ratified by the people including the mandate for autonomy.

The Regional Development Council with NEDA-CAR as its technical secretariat has adopted Cordillera autonomy as the overarching theme of regional development. Aligned with the national government’s plans for Federalism, which provides more autonomy to regions of the country, the region and its leaders have agreed to pursue Cordillera autonomy first towards federalism. This will ensure that the region will secure an enhanced identity and be able to craft more responsive policies that will bring progress to all.