BAGUIO CITY – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA – CAR) and Regional Development Council, in partnership with Easter College, Inc. conducted a symposium on Cordillera Autonomy last April 4 at the Easter College gymnasium to educate and enlighten the students and employees regarding the basic concepts on autonomy and federalism.
Vladimir Cayabas together with Claro Esoen, both members of the RDC Autonomy IEC Speakers’ Bureau, engaged the audience by asking them what they know about autonomy and why there is a need to pursue autonomy.
Esoen emphasized that nobody else would inherit the development and progress that autonomy would bring than the Cordilleran youth themselves. It is then important that the youth will understand the concept of autonomy and its benefits.
Cayabas talked on the details of the concepts of federalism and regional autonomy. He said that the 1987 Constitution provides an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. While the thrust of the current administration is to shift to a federal form of government, the region’s advocacy is autonomy towards federalism.
This means that a federal Philippines will be more feasible with an autonomous Cordillera and Bangsamoro regions which could serve as models of a federal set-up. Cayabas pointed out that autonomy and federalism are not mutually exclusive because a regional autonomous government can exist under a federal system either as a federal state or special autonomous region at par with federal states or under a federal state, hence it is critical that the regional autonomous government is in place before federalism.
Responding on why autonomy, Cayabas reiterated the three main benefits for the region: enhanced Cordillera identity; responsive policies for the region, and progress for all.
A mock plebiscite was conducted and an overwhelming number of votes favor autonomy which is a manifestation that the Easter College community supports the advocacy for one Cordillera.
NEDA-RDC continues to engage the youth with a planned youth congress that will be held to gather their insights and sentiment, among others.
By Mervin Angelo C. Tumada