In preparation for the filing of the Cordillera Organic Act in the 18th Congress of the Philippines, the Cordillera office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR), through the Social Preparation for CAR into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) program, conducted numerous information, education and communication (IEC) events at different levels to further the support to the Cordillera autonomy advocacy during the 2nd Quarter of 2019.
Along with continuing IEC activities, the Cordillera Regional Development Council through NEDA-CAR convened Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) Organic Law Drafting Committee. The ARC Organic Law Drafting Committee is composed of both public and private sector experts on law, indigenous peoples’ rights, environmental management, government finance, peace and order, education, social development, and other related fields. This committee was tasked to review House Bill 5343 or the “Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera” filed in the 17th Congress. The comments and suggested amendments made during the workshop on May 22-24 will be submitted as a proposal to the 18th Congress through the 7 representatives from Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The members of the drafting committee ensured the comments and suggestions gathered from various for a, such as the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples’ Legislative Assembly and the provincial consultations in Baguio-Benguet and Mountain Province in coordination with CAR representatives, all conducted in 2018, are included in the amended bill.
Recently, the NEDA central office funded the study on the fiscal viability of an autonomous Cordillera under its research and development fund. The team hired for the study has been working closely with NEDA-CAR and various line agencies like Department of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Local Government Finance, and Bureau of Internal Revenue, among others, to project the financial outlook of the region in the upcoming years with and without regional autonomy. The study is expected to be concluded and presented in August 2019.
During the election campaign period, NEDA-CAR partnered with the Philippine Information Agency and local Cordillera media outlets to include the Cordillera autonomy movement as one of the topics during the interviews and fora with the national and local candidates. This strategy aimed to maintain awareness on the Cordillera autonomy advocacy as well as provide a venue for candidates to voice their opinions on the Constitutional mandate to achieve autonomy in the Cordillera along with Muslim Mindanao.
The RDC-CAR continues to implement the IEC activities with partners such as the University of Baguio, the Cordillera offices of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED-CAR). Raising awareness through information dissemination remains the top priority of the SPCAR program.
Banhner Illustration by Don Ray Ramos