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BAGUIO CITY – The deliberations on the two proposed autonomy bills in the Cordillera started to gain headway in the lower chamber of Congress after the House of Representatives committee on local government created a technical working group (TWG) to study the substantial legal basis for the passage of the measures in relation to Republic Act (RA) 6658 or the law that created the Cordillera Regional Consultative Council (CRCC) that drafted the region’s first Organic Act.
The decision to create the TWG was initiated by House Committee on Local Government chairman Tarlac 3rd District Rep. Noel Villanueva during Thursday’s initial hearing that was conducted by the House body on House Bills 5687 authored by all the Cordillera congressmen and House Bill 7778 authored by Benguet Caretaker Congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap that seek to establish the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC).
Milagros A. Rimando, regional director of the Cordillera office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) and vice chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR), disclosed that Villanueva appointed Baguio city Rep. Mark Go to chair the TWG and Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, Jr. to service as the vice chairman aside from authorizing them to select the members of the group who will work on the aforesaid issue to allow the proposed autonomy bills to be passed during the 18 Congress.
While Cordillera lawmakers pushed for the immediate passage of the proposed autonomy bills because of the time constraints, the Tarlac lawmaker wanted to make sure of the substantial legal basis for its immediate enactment vis-à-vis the CRCC law to ensure that there will be no necessary legal obstacles that will affect the region’s quest for self-governance.
Director Rimando stated that the recent development in the House is a giant step in numerous attempts by Cordillera lawmakers and autonomy advocates to have the proposed autonomy bills advance in Congress for the realization of the long overdue aspirations of the cordillera people for self-determination.
According to her, Congressman Villanueva assured Cordillera lawmakers and autonomy advocates that the House Committee will work for the immediate passage of the proposed autonomy bills in the 18th Congress so that the region will be able to achieve its struggle for self-rule after all the issues and concerns shall have been addressed by legal experts to prevent unnecessary delays once the law will be passed.
The NEDA-CAR official expressed optimism that the pending autonomy bills could be immediately acted upon by the committee after the TWG shall have come up with its findings and recommendations while efforts are being done to make the appropriate representations with the Office of the President for the issuance of the required certification that the said bills are one of the priority administration measures that need immediate action from lawmakers.
The composition of the TWG will reportedly come from concerned government agencies who had been working on the previous drafts of the autonomy bills that had been submitted to the previous Congresses but the same were not favorably acted upon in the past even with the overwhelming support from Cordillera lawmakers. By HENT