BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera officials expressed their sincerest gratitude to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for certifying without any condition House Bill (HB) 5343 that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera as urgent administration measure to allow the region to achieve the elusive autonomous status before federalism will be established.
Congressmen, governors, vice governors, city and municipal mayors, civil society representatives and members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration–Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) applauded the pronouncement of President Duterte in Last Tuesday’s meeting with them that he will certify HB 5343 side by side with the proposed enhanced Bangsamoro autonomous region which will still be submitted to Congress.
The leaders also expressed their gratitude to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza for having championed the region’s renewed quest for autonomy and painstakingly worked out the meeting of Cordillera leaders with the President.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan appreciated the gesture of the President for extending his time to be with the Cordillera leaders just to signify his full support to the region’s renewed quest for regional autonomy after the regional issue was sidelined during the previous administration.
Domogan added the President’s support to autonomy will serve as an inspiration for the leaders and the people to make autonomy work in the region once the law will be enacted and submitted to the people for ratification in a plebiscite.
Rep. Mark Go underscored that the autonomy that should be given to the region should be an instrument of development to improve the status of other local governments units that will comprise the autonomous region.
He claimed as a non-Cordilleran who embraced the Cordillera as his permanent home, the richness of the culture and heritage of the people must be preserved and protected for it to be passed on to the present and future generations, thus, autonomy will be the way to do it.
Kalinga Rep. and Mountain Province caretaker Allen Jesse Mangaoang said the President’s certification of HB 5343 as an urgent priority administration measure will definitely ease the burden from them in working out the passage of the autonomy law but they will still work double time with their fellow Congress representatives to make sure that it will be passed in the House of Representatives the soonest to avoid being overtaken by events.
Mangaoang said the ball will now be in the hands of the people whether or not to ratify the autonomy law once enacted that is why Cordillerans have to do their individual and collective efforts to achieve autonomy for the benefit of the present and future generations.
Kalinga Acting Gov. James Edubba explained the certification of the proposed bill as urgent will allow the region to realise autonomy and the 30 years of preparation will surely be enough to make the region autonomous.
According to Edubba, there is already light at the end of the tunnel that is why the decision is now left to the people to ratify the Organic Act that will be enacted.
Benguet Gov. Crescencio Pacalso claimed for the past 30 years that the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) had existed, local officials and the people have adjusted to a situation where they have become comfortable with each other, thus, it is high time for the region to become autonomous following the all-out support of the present administration on the quest for self-governance.
Pacalso said Cordillerans should not allow the established relationship among the provinces to be again divided, thus, it is best for the people to grab the opportunity given to them to become autonomous.
Ifugao Gov. Pedro Mayam-o said his province is just waiting for the enactment of the autonomy law and they will also be waiting for other provinces to ratify the autonomy law so that the long overdue autonomous region in the Cordillera will be realised.
On his part, Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. said the President’s expressed support to autonomy will serve as a motivation for advocates to strive to inform and educate the people so that they will vote in favour of the autonomy law once it will be submitted to the Cordillerans for ratification.
Abra Vice Gov. and unified Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) chairman Ronald Balao-as pointed out there is a need for the aggressive information and education campaign to provide the people with the knowledge on the advantages of autonomy which should have been the fruit of the armed struggle of the group, thus achieving an autonomous region in the Cordillera will help in uplift the lives of the people and guarantee development in the countryside.
Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos requested the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera to adopt a strategy on how to convince the lowlanders in his province to vote for autonomy considering that Abra is dominated by the lowlanders.
Apayao Vice Gov. Remy Albano claimed his province mates are ready to support the autonomy law that will be enacted because it will propel development in their province which has still vast tracks of lands that could be offered to interested investors.