>> Monday, July 23, 2007
BY DEXTER A. SEE
BAGUIO CITY- The Department of Budget and Management has approved the release of P15 million from this year’s national budget for a third drive for the establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region as provided for in the 1987 constitution.
Juan Ngalob, interim chairman of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority, said his office will bank on a new strategy to push concerns of the people in the proposed third organic Act for the creation of an autonomous region.
Instead of the controversial Cordillera bodies, particularly the defunct Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Regional Assembly, and the Cordillera Bodong Administration, it would be the RDC which would spearhead the drive for a revitalized autonomy movement in the coming months.
Under the RDC’s strategy, a survey will be conducted on the grassroots level to determine what the people want in terms of governance and other aspects of autonomy.
The survey is expected to be completed December this year, and the results will serve as a firm basis to jumpstart a renewed campaign for autonomy that is acceptable to all sectors.
Ngalob said autonomy for the Cordillera is far better than the present administrative status of the region because most of the national functions would be devolved to the regional government.
He said the first two proposed Organic Acts that were overwhelmingly rejected by the people would serve as a good reference for the crafting of the third Organic Act.
The quest for self-governance was a product of a peace agreement entered into between the Cory Aquino administration and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army headed then by rebel priest Conrado Balweg.
The peace pact was signed in the Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain province on September 13, 1986.
However, Ngalob said, the autonomy movement will be done according in pace with how the people would accept self-governance, especially issues of devolution of functions and other sensitive issues over the proposed autonomous government.
The province of Apayao voted in favor of the first Organic Act in a plebiscite held on January 30,1990 while Ifugao province approved the Second Organic Act during the March 7, 1998 plebiscite.
Ngalob said all pressing issues that led to the rejection of the two autonomy laws will have to be reviewed and addressed before these could be embodied in the third Organic Act.