July 16, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

Cordillera’s pursuit of self-governance is not only a political concept, but an aspiration of all the region’s people, regardless of their cultural background.

This was the sentiment of the region’s leaders to the continuing efforts to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera.

In his message during the opening program for the Cordillera Month celebration, Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut, Jr. called on Cordillerans to rally behind the campaign for regional autonomy so that the aspiration set 37 years ago would finally be realized.

Bulut, who chairs the Regional Development Council (RDC), said despite the diverse culture, language, and practices of communities, the pursuit of autonomy remains a collective aspiration for the future of every Cordilleran.

He said achieving the goals of regional self-governance remains a challenge that requires the participation, solidarity, and continuous engagement of communities.

“The road to autonomy is challenging and requires the collective effort of every Cordilleran, indigenous (people) or not. Our journey towards autonomy is not just a political endeavor. It is a movement deeply rooted in our unity amidst diversity,” Bulut said in his message read by RDC Co-Chair and private sector representative Edna Tabanda.

This year’s Cordillera Month celebration banners the theme, “Multiculturalism towards regional autonomy and development” aimed at fostering an inclusive society where diverse cultural identities are valued and respected and allowing the region to progress according to its people’s collective aspiration.

Bulut said embracing multiculturalism means safeguarding and promoting the rights of every community and ensuring that every voice is heard, every culture is respected, and every heritage is preserved.

Baguio Rep. Mark Go said more than a political concept, the pursuit of autonomy is a “profound assertion of our right to self-determination.”

“It will empower local leaders to craft measures that address the unique needs of communities, fostering an environment where people can thrive and innovate to contribute to national development in ways that are meaningful to them,” Go said.

Presidential Assistant to the Cordillera Antonio Tabora, Jr., meanwhile, called on the Cordillerans to make the third plebiscite for regional autonomy a reality.

“Over the years, our leaders have engaged in rigorous consultations, data gathering, and listened to the voices of the Cordillerans. Let us make the third plebiscite happen,” he said.

He said this year’s Cordillera Month celebration and theme “reflect our collective aspiration to embrace our diversity and strengthen our pursuit of autonomy.”

Local officials also reaffirmed their commitment to the region’s resolve for empowerment and self-determination.

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the Cordillerans are ready to show the nation that they are capable, responsible, and can showcase who they are as a region through their ability to govern themselves.

Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. said regional autonomy should not be a distant dream, but a practical necessity.

“Autonomy empowers us to tailor solutions that fit our unique context,” he said.

Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas said gaining an autonomous status will reinforce the Cordillerans’ unique identity and will allow the communities to sustainably manage their natural resources.