Status of proposed Organic Act bill

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The Philippine Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) and the Cordillera office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) gathered local, regional and national officials, along with Cordillera autonomy advocates, regional line agencies (RLAs) and private sector representatives (PSRs) to discuss the status of the proposed organic act for Cordillera autonomy and other legislative initiatives affecting the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) on August 19,2021.

Presenters during the consultative meeting were PLLO Secretary Luzverferda Pascua, CORDS Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar (online), Baguio City Representative Mark Go, Kalinga Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, OPAPP Assistant Secretary (ASec.) Andres Aguinaldo Jr. (online), NEDA-CAR Regional Director Susan Sumbeling (online). Secretary Pascua presided over the meeting while PLLO ASec. Orville Ballitoc served as moderator.

In his opening message, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong expressed his gratitude to the PLLO in helping to advance the legislative process for Cordillera autonomy. He reiterated that without good governance, regional autonomy will be useless. He added the regional autonomy is the key for the recovery of the region from the pandemic and will pave the way in attaining regional peace and prosperity shared by everyone.

Congressman Mark Go reported on consultative meetings of the technical working group with autonomy advocates, sectoral representatives and national government agencies in aid of the Substitute Bill submitted to the Committee on Local Government Congressman Go expressed optimism on the bill which he said will be subsequently submitted to the House Committee on Ways and Means and Committee on Appropriations then to the House Rules Committee. Once approved by these committees, the proposed organic act shall be deliberated in the plenary for second and third reading. Congressman Go also mentioned that a bicameral meeting between the House of Congress and Senate may be scheduled to consolidate the two versions of the proposed organic act establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region. He also shared the time table in having the proposed Organic Act be enacted as law within the 18th Congress.

Pascual mentioned that it is the interest, enthusiasm and support of the beneficiaries that national officials take into account before they push for a regional legislation, like the proposed organic act for Cordillera autonomy. She committed the agency’s aid and support in advancing the legislation for the region’s pursuit of autonomy, adding that the President can only certify a certain bill as urgent when there is already a committee report.

The PLLO also reported there are a total of 98 legislative measures for Cordillera development that is still in the committee level in both House of Representative and Senate. Several bills concerning the Cordillera region are already approved in the House of Representative and awaiting to be tackled in the Upper House.

CORDS Secretary William Dar in his message, underscored the importance of the Cordillera being able to manage its resources being the watershed cradle of the north and the vital role of the region in providing hydropower, irrigation, and fresh water for most of the urban population living in the lowlands. He enjoined the regional stakeholders, national and local officials, and non-government organizations in the Cordillera to work together in pursuing Cordillera Regional autonomy.

NEDA-CAR Regional Director Susan Sumbeling assured the participants that RDC-CAR and NEDA-CAR through the Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region (SPCAR) program will continue its support in providing platforms in getting inputs from regional stakeholders in aiding legislators to draft acceptable provisions for the people and spearhead the information and education campaign to raise awareness and support among Cordillerans, strengthen  support from the national government through alliance building, and capacity building for autonomy partners in the region. Director Sumbeling reiterated that advocates should not stop in just raising the awareness level but it should be translated into a yes vote when the plebiscite comes. By Bob Lyndon B. Daroya

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