BAGUIO CITY – Cordillerans commemorated 34 years of working towards peace and development with the anniversary of the Mt Data Sipat agreement of 1986. Organized by the Cordillera Regional Development Council through the Cordillera office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-CAR), national and local officials recalled the peace agreement that led to the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region and the Constitutional provision for Cordillera autonomy.
Guest of Honor Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support to the Cordillera saying, “ibinibigay ko ang aking buong suporta sa inyong paglakbay tungo sa pagtupad ng inyong hangarin para sa inyong lugar”. Other national officials such as Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri who filed Senate Bill 1232 establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera, Agriculture Secretary and Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for the Cordillera William Dar, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Presidential Legislative Liaison Adelino Sitoy, and NEDA Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla, likewise supported the region’s quest for autonomy. Moreover, House of Representatives majority floor leader Martin Romualdez and Committee on
Local Government chair Noel Villanueva committed to support House Bill 5687, the act establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. CAR legislators Mark Go of Baguio City, Solomon Chungalao of Ifugao, and Maximo Dalog, Jr. of Mountain Province committed to fulfilling the Sipat agreement by pushing the Organic Law establishing autonomy for the Cordillera.
Witnesses to the historic event of 1986, Leonardo Bun-as and Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan shared their recollections of that fateful day. Mayor Ganggangan emphasized that the Cordillerans had a distinct struggle separate from the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Cordillera people have kept their end of the agreement for 34 years.
With the President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for ending local communist armed conflict, Mayor Ganggangan urged the current administration to fulfill its promise of peace and development for the Cordillera by helping urge the 18th Congress in fast-tracking a law establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. Brig. Gen. Laurence Mina of the 5th Infantry Division recalled his time as a young soldier on duty in Abra during the 1980s in which he saw the cooperation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Cordillera Peoples’ Liberation Army. Mina harkened back to the Cordillera people’s respect for tradition especially in decision making through the Council of Elders. This, he pointed out, was the distinct difference and legitimacy of the Cordilleran’s struggle.
Masters of Ceremonies Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Maria Rafael and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Assistant Secretary Orville Ballitoc closed the event with the hope that the celebration next year will not only be of the 35th anniversary of the Sipat at Mount Data Hotel but also the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. The RDC works to make this wish a reality with the support and commitment of those who delivered their messages during this event. The RDC is also coordinating with the office of Congressman Villanueva for the hearing of House Bill 5687 as well as the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to plan for the meeting with the President to fast track the passage of the bill. By Marlo Lubguban