BAGUIO CITY – NEDA-CAR oriented graduating students of BS Forestry from Benguet State University (BSU) on February 1, 2019, about the role of agriculture and forestry in the Regional Development Plan 2017-2022 and the nation’s AmBisyon Natin 2040. Conrado Bao-idang, dean of the College of Forestry delivered the opening remarks.

NEDA-CAR through Economic Development Specialist Belinda Lucas briefed the students on its mandate as the lead coordinating agency for regional development. Among its advocacies is the fulfillment of AmBisyon Natin 2040, a national vision to be achieved by the year 2040. In summary, NEDA aims to achieve a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life for Filipinos by 2040 based on a nationally-conducted survey. Central to the fulfillment of AmBisyon Natin 2040 in the Cordillera region is the achievement of regional autonomy.  NEDA-CAR attributes the slow development in the region to several national laws and policies that did not consider the region’s unique history, culture, and geography relative to the rest of the Philippines.

One of the laws that widely affected the region is Presidential Decree 705 which declared lands with slopes above 18% as forest land and state property. This did not take into consideration the insights of indigenous peoples and communities who have settled on, developed, and cultivated lands with slopes well over 18% in the Cordillera for generations. The implications of PD 705 are widespread, affecting forest management and land development for housing, commercial areas, and agriculture.

Senior Economic Development Specialist Freda Toyoken said that it will be difficult for the region to achieve AmBisyon 2040 without amending laws prejudicial to the development of the region.  Regional autonomy is seen as the best way to fast track development in the region. The students saw the value of pursuing autonomy as a way to not only fast-track development but also ensuring that indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSPs) will be preserved and applied to also ensure sustainable development in the region.