Update reports on Regional Development and Autonomy were the main topics in the third and fourth quarter meetings of the RDC held in Kalinga and Ifugao respectively. The reports presented by RDC Acting Chair and NEDA Regional Director (RD) Juan Ngalob also gave leaders of the host provinces the opportunity to express their views on the prime regional concern.

Late implementation start

In the Kalinga meeting conducted August 15, 2008, it was reported that only about P6 M were spent from the P15 M Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved regional development and autonomy fund. The acting chair explained that aside from the late release by DBM, the slow expenditure was due to the cautious but purposive project management. “The RDC awaited first the results of the pulse survey on regional autonomy conducted from October 2007 to January 2008 which became a major reference in the succeeding activities.” he said.

Ngalob said that the RDC after it decided to make regional autonomy its over-arching goal, proceeded to reinvent itself to assume the functions of the deactivated Cordillera bodies (CEB-CRA). The RDC then lobbied for the release of P33 M autonomy fund which the DBM national office approved but split into P15 M for 2007 and P18 M for 2008.

Eighteen MOAs

In the Ifugao meeting conducted on November 18, 2008. the acting chair reported that 18 memoranda of agreement on project proposals to be funded from the 2007 and 2008 Autonomy Fund were signed between the RDC and partner agencies and LGUs. The proposals were classified under the areas of information education and communication (IEC), capacitation building; and program coordination and continuing engagement with national authorities.

RD Ngalob said that the RDC expects intensification of 2008 carryovers, expansion of coverages started in 2007-2008, and new  agenda items in 2009.

As of December 2008, about P1.475 M of the P15 M 2007 fund was not spent and was reverted back to the National Treasury. A total of P3.38 M was also spent from the P18 M 2008 fund Another P15 M was included in the National Expenditure Plan for 2009. which Congress is set to approve in early 2009.

Answers to questions

Development concerns of host provinces were regular features of RDC meetings   During the host hour,

provinces bring out local issues for discussion where the concerned agency on the issue raised was expected to respond.

Reforestation and dredging

In Kalinga, Governor Floydelia Diasen asked for updates on the DENR fund for the reforestation of the Chico Watershed and the dredging of the Chico River along the lower Tabuk and part of Pinukpuk town. These concerns, she said, were among the priorities identified in the Chico River Watershed Development Plan.

Regional Director Samuel Peñafiel of DENR reported that P5 M for reforestation was equally allotted for Kalinga and Mountain Province. He said that in the province of Kalinga a total of 150 hectares located in the towns of Tabuk, Pasil, Lubuagan. Tinglayan, and Balbalan had been targeted for reforestation through agroforestry and assisted natural regeneration. He said partner organizations within the locality are undertaking the projects.

For the dredging equipment, the RDC passed a resolution requesting the DPWH secretary to issue said equipment for DPWH Kalinga Engineering District.  As of end of December, DPWH-CAR was still following up the request at central office (CO). DPWH-CO promised to provide the equipment as soon as these are available.

During the meeting in Ifugao, Governor Teodoro Baguilat. Jr. raised several issues among which were   political boundary conflicts between and among LGUs, issues on alienable and disposable lands, and duplication/differing land survey results and data among land tenure issuing agencies (DENR, DAR, and NCIP).

These issues, according to the governor, came up during the Ifugao Land Summit on September 24-25,

2008, an activity that was funded by the RDC Special Autonomy Fund.

On boundary conflicts, the governor suggested that DILG should automatically step in. The agency’s presence alone, he said, reduces tension and makes negotiations less antagonistic.

On alienable and disposable lands. RD Ngalob suggested the fast tracking of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) because this shall have reclassified lands within it.

Governor Maximo Dalog of Ml. Province supported this and requested that the implementation of Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) particularly Section 12 be fast tracked especially because half of its 20-yearprescriptive time of implementation had already passed.

DENR, DAR and NCIP said they had been coordinating efforts especially on issues concerning land. They promised to sustain their inter-agency cooperation. (Michael Umaming)