Cordillera leaders unite for regional autonomy

>> Friday, July 27, 2018

LAGAWE, Ifugao – Cordillera leaders pledged unity in pushing attainment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region in celebrating the 31st founding anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region here last week.
“This is a reiteration and re-statement of our commitment. Ifugao was the first province that ratified the organic act that was supposed to convert the region to an autonomous region in its first attempt. We are giving our commitment that when the plebiscite is held again, we, the people of Ifugao, will give our approval again,”
Gov. Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao, the host province for this year's celebration, said during the culmination of the region's week-festivities on Sunday, which was Cordillera Day.
The autonomous status of the Cordillera region is provided for by the Philippine Constitution. But this was not realized, as attempts to give the region autonomy failed twice through a plebiscite.
"We are transferring the hosting of the next celebration to Kalinga, and we are hopeful that next year, it will be the 1st anniversary of the Cordillera Autonomous Region, no longer administrative,” Mayam-o said.
“We have an invitation to join another celebration in Bauko, but we are here, together with our vice governor and other provincial officials, including our mayors, as a sign of support,” said Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan in his message.
"We are here to show our support for what is good for us and we will continue to be here until next year, when we will celebrate as an autonomous region."
"We will bring home this gong with the promise to care for it so that next year, when we host the first Cordillera Autonomous Region anniversary, this gong will be more important," Kalinga Vice Gov. James Edduba said as he received the Unity Gong, which symbolizes the region’s oneness in gaining autonomy. "We are one with you in attaining the dream for autonomy.”
“We traveled over 220 kilometers. We opted to hand-carry to Lagawe (Ifugao) our support for autonomy. If the bus-full of Abreños is not enough to express our province’s support, we also have here the members of the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA), which was led by then Father Conrado Balweg and fought for the creation of our region,” Abra Vice Gov. Ronald Balao-as said.
Balao-as, who led a bus-full of delegates in the last two legs of the symbolic Unity Gong Relay, recalled that the CPLA was born in Abra, and started the struggle for regional autonomy.
Under the late rebel priest Conrado Balweg, the Abra-based CPLA entered into a “Sipat” (peace agreement) with then-president Corazon Aquino in 1987, prompting the issuance of Executive Order 220 that created the Cordillera Administrative Region.
“Majority of the provincial officials and line agency representatives joined this celebration to express Apayao’s support,” said Apayao Vice Gov. Remy Albano.
Apayao was the lone province in Cordillera that approved the autonomous status of Cordillera through a second plebiscite.
Representing the youth in his province, Benguet Sangguniang Kabataan president Jeston Balong-angey said the gong that was used in the Unity Gong Relay rites was a physical proof of his province's support to the region's autonomy.
"The gong was minted and crafted in Mankayan, Benguet. This is a commitment in itself, which we will pursue as a sign of our province's oneness with the region in the quest for self-determination,” the youth leader said.
Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who heads the Regional Development Council, reiterated the benefits that the region would achieve with autonomy.
He said the region’s quest for autonomy does not in any way contradict the shift to a federal form of government that President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing.
He said even the Consultative Committee tasked to draft the Constitution had confirmed their commitment to Cordillera’s autonomy.
Andres Ngao-I, a member of the Regional Development Council and an eyewitness to the 1987 Mount Data Sipat, said members of his group are pinning their hopes on Duterte's commitment to support the region's autonomy.
“With the commitment of the President, when we went there in Malacañang, he assured that it will be passed, the organic act will be passed by Congress, and he will support it. That is the assurance that he has given us. We hope that his assurance will be there after some months,” Ngao-I said.
House Bill 5343 and Senate Bill 1678, both calling for Cordillera's autonomy and are pending in the two chambers of Congress, are expected to be subjected to another plebiscite or voting among the region's locals. -- PNA


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