The uniqueness of the approach
The new Cordillera agenda will move from the indirect approach towards regional autonomy through general socio-economic progress to a direct capacitation effort by developing readiness of the people and the local government units to establish a Cordillera Autonomous Region. This proceeds from a conscious individual and collective reflection on regional autonomy as well as a determined attempt to empower the regional and local government set-up even before a regional autonomous government is established.
Formalizing the discernment process. Without pre-empting the analysis of the failure of the two plebiscites, the discernment process acknowledges initial reasons forwarded on why the Organic Acts were rejected in 1990 and 1998.
The leaders and authorities who advanced the Organic Acts acknowledged the lack of material time for broad-based and intensive information campaign.
There were sectors that were threatened with the devolution of national functions to the autonomous region. This was particular during the second plebiscite when public school teachers expressed fears that the devolution of basic education to the regional government would worsen their situation particularly in the administration of their salaries. These fears set off votes against the Organic Act.
There were voters who articulated lack of faith and confidence in the capability of “imagined” future leaders to take over functions of national government in the region especially the fiscal function. There was fear, for instance, that the annual assistance from national government of P1.5 Billion for infrastructure projects in the autonomous region would only benefit politicians and their contractors.
There were sentiments from Baguio and Benguet that they would end up subsidizing the poorer LGUs.
There was disinformation and misinformation prevailing that convinced voters to reject the Organic Act such as the misconception that there shall be an increase in taxes in a regional autonomous government
In preparing the Cordillera people to face anew the regional autonomy question, the Cordillera Agenda seeks out a scientific research on the failure of the two plebiscites. Reasons for rejection must be surfaced and analyzed from which a plan of action could be formulated.
Demonstrating fiscal autonomy. The re-invented Regional Development Council, assuming the powers of the CAR bodies, intends to showcase the region’s ability for fiscal autonomy. It hopes to achieve this by invoking salient provisions of EO 220 for fiscal empowerment and finding ways for the region to raise substantial revenues that would implement its development agenda.
The re-invented RDC could assert for the re-implementation of the provision on taxes and resources under EO 220 requiring CAR to receive an equitable share of the taxes and other government revenues generated in its territorial coverage. There are varied opinions on the validity of this provision or even of EO 220 in the context of the Local Government Code. Nonetheless, the RDC could prepare its position on the matter and could rally for support from the Cordillera Congressional representatives, local government units and national and regional finance agencies.
To demonstrate fiscal autonomy, the re-invented RDC could also explore the possibility of having corporate powers so as to expand its ability to raise revenues. This could be through collection of fees and charges from the use of its resources, including infrastructure facilities in the region and through incomes of economic enterprises that the region may embark on.
Timeline As of now, the timeframe for the new Cordillera agenda for regional autonomy is indeterminate. The baseline surveys and researches to be completed at the end of 2007 shall have provided critical information that would indicate the time required to achieve the objectives of the agenda.
Prepared by the RDC Secretariat
NEDA-CAR, Botanical Garden, Leonard Wood Road
Draft as of 02 April 2007