House committee to hold public hearings on autonomy law

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BAGUIO CITY – The House committee on local government has scheduled the conduct of regionwide public hearings on the proposed House Bill (HB) 4649 that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera for lawmakers to listen to the plight of the people in relation to the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy.

Some 25 members of the committee, including Cordillera lawmakers, will be in Baguio city on July 10 which will jumpstart the series of public hearings in relation to the autonomy bill which has been pending before the committee for over a year now.

On July 15, the committee members will be in Luna, Apayao for a similar public hearing that will coincide with the activities lined up for the 28th founding anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

On July 22, 23 and 24, the House committee on local government members will be in Abra, Mountain Province and Ifugao, respectively, for similar public undertakings in order to achieve the purpose of gathering the sentiments of the people on the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy.

On July 30 and 31, the committee members will be in Tabuk City, Kalinga and La Trinidad, Benguet, respectively, to wind up the regionwide public hearings to allow them to evaluate and assess the possibility of submitting the autonomy bill for approval in the committee level pior to the conduct of plenary debates.

HB 4649 that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera was authored by Abra Rep. Maria Jocelyn Valera Bernos, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Baguio City Rep. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr., Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Bauilat, Jr., Kalinga Rep. Manuel S. Agyao and Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, Sr. and was filed in the House of Representatives on June 11, 2014.

It can be recalled that in 2006, the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) approved as its overarching agenda the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy in order to contribute in speeding up the development of the region considering that the Cordillera has been left out in the distribution of the government’s meagre resources.

Autonomy advocates believe the establishment of the autonomous regional government will help move the people out from the shackles of poverty because it will be the one to exercise the functions of the national government in the regional level with lesser restraint from outside forces.

The region had its first crack to autonomy on January 30, 1990 but Cordillerans overwhelmingly rejected the autonomy law presented to the people during the plebiscite because the contents of the law were not the ones which the people input during the consultations were watered down by Congress and only Ifugao province voted in favour.

During the second autonomy plebiscite on March 7, 1998, Cordillerans again rejected the much improved autonomy law because of the lack of time to explain the same and that multinational companies operating in the region who were against paying their taxes to the host communities reportedly bankrolled the opposition so as not to ratify the new law.

The committee called on all concerned sectors to actively participate in the scheduled provincial public hearings for them to have a better view of the autonomy law. By Dexter A. See

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