Manila Bulletin, Sunday, February 3 2008

BAGUIO CITY — The many aspects of autonomy are making it difficult for the people in the Cordillera to grasp the importance of self-governance which could be instrumental in speeding up the development of the region.

This was the observation made by Presidential Assistant for Cordillera affairs Tom Killip, who cited the need to continue the discussion on the concept of autonomy until the people realize that self-governance is far better than the present setup.

He said it is unfortunate that autonomy is being projected by some sectors as disadvantageous to the region, noting that these groups focus their attention only on the political aspect, and not autonomy in its whole context.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) of the Cordillera has adopted a program for the renewed pursuit of autonomy with its immediate aim of determining the voters’ pulse in a third attempt at self-governance.

Even without an autonomy law, Killip said, that there are practices and exercises being observed by the indigenous communities which are considered self-governance, and these are far more advantageous than the policies adopted by the national government on settling conflicts, maintaining peace and order, enhancing indigenous knowledge and skills, among others.

The Malacanang official likened the attainment of autonomous status of the region to the hatching of an egg, which requires a certain degree of heat before it becomes a chick and grow to a beautiful rooster.

In the autonomy debates, Killip said that people must continuing the objective discussion of the issue until that they are capable of making a knowledge-based, informed choice so that they would not base their decision on gossips or rumors.

He said that in an autonomous setup, the region is in a better position to receive a fair share from the development and exploitation of its resources by the multinational.

The present setup does not allow this to happen because the benefits that the region has been deriving from the utilization of its rich natural resources come only in trickles.

As a result, many areas in the region are lagging behind in development.

Juan Ngalob, interim chairman of the RDC and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in the Cordillera, said that the region could initially opt for limited or selected autonomy through which it could attain self-governance in some fields of operations.

Later, it could expand its coverage if the region is able to demonstrate its ability to handle a wider area.

Killip emphasized that the struggle for autonomy must go on, and it should tap the support of people who are knowledgeable and determined to push the issue. This would ensure that the third attempt at self-governance is not bungled, he said.