BAGUIO CITY – Two separate fora were conducted by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) and Integrated Bar of the Philippines–Baguio Chapter, in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency-CAR (PIA-CAR), on April 12 and 13 respectively, where congressional and mayoralty candidates of the City of Baguio recognized the implications of the pursuit of autonomy in both the national and local contexts. Cordillera autonomy was among the questions asked in both fora to gauge the candidates’ platforms and advocacies.
Former representative Nicasio Aliping expressed that the establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region is part of his legislative priorities if elected. In his time as the representative in Congress, he filed, as principal author, House Bill 4649 or “An Act Establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region” in the 16th Congress. He managed to gain the support of the six other representatives of the Cordillera provinces and conduct consultations in the seven Congressional districts of the Cordillera.
Candidate Rafael Wasan’s platform is almost entirely centered around the passing of the legislation for Cordillera autonomy. He later added that his advocacy for Cordillera autonomy is a way to keep Cordillera intact in a federal form of government. According to Wasan, he advocated for regional autonomy as far back as 1981.
Former City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista, re-electionist Mark Go and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan did not mention Cordillera autonomy as part of their legislative agenda but have, nonetheless, shared their past work in helping achieve Cordillera autonomy. Bautista, when asked about him and his family’s efforts to increase awareness of Cordillera autonomy, explained that it is important for more educators and technical experts to raise awareness of the advocacy rather than politicians.
Go was one of the six Cordillera representatives and principal authors who filed House Bill 5343 or “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)” in the 17th Congress. He spoke in favor of Cordillera autonomy multiple times and helped conduct a public consultation for the bill among Baguio and Benguet stakeholders.
For his part, incumbent Mayor Domogan had spoken in support of and helped explain the various bills establishing Cordillera autonomy since the RDC renewed its pursuit of Cordillera autonomy as the central theme of regional development in 2006.
Additionally, the Office of the Baguio City Government shared that City Councilor and Vice-Mayoral Candidate Elmer Datuin expressed his support for the autonomy advocacy as “a way to complete the government’s peace initiatives in the north”. When asked to choose between federalism or autonomy, Mayoral candidate Jose Molintas answered Cordillera autonomy provides more economic opportunities to the Cordillerans. He said that Cordillera autonomy will ensure the taxation of corporations who operate in the region regardless of the location of their headquarters. His comments are consistent with a repeated clamor of the Regional Development Council to collect taxes from corporations who have benefitted from resources of the region but have paid their income taxes outside the Cordillera.
The Regional Development Council and NEDA—CAR continue to raise awareness of Cordillera autonomy during the election season throughout the region. Similar questions and concerns will be raised in subsequent forums in other provinces of the region as the election campaign period continues.
By Marlo T. Lubguban