QUEZON CITY – Cordilleran and Mindanaoan legislators vowed to pass House Bill 5343, a bill that seeks to establish the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC).
This was manifested during the first deliberation on HB 5343 held by the Committee on Local Government on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.
In a manifesto read by Ifugao Lone District Rep. Teodoro Brawner Baguilat, the Cordilleran legislators said they regard the proposed measure as an effective instrument to foster economic growth within the Cordillera Region.
“Cordillera autonomy is seen as the most effective option to provide the region with needed solid foundation to pursue sustainable development as the region hopes to benefit from the management and use of its natural resources,” Baguilat said.
The legislators – Eleanor Bulut-Begtang of Apayao, Ronald Cosalan of Benguet, Mark Go of Baguio City, Teodoro Brawner Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, and Allen Jesse Mangaoang of Kalinga – said Cordillera autonomy will promote multicultural diversity through the formulation of multicultural policies for indigenous people.
Showing strong support, the meeting was attended by Province of Apayao Governor Elais Bulut Jr., Mt. Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr., members of the Regional Development Council, and representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO).
Presiding over the first committee hearing, Zamboanga Sibugay 1st District Rep. Wilter Wee Palma threw his support for the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region following the passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) last month.
“Rest assured, this committee is in full support of you. The way we supported BOL, gano’n din po ang ibibigay namin sa inyo,” Palma said.
“Kami naman pong mga taga-Mindanao ang susuporta sa inyo (It’s our turn as Mindanaoans to support you),” he added.
Bukidnon 3rd District Rep. Manuel Zubiri echoed Palma’s sentiment, saying the bill’s passage is “long overdue.”
“It’s about time that we give our brothers and sisters in the north the same autonomy that we gave to the south,” Zubiri said.
The 1987 Constitution provides for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographic areas.
In August 1989, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was created through Republic Act 6734. This was eventually strengthened through Republic Act 9054 and was recently repealed through Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
For her part, NEDA-CAR Regional Director Milagros Rimando lauded the legislators for speeding up the process of passing the proposed measure.
“We very much appreciate the support that we’ve seen from our congressmen in the south supporting our own Cordilleran congressmen. We see the very strong south to north connection,” Rimando said.
Baguio City Mayor and Regional Development Council (RDC) Chair Mauricio Domogan urged the lawmakers to rally their support for the passage of the bill.
“Since BOL was passed by you, please be part of the history of our country especially of the Cordillera by completing the process by passing likewise the autonomy of the Cordillerans,” Domogan said.
A technical working group (TWG) is now scheduled to convene to deliberate and incorporate amendments on the proposed measure. The Lower House is eyeing to pass the measure by October.
Speaking on behalf of the TWG, Rep. Mark Go affirmed its commitment to fast-track the conduct of meetings and work on the bill rigorously.
“There is no problem with the timeline. We will work it out in such a way that we will address all the concerns as well as the proposed amendments. We will do it immediately,” Go said.
On the part of the Senate, a counterpart of HB 5343 — tagged as Senate Bill 1678 — was authored by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri in February 2018. Meanwhile, a related version tagged as Senate Bill 1923 was submitted by Senator JV Ejercito recently. (OPAPP Communications and Public Affairs)