BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Development Council approved the revised Cordillera autonomy roadmap for 2019-2021 during the RDC 2019 planning workshop on February 8, 2019, in Baguio City. Significant gains have been achieved in the region’s autonomy advocacy in the past years, the RDC through NEDA and the Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) program is aiming to have the Cordillera Organic Act approved by 2020 and ratified through plebiscite by 2021.
RDC Vice-chair and NEDA-CAR Regional Director Milagros Rimando said that in 2019, steps will be taken to improve the Cordillera Organic Act based on the comments and suggestions gathered since it was filed as House Bill 5343 in March 2017 in the 17th Congress. A technical working group (TWG), which will be composed of lawyers and experts on the Cordillera autonomy advocacy and indigenous peoples’ rights, will be convened throughout the 1st semester of 2019 to incorporate these inputs into a draft Organic Act for the 18th Congress. The TWG will also hold consultations with different sectors of the region to ensure that the next Organic act will be inclusive for all Cordillerans.
Rimando added that a lobby group will be created to focus on raising awareness of the bill in both Houses of Congress and fast-track its approval by 2020. RDC Chair and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan urged Cordillerans to vote for leaders who would help the region in its pursuit of regional autonomy.
An RDC member called for an Election Forum where candidates can let the people know about their stand on regional concerns such as autonomy. NEDA and the RDC conducted similar forums in 2016. Plans to hold election forums sometime in March or April are underway. NEDA is also continuing its information, education, and communication (IEC) program with partner LGUs, government agencies, and civil society organizations to raise awareness and gain support for Cordillera autonomy. Recently, trainings for speaker-advocates were held in Kalinga and Ifugao.
Given the recent commitment of NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia to include Cordillera autonomy in the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), the region has gained yet another ally in its pursuit for self-determination. Together with the support of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) and the continuing grassroots information dissemination by NEDA-CAR, Cordillera Regional Line Agencies and Local Government Units, Cordillera is inching closer to self-determination and regional autonomy.
By Marlo T. Lubguban