BAGUIO CITY – The Baguio-Benguet Chapter of Pilipina Inc., a civil society organization, gathered women leaders to be oriented on the ongoing pursuit of Cordillera autonomy. Regional Development Council Private Sector Representative Edna Tabanda of Pilipina Inc. organized the December 18 event together with NEDA-CAR.
Tabanda said that more women should be involved in the advocacy to provide a different perspective and expand its reach to more diverse sectors of Cordilleran society. Autonomy advocate Atty. Tomas Kiwang said that in many Cordillera communities, women are regarded as culture bearers who ensure that traditions and ways of life are passed on to the next generation.
Kiwang presented the basic concepts and core principles of Cordillera autonomy, where he emphasized that autonomy is the opportunity afforded to Cordillerans and the Bangsamoro to determine their own development path. He stressed that such opportunity must be grabbed especially with the increasing local and national support.
After the discussion on Cordillera autonomy, the participants unanimously voted in favor of establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. Participants expressed their eagerness to support the autonomy advocacy and wondered about barriers to regional autonomy. Kiwang clarified that past attempts at establishing Cordillera autonomy were marred by a lack of information dissemination due to misinformation and a lack of time for proper dissemination in the grassroots. As a member of several drafting bodies who contributed to the current iteration of the Cordillera Organic Act, he called on the participants to do their own part in spreading awareness and sharing the benefits of Cordillera autonomy. His call was affirmed by Tabanda who appealed to the participants to contribute in their own way to the information education campaign.
Currently, there are three bills filed in Congress establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera, Senate Bill 1232 filed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Bill 5687 filed by all CAR Congressmen, and House Bill 7778 filed by Benguet Caretaker Congressman Eric Yap. With increasing support for Cordillera autonomy legislation, having a pool of advocates ready for information dissemination is crucial for attaining the ‘yes’ vote during the plebiscite.