BAGUIO CITY – The Senate approved on first reading Monday Senate Bill (SB) 1678 or the bill that seeks to establish an autonomous region in the Cordillera which will serve as the Senate version of House Bill (HB) 5343 or the proposed autonomy law pending with the House of Representatives.
SB 1678 was authored by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri who earlier promised to Cordillera leaders during the 1st Cordillera forum on autonomy at the House of Representatives last January 17, 2018 that he will file the Senate version of the proposed Cordillera autonomy bill.
Zubiri stated that through regional autonomy, under development and poverty in the Cordillera could be effectively and efficiently addressed considering that the autonomous regional government will craft policies, programs and projects suitable with the prevailing situation in the region.
Earlier, Senator Zubiri was placed on speaker phone by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza during the congressional forum on autonomy where he committed that he will file the Senate version of the Cordillera autonomy bill to make sure that the issue will be tackled in the Senate side by side with the on-going deliberation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Secretary Dureza emphasized that Cordillerans should unite and start maximizing the enabling environment provided by the Duterte administration to achieve autonomy because there might be no more chance for the region to do so after President Rodrigo R. Duterte will step down from power by noon of June 30, 2022.
Zubiri filed SB 1678 on February 1, 2018 before it was approved on first reading by the senators during their regular session last Monday.
The renewed quest for regional autonomy is being spearheaded by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera after it embraced autonomy as its overarching agenda since 2006 to fastrack the development of the under developed areas in the different parts of the region.
The RDC-CAR and the Cotabato-based Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) will be conducting a series of congressional for a on autonomy to gain the support of congressmen and senators in the approval of the pending bills in both chambers of Congress relative to the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordillera.
While awaiting the committed certification from President Duterte that the Cordillera autonomy bills pending in the House and the Senate are priority administration measure, Dureza rallied the concerned stakeholders in the region to continue doing networking activities with the lawmakers for them to prioritize the initial deliberations of the proposed law ad to tackle the same side by side with the BBL so that its enactment into law will not be overtaken by events such as the proposed amendment of the Constitution.
Muslim lawmakers also committed their support to the passage of the proposed Cordillera autonomy bill and agreed to tackling the contents of the bill side by side with the on-going deliberations of the BBL to guarantee the passage of the two measures pursuant to the mandate of the constitution.