Regional autonomy pushed; Cordillera Month events on

>> Monday, July 12, 2021

Native ritual, forum, tree-planting kick off activities 

BAGUIO CITY – Top Cordillera officials pushed for regional autonomy as this year’s 34th anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region kicked off with a media forum and indigenous Benguet ritual even as Cordillerans planted more than 4,000 trees on July 1 to kick off the month-long celebration. 
    The birth of the CAR was an offshoot of executive order 220 signed by then President Corazon Aquino in July 15, 1987 creating the administrative region and separating it from Regions 1 and 2.
    The Cordillera Executive Board, Cordillera Regional Assembly and Cordillera Bodong Administration were also created under EO 220 to prepare the region for autonomy.
    The Regional Development Council however took over the cudgels of preparing the region for autonomy with cessation of said bodies.  
    This, year, the RDC through its watershed and environment management committee led tree planting wherein 4,066 tree seedlings were planted by government employees, civil society organizations and volunteers in the region. 
    In Baguio City, it was headed by RDC-WEMC chairperson Environment regional executive director Ralph Pablo and regional directors Cameron Odsey of Dept. of Agriculture, Interior and Local Government’s Araceli San Jose, Environment Management Bureau’s Victoria Abrera, with officials and personnel of government line agencies and uniformed personnel who planted 50 pine tree saplings at Forbes Park Parcel 3 along Ambuklao Road. 
    Regional directors formally opened Cordillera Month celebration with Agriculture Sec. William Dar, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development-Cordillera and RDC chairperson Abra Gov. Jocelyn Bernos joining online.
    Pablo, San Jose, Abrera and NEDA Cordillera assistant director Stephanie Christiansen joined face to face.
    This year’s celebration theme is “Working together towards Cordillera autonomy through green recovery.”
    Officials said “green recovery refers to sustainable and resilient return to growth and development after Covid-19 through environmentally-friendly technologies and practices for production such as the use of renewable energy, organic agriculture, responsible mining, and protection of our watersheds and natural resources.”
    Officials said it “highlights working in unity with the ultimate goal of attaining regional autonomy through green technologies and moving forward to recovery from this pandemic.”
    After the tree planting activity in Baguio, a traditional Benguet ritual was performed by Tuba indigenous peoples mandatory representative Felix Siplat at the DENR-CAR grounds to “appease the spirits and ask for blessings in this year’s celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic.”
    In Mountain Province, officials led by Rep. Maximo Dalog. Jr., Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. and Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey with government employees and police also held a program at the capital town in observance of Cordillera Month.   
They participated in indigenous gong-beating dances attended by locals.  
Odsey who is also the President of the League of the Municipalities in the Philippines (LMP) – Mountain Province Chapter joined the other officials in the province in voicing his support for the passing of the Cordillera Autonomy Bill.
House Bill 7778 is the third proposed law filed by Benguet Caretaker Rep. Eric Yap of the ACT-CIS Parylist to establish autonomy for the Cordillera in the 18th Congress alongside House Bill  5687 filed by all Cordillera lawmakers in 2019  as well as Senate Bill 1232 filed by Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The attempt to establish the Cordillera Autonomous Region was first presented in a plebiscite in 1990, but only Ifugao voted Yes. The second plebiscite was in 1998, but only Apayao voted Yes.
In Baguio, San Jose and Christiansen, who is also RDC secretary regional autonomy is still form of government in the Cordillera even with full effect of the Mandanas Ruling.
San Jose said the Mandanas ruling which will take full effect in 2022 wherein the internal revenue allotment for local government units will increase by 38 percent as compared to the IRA in 2021.
The increase in IRA, she added, will have a great effect in support to the devolved basic services stipulated under Section 17 of the Local Government Code of 1991 for the full implementation of the LGUs. “Cordillera autonomy is a promise of the constitution and even with the implementation of the full devolution under the Mandanas Ruling, the Cordillera Region will remain on the losing end, receiving only minimal shares of the allocation since it is based on total land area and population. But, with Cordillera Autonomy more funds will be assured from the national government for the development of the region,” San Jose added.
Christiansen said basic services defined in the 1991 LGC shall be devolved and there are higher-level services that remain with the national government. 
She cited roads management wherein local roads development shall be with LGUs while national roads remain with the national government.
She added this would be among areas of concern of a regional government.
She said even with full devolution, there are a number of policy issues that are key to Cordillera, hence the need for regional autonomy.
“For example, policies on natural resources management are much in the hands of the national government and this has been a fundamental concern in CAR’s quest for regional autonomy,” Christiansen said.
If the Cordillera turns autonomous, she said Cordillera identity will be enhanced with responsive policies for the region and progress for all.-- With reports from Bob Lyndon B. Daroya, Alpine Killa and PIA


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