BAGUIO CITY – NEDA Secretary and Chief planning and development adviser for the President, Ernesto Pernia, committed to include the draft Cordillera Organic Act as one of the priority bills under the President’s Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) on February 7, 2019, during the Cordillera stakeholders’ meeting.  Secretary Pernia heads the secretariat to the LEDAC which is composed of the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, three selected members from each House of Congress, and a representative of the LGUs, the Youth Sector, and the Private Sector.

Sec. Pernia expressed that regional autonomy must be a reward for the region’s economic performance. In 2017, the region had the highest GRDP growth rate at 12.1%. The region also consistently has one of the highest GRDP per capita in the country while also having consistently low inflation rate as opposed to other regions and the national average. He added that since the region was unified under EO 220, the region improved infrastructure and economic development. Autonomy he said, is a reward for the improvement of the region under an administrative set-up.

Stakeholders thanked the secretary but also raised concern over the administration’s thrust of federalism. Sec. Pernia reiterated comments he made earlier regarding the Bayanihan Federalism draft constitution where he asserted that more data must be collected as the nation’s economy cannot support a sudden shift to federalism.

Earlier, NEDA issued a proposed 15-year plan in which transitions were set for the economy, the local government units, and the government line agencies. Included in this plan is the establishment of up to three federated states as the first to operate under a federal government. “We cannot just have federalism immediately, it is a long transition process”, said Pernia.  Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion Navarro added that it is right to pursue autonomy first towards federalism because of the significantly increased spending that federalism entails and the lack of data on how the regions can exist as federal states.

Additionally, NEDA has funded an on-going study on the Fiscal Viability of an Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. NEDA has supported the autonomy advocacy by providing funds for the Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) program since the Cordillera Regional Development Council adopted autonomy as the central theme to fast track regional development. NEDA is the chair of the LEDAC secretariat and continues to help the region in its aspirations to fast-track development in the region through self-determination and sustainable development.