House leadership backs more funds for Cordillera

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. expressed support to the clamor of Cordillera congressman and governors for President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to issue an executive order accelerating the socio-economic development of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) through the provision of added funding support over and above the allocations of the national budget to fully prepare the region for an autonomous status in the future.

In a recent meeting with Cordillera lawmakers, Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan said Speaker Belmonte agreed to accompany the Cordillera congressmen, governors and members of the Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) to meet with the President after the legal department shall have reviewed and passed upon it in order to help rural development, especially in remote communities regionwide.

“We already forwarded to the Office of the President the draft executive order but the legal department has to review the same before we will schedule a meeting with the President for the signing of the new executive issuance that would enhance Executive Order No. 220 which created the CAR,” Cosalan stressed.

He said the clamor for the new executive order will not affect the on-going efforts of the RDC-CAR for the eventual establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera considering that the accelerated socio-economic growth of the region through increased budgetary allocations will strengthen the bid for self-governance.

According to him, the gains of the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy should not take a back seat with the proposed executive order but instead it should serve as an added boost to convince Cordillerans to aspire for self-governance for the future generations to reap the fruits of achieving an autonomous status.

However, Cosalan pointed out one of the major hindrances to achieving autonomy is the parochial interest of the different tribes comprising the region, citing that if the people will abandon their respective parochial interests, then autonomy will have a greater chance of being approved in a plebiscite.

Milagros A. Rimando, RDC-CAR vice chairperson and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in the Cordillera, a asserted the passion, the strength and the gains of the autonomy movement will still be the same even with the approval of the proposed executive order since programs and projects in relation to alliance building, information and education campaign, capability building and program management have been in place.

She cited one of the salient provisions of the executive order being pushed by Cordillera congressmen and governors is the implementation of the provisions of EO 220 which has never been implemented and enjoyed by Cordillerans over the past 28 years, especially in the provision of taxes and resources.

Rimando disclosed one of the unimplemented provisions of EO 220 is Section 22 which explicitly provides that the CAR shall receive an equitable share of the taxes and other government revenues generated in the CAR territorial coverage. For this purpose, as part of the BIR allotment in the region, the CAR and the local government units within the Cordillera Administrative Region’s territorial coverage shall have at least fifty percent (50%) share of such taxes and other government revenues to be distributed as follows: ten percent (10%) to barangays, ten percent (10%) to municipalities, fifteen percent (15%) to provinces or cities, fifteen percent (15%) to the CAR.

To ensure proper implementation of the principle of equitable sharing, the President shall direct the Department of Finance and appropriate national departments and agencies to coordinate with the CAR.

The NEDA-CAR official pointed out the new executive order is not for the creation of a special region in the Cordillera because the current status of the CAR is a special temporary administrative set up in reparation for autonomy but it is for the increase in budgetary allocations for the Car pursuant to the unimplemented provisions of EO 220 that created the CAR which was issued by former President Corazon C. Aquino on July 15, 1987.

The creation of the CAR was an offshoot of the ‘sipat’ or peace agreement signed between former President Cory Aquino representing the Philippine government and former Catholic rebel priest Conrado Balweg of the Cordillera Liberation Army (CPLA) during the historic Mount Data peace accord on September 13, 1986.

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