BAGUIO CITY – Local and international experts on public administration, culture and history as well as finance and economy unanimously agreed that tapping today’s youth will greatly contribute in realizing the long overdue desire of the Cordillera to achieve autonomy which will be its vehicle towards socio-economic development.
Dr. Alex Brillantes, Jr., a Commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), urged officials of state universities and colleges in the region to take advantage of having their students in place in order to inculcate to them the importance of autonomy using the previous gains of the campaign to advance their interests on the future of the Cordillera in an autonomous status.
“The autonomy that will be in place in the Cordillera is the autonomy desired by the people, especially the youth, who stand to gain from the government that will be in place and that it will be the youth who will become the future leaders,” Brillantes stressed.
The CHED official underscored it is important that the local governments comprising the autonomous region should define the metes and bounds of their powers and that similarly, the national government will define its functions that will be devolved to the autonomous region in order to avoid conflicts in the future.
According to him, the over 30,000 population of the state universities and colleges in the region is a good number to start the autonomy bandwagon among the youth that is why SUC officials must be able to convince their student population to believe in the renewed quest for regional autonomy and make them agents of change in themselves, their families and the communities where they belong.
He said it must be clear to them what the region wants, separation from the State or mere devolution of key powers, because all powers and functions as well as resources must not ony be concentrated in Imperial Manila.
Steven Rood, a culture and history expert, cited the struggle for autonomy in the Cordillera and the Bangsamoro in Mindanao is totally different because Cordillerans are using lasting peace as their bargaining point while the Muslims used armed struggle to compel the government to grant them their desired set up of government, their demanded sharing of wealth, resources and taxes generated in the region among others.
Rood said Cordillera autonomy is attainable if concerned stakeholders will be united in voicing out their concerns to the national government but for as long as there will be divisiveness among the people, the national government will always make disunity as a reason to thumbs down the proposal to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera.
For his part, Prof. Santos Jose Dacanay, a financial and economic expert from the University of the Philippines (UP), cited autonomy will allow the regional government to have greater control of the region’s resources and equitably distribute the same with lesser restraint from the national government.
For now, Dacanay explained except for Baguio City, almost all the local governments are dependent to the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government and that they are not able to maximize their potential sources of revenues, especially real property and business revenues, among others.
In an autonomous set up, aside from the IRA and locally generated revenues of local governments, they will also be entitled to certain shares from national wealth taxes, amusement revenues, among others that will contribute increasing their revenues that could in trun be used to bankroll the implementation of priority development projects and improve the delivery of basic services to the people.
With socio-economic development booming in the countryside, Dacanay said people will have more employment opportunities and added sources of livelihood that will greatly contribute in uplifting the living condition of their families and effectively and efficiently reducing poverty in the rural areas of the region.
He admitted the region is rich in resources that once appropriately exploited and developed could significantly contribute in the country’s overall growth and development.
Milgraos A. Rimando, regional director of the Cordillera office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-CAR), said one of the remaining strategies to convince President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to certify the Cordillera autonomy bill as an urgent administration measure is the conduct of a national lobby before he delivers his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.
Rimando disclosed participants to the national lobby wil be Cordillera leaders and interested multi-sectoral groups in order to send the clear message that Cordilleras are united this time in the clamor for regional autonomy.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan cited there is now a remote possibility to achieve autonomy during the present administration because the Palace is concentrating its efforts in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) even with serious constitutional questions.
Domogan cited the best the Cordillerans can do now is use as a basis the BBL that will be passed and emulate salient provisions that could be useful in charting the growth and development of the region.
By Dexter A. See