TABUK CITY – The NEDA-CAR concluded IP month through an information dissemination forum with Kalinga Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs) and Bodong holders on October 30. The Provincial Government initiated the event in coordination with NCIP-Kalinga and NEDA-CAR by gathering local elders of Kalinga and soliciting support for Cordillera autonomy.

Kalinga Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang intends to file the autonomy bill along with the other Congressmen as soon as possible. He said that the fiscal autonomy provisions would determine the sustainability of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera after subsidies from the national government shall have ended. Subsequently, Mangaoang and other Congressmen are working on amending the fiscal provisions to better prepare the region to generate its own income.

The issue of fiscal sustainability has been a repeated concern during discussions about Cordillera autonomy in the past since the majority of the Local Government Units in the Cordillera are generating low revenue and remain dependent on Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to fund development projects and programs.

Mangaoang, who also chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples, emphasized the importance of correcting the injustices of the past and move towards the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in national development. “Some of our fellow IPs here in the Philippines remain isolated and marginalized”, he said. Mangaoang committed to champion programs and policies that would advance from the plight of Indigenous Peoples toward “becoming equal members of Philippine Society”. He pressed the need to have indigenous cultures and traditions, like the Bodong that has been passed down for generations, to be continually practiced and improved by the next generations.

One elder recalled the early struggle against the Chico River Dam project in the 60s and 70s when Macli-ing Dulag would gather village leaders to discuss the threat to their livelihood and ancestral domain. Elders agreed that many were radicalized and ended up joining the New People’s Army then simply because they saw it as their only way to protest against development aggression and assert their right to self-determination.

Another elder expressed that the reason Cordillera took up arms was not because of a so-called “class struggle” propagated by the communist party but because of a shared sense of self-determination through traditions such as the Bodong and Pechen conflict resolution systems. He declared: “Dayta Bodong, awan ti class struggle’, nu babaknang man, kakapus man, napilay man wenno napigsa, pare-parehas na bigbigen ti Bodong. ‘Isu dayta ti linteg mi ditoy Cordillera’, kuna mi ittoy CPP-NPA nga taga-patag (In the Bodong, there is no ‘class struggle’, whether you are rich or poor, weak or strong, you are all acknowledged in the Bodong. ‘This is our law in the Cordillera’, that is what we said to the CPP-NPA from the lowlands).”

Provincial IPMR for Kalinga Mike Sugguiyao, who conceptualized the activity, said that although it was painful and difficult to narrate and share the struggles of the past, it was important to do so as this opened up a venue to discuss the Cordillera and its people. The split of the Cordilleran faction led by Father Conrado Balweg from the NPA paved the way for the Philippine Government to offer a framework towards self-determination and inclusive development.

The event with the Kalinga IPMRs is one of several Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities conducted by NEDA-CAR during the Indigenous Peoples’ Month. Over 1500 individuals were reached through various events and coordination with other agencies and civil society organizations.