The consultation was presided by Baguio City Congressman Mark Go. He was joined by Benguet Cong. Ronald Cosalan, Kalinga Cong. Allen Jesse Mangaoang who is also the concurrent caretaker of Mountain Province, Baguio City Mayor and RDC chairperson Mauricio Domogan and NEDA Regional Director and RDC vice chair Milagros Rimando.
The event was attended by local chief executives, officials and representatives of regional line agencies, indigenous people’s groups, non-government/civil society organizations, sectoral leaders and other regional stakeholders.
Domogan presented the salient points of HB 5343 and called for the support of all regional stakeholders in convincing the national government and the country’s lawmakers that Cordillera is united towards pushing for a Cordillera Autonomous Region.
Go said they are pushing for the passage of HB 5343 in the Congress and further explained that a report will be prepared for the House of Representatives’ Local Government Committee.
Kalinga Congressman Allen Jesse Mangaoang is confident that HB 5343 has a better chance to be passed by Congress given the unity of all Cordillera lawmakers in pushing for it as he ruled out federalism movement as a threat to the region’s push for autonomy.
“What we are saying here is that before federalism, there should be autonomy first so that we can be assured that when federalism comes, Cordillera can already be recognized as an autonomous region within the federal system of government that can be considered to become a separate federal state,” he said.
Section 15, Article 10 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution mandates the creation of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and in the Cordilleras.
Several agencies and groups provided statement and manifesto of support while others asked for clarification and suggestions during the consultation.
For the Cordillera RDC, achieving an autonomous status will enhance Cordillera’s identity given its rich culture and indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practices. It can bring in responsive policies that will suit to the unique geography and sparse population in the region and will generally bring progress to all the people of Cordillera.
In an interview, Rimando clarified that Cordillera supports the national government’s push for federalism though in partnership with the Cordillera congressmen and all regional stakeholders, the push for autonomy will be a priority as autonomy will fast track progress and development of communities in the Cordillera region. Carlito C. Dar (EDT/CCD-PIA CAR)