June 21, 2024

With the upcoming second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., officials in the Cordillera are hoping for the President to include as priority in his administration the region’s long-time quest for autonomy in the region.

UNITY GONG TOWARDS AUTONOMY — The unity gong relay for Benguet kicked off on July 7, where La Trinidad is the first municipality to conduct the ceremonial beating of the gong led by Mayor Romeo Salda and members of the town council led by Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan. The unity gong relay is part of the 36th Cordillera Day celebration with the theme, “Celebrating one, resilient, diverse, and inclusive journey toward regional autonomy”. — Ofelia Empian

La Trinidad, Benguet Mayor Romeo Salda, during the kick-off of the unity gong relay in the province of Benguet on July 7, said he is hoping the region’s lawmakers would unite to ask the President to certify House Bill 3267 establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region as urgent.

“We hope it would be included in his SONA because once the bill is included, we would know that President Marcos is prioritizing its passage,” Salda said. 

Salda said regional executives had also hoped during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s term that he would certify the bill as urgent.

Marcos Jr., who was invited as the guest of honor in the 36th Cordillera Day celebration in Apayao on July 15, will deliver his second SONA on July 24.

This year’s celebration of Cordillera Day has the theme “Celebrating One, Resilient, Diverse and Inclusive (Cordi) Journey towards Regional Autonomy.”

The celebration now includes the inter-municipality gong relay where local officials from the different municipalities in their respective provinces would conduct the ceremonial beating of gongs – the act symbolizing the unity of the Cordillera towards achieving self-determination through autonomy.  

In October 2022, some 50 punong barangays and village officials across Mountain Province signed a manifesto urging the president to certify the autonomy bill as urgent.

“It has been 35 long years since the passage of the 1987 Constitution mandating the creation of an autonomous region for the Cordillera,” the manifesto stated.

The 1987 Constitution mandates the creation of autonomous regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera.

During the 18th Congress, House Bill 10729, which seeks to establish Autonomous Region for the Cordillera, was approved on third reading on May 30, 2022.

The Senate counterpart measure, however, was not passed after the adjournment of the 18th Congress.

Thus, in August 2022, all seven lawmakers of the Cordillera refiled the approved house bill as House Bill 3267.

By March this year, the House Committee on Appropriations approved House Bill 3267 that seeks the establishment of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang earlier said the proposed autonomy law will be transmitted to the House Committee on Rules for the same to be calendared for plenary debates, approval on second reading, period of amendments and third reading. – Ofelia C. Empian