Cotabato City: “Pursue Cordillera Regional Autonomy but do not look up to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as your model because ARMM is not truly autonomous. Your inspiration should come from the principles of Regional Autonomy which means managing your own affairs, according to your own particularities.”

Atty. Anwar Malang, executive secretary of ARMM, explained that regional autonomy is basically fiscal autonomy but ARMM is still dependent to the national government for budget. He said that ARMM does not have full control over the region’s natural resources and its local government units are still governed by the Local Government Code.“ In fact, with the ARMM, the national government has a convenient scapegoat on what is wrong with Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

Speaking in a forum with a team of NEDA-CAR employees that visited this city last March 6, 2013 to learn from the autonomy experiences of the Muslim region, Malang advised CAR to make sure that its Organic Act should be what the people want – not what the congressmen and senators want.

On the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, Malang expressed his support to it and urged Cordillera to support it as well.

The agreement, forged by the Government of Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was brokered by Malaysia. It is a new autonomous political entity that will replace the ARMM but will first pass through Congress and then presented to the people for a plebiscite.

“The agreement, at least, is very clear on power and wealth sharing with the national government,” he said.

Malang hopes the Framework Agreement will inspire other regions to seek their own autonomy saying pride of ones ethnicity and the desire for a better share of the regional resources is enough bases.

“I apologize to NEDA being the government’s planning agency, but I think the country is a failure in planning – “masyado tayong centralized kaya nauuna palagi ang Metro-Manila,” he said.

By Michael Umaming/NEDA-CAR