BAGUIO CITY – At the close of the Indigenous Peoples’ Legislative Assembly for Cordillera Autonomy (IPLA-CAR) last December 8, OPAPP Asec. Rolando B. Asuncion and OPAPP Indigenous Peoples’ Peace Panel (OPAPP-IPPP) Chair Atty. Reuben D. Lingating stressed the continuing commitment of the OPAPP. Similar to the OPAPP-IPPP-initiated consultations in ARMM with respect to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the 3-day event was a consultation among IPs to provide inputs to HB 5343. The activity was organized by OPAPP, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the United National Development Programme (UNDP) in coordination with NEDA-CAR.

Former NCIP Chief and IPPP Chair Lingating emphasized that more work needs to be done as the delegates handed over proposed amendments to Baguio City Representative and member of the House of Representatives Technical Working Group for HB 5343. Lingating committed the support of IPPP to the advocacy. He added that the panel will continue to work with the Cordillerans just as they have done with the IPs of the Bangsamoro.

Assistant Secretary Asuncion shared the influence of the life of Macli-ing Dulag in his early career as an NGO worker. He agreed that indeed, the land and its people are inseparable. He added that the aspirations of the Cordillerans are beyond development or self-gain but for self-determination and that the pursuit will continue until autonomy is attained.

Sec. Jesus G. Dureza, former Secretary of OPAPP, in a video, also committed to support the advocacy despite his resignation from OPAPP. “Don’t think that I have abandoned [the Cordillera]. I will continue advocating for Cordillera autonomy… even in the halls of Congress and the halls of Malacañang” he said.

Sec. Dureza was instrumental in the success of a number of major events on the advocacy. The meeting of Cordillera leaders with President Duterte on July 19, 2017 and the Congressional forum on Cordillera autonomy and Federalism last January 17 which resulted in Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri filing the Senate counterpart of HB 5343.

OPAPP and NEDA-CAR have worked closely to advocate for Cordillera autonomy at the national level since the filing of HB 5343. The Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) through NEDA-CAR continues to advocate for autonomy towards federalism to achieve sustainable development and just and lasting peace in the region.