Issue of December 1, 2019
     
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Leaders in CAR told to make autonomy happen
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Thirty-two years and still struggling.

Agriculture Sec. William Dar, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for the Cordillera, has urged regional leaders to take a second and long hard look at the Cordillera’ struggle for autonomy, which he said has dragged on for too long.

In the joint fourth quarter meeting of the Regional Development Council and Regional Peace and Order Council on Nov. 29, Dar said Cordillera leaders should take a look if autonomy is still a relevant solution to the development and security concerns of the region.

“If it is, be the leaders that this region has yet to have and see. Do something, make things happen. But most important, regional autonomy must remain an aspiration and movement of the people, not some program from the government with benefits to be given to them,” Dar said, though he added this should not leave the impression that institution building is easy.

“I understand what it is like to engage this work. It is tough. It requires hard work and dedication. It needs people who believe and work with you and external support.”

He pointed out that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which along with the Cordillera autonomy is provided in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, has been enacted in Jan. 25, 2019, but the Cordillera is still stuck in transition despite the agreeable response by the government to its clamor for autonomy through the signing of Executive Order 220, which was supposed to prepare the region for an autonomous government.

The region as a whole has yet to hurdle its first major challenge of passing the needed bills in both houses of Congress towards an autonomous region.

“To be honest, the 32 years of this struggle is rather too long and costly. As an administrative region, the Cordillera still struggles with underdevelopment, poverty, inaccessibility, devastation of its natural resource base, and insurgency which are at the center of the call for autonomy in the Cordillera several decades ago,” Dar said.

The Cordillera RDC and RPOC members were scheduled to adopt a resolution during the meeting asking Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s support to the pursuit of Cordillera autonomy towards federalism.

The RDC-RPOC resolution would be the latest among several moves of the two regional councils that pushed for an autonomous Cordillera region, which is backed by the region’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Panlungsod bodies, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Cordillera Association of Regional Executives, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders through the information, education, communication activities of RDC-CAR’s social preparation of CAR into an autonomous region.

Cordillera congressmen have also unanimously filed three autonomy bills in Congress since 2011, but these were unable to complete the legislative process. An amended organic act is being worked on for filing in the 18th Congress.


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