TUBA, Benguet – Concerned local officials and sectoral representatives exposed the desire of some self-styled lawmakers to allegedly railroad the passage of a pending bill seeking the establishment of the controversial Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA) without the conduct of consultations and the Free and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected ancestral domains of indigenous peoples.
Some BLISTT local officials and sectoral representatives, who opted not to be identified for fear of reprisal, questioned the failure of the Office of Baguio City Rep. Mark Go to voluntarily provide copies to the concerned government agencies, local governments and the different sectors for them to provide the necessary inputs on how to improve the contents of the proposed measure so that it will cater to the real needs of the BLISTT and not only to suit the business, political and personal interests of those who are strongly advocating for its passage.
The sources claimed that concerned government agencies, local governments and even the Regional Development Council (RDC) cannot provide the public with copies of the proposed BLISTTDA Bill which casts doubts on the real intention of the proponents on why are the sectors deprived of access to the contents of the bill which are obviously self-serving to the interests of the proponents of the measure and advocates of the bill.
Further, the alarmed BLISTT officials also questioned the authors of the bill on their failure to secure new endorsements from the concerned local governments and instead used the old endorsements to justify the re-filing of the bill in the House of Representatives and the fact that everything seems to be rushed as if the lawmakers are running out of time.
According to them, considering that there had been changes in the proposed bill, consultations must be done in every local government unit aside from the conduct of the FPIC process considering that all of the Benguet towns that had been included in the coverage of the BLISTTDA had been declared as ancestral domain areas, thus, the need to pursue the FPIC process pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
The sources challenged the proponents of the BLISTTDA Bill to be transparent about the contents of the measure that was filed by making copies of the bill available to the public for scrutiny so that whatever suggestions and recommendations will be provided to improve the same instead of being confined in the four walls of the offices of the proponents.
The sources asserted that the proposal to establish the BLISTT through a legislation has been existent over the past several decades and it is not new to them but what seems to be new is that there are provisions that had been reportedly introduced that affect the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and the powers of local governments which is in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations and the region’s quest for the establishment of the desired autonomous region.
The sources emphasized that even the Office of Rep. Go is having a difficult time providing the public with copies of the bill for study as they want to first understand its contents before coming out with their individual and collective positions on the matter.