July 16, 2024

The Cordillera, which will mark its 37th year as a region on July 15, is adopting a multi-cultural approach this time as it continues its quest for an autonomous region after two failed plebiscites.

During the launching of the month-long celebration of the 37th Cordillera Day on June 26 in Baguio City, the Regional Development Council-Cordillera through its sectoral committee on development administration and good governance and with the province of Abra as host of this year’s activities announced the “all-inclusive” approach through the theme, “Multi-culturalism towards regional autonomy and development”.

Private sector representative and RDC co-chairperson Edna Tabanda said the theme respects and recognizes cultural diversity in the Cordillera while simultaneously advancing regional autonomy and development as it aims to foster an inclusive society where diverse cultural identities are valued and where the region has the opportunity to thrive according to its own aspirations and priorities.

“The theme acknowledges that the region is composed of various groups with distinct traditions, languages, ethnicity, and practices. Multiculturalism advocates for embracing and celebrating these diversities. At the same time, it emphasizes the importance of empowering Cordillerans to govern themselves, allowing them to make decisions that reflect their unique culture and economic and social characteristics,” Tabanda said.

Article 2, Section 4 of the pending House Bill 3267 which seeks for the region’s autonomy states the Cordillera identity refers not only to indigenous peoples or those born in the Cordillera but also to those who have been residing in the region for at least one year and have made it their home.

“We should respect and recognize the contribution of non-IPs, who are now here in the Cordillera as they are also contributing to the region’s development. We are talking about unity and diversity. Let us campaign for Cordillera autonomy in the context of multi-culturalism. Before, it’s so exclusive, that is why very few were participating in the activities of the region. Now is the first time that we recognize all the different groups of people in the region, whether IPs or not. IPs and non-IPs are now one in pursuing regional autonomy,” Tabanda said.

National Economic Development Authority-Cordillera OIC Asst. Director Jose Dado, Jr. added this year’s celebration aims to send a stronger message for the call for Cordillera autonomy not just in July but for the rest of the advocacy of its people, who are enjoined to be more proactive and inclusive in bringing the message to the attention of the national leaders.

Tabanda stressed this time there will be no discrimination in the planning and conduct of activities in the pursuit of autonomy as she acknowledged that the celebrations of Cordillera Day and talks about the autonomy before were more government-driven and many of those who are not IPs were not included.

“We will be changing the mindset of people. They will feel that they are also Cordillerans and they are part of the development of the region and they have a role to play,” Tabanda added.

She said through HB 3267 which is sponsored by all Cordilleran lawmakers, they hope to finally realize the aspiration. “But still, we are going slow because people are not yet really very much informed or not yet understand about it. We have to really work on including everybody in the information dissemination and to give them the right information and orientation. Because I believe that there are still many who still don’t understand what we are fighting for.”

HB 3267 is pending the House Committee on Appropriations and is undergoing discussions.

He said economic managers have questions on some of the bill’s financial provisions and concerns on financial viability. A technical working group has been created to review the concerns and for the RDC to come up with a response to the issues raised.

He assured the process at the TWG would be participative and consultative.

He added IEC on autonomy continues even with limited funds, since once the bill is passed, there will have to be the conduct of plebiscite where Cordillerans shall vote and they need to be properly informed so they can decide intelligently.

“But the bottomline is we have this call for us to show our unity. At the national level, it is a practical matter for them, but regardless of these, if we show our unity, we will find measures to address this. We believe that autonomy will bring progress to the region and benefit to all Cordillerans, so we shall fight for this,” Dado said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana