BANGUED, Abra – The Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) and the unified Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) welcomed the decision of the Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) to study the possibility of working out the declaration of every September 13 as a regular holiday in the whole region to allow the meaningful celebration of the signing of the historic Mount Data ‘sipat’ or peace agreement.
Vice governor and unified CPLA chairman Ronald Balao-as claimed the proposal to declare every September 13 as a regular holiday in the region is timely because it is important to educate Cordillerans and non-Cordillerans that the signing of the Mount Data peace agreement was instrumental in the subsequent issuance of Executive order (EO) No. 220 that created the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
“We need to educate our people, particularly the youth, on the significance of the signing of the Mount Data peace agreement in relation to our existence as a region and our renewed quest for regional autonomy. It is important for them to understand the root cause of the region’s armed struggle that eventually resulted to the clamor for self-governance because of the unique situation in our region,” Balao-as stressed.
On September 13, 1986, former CBA-CPLA head Fr. Conardo Balweg and former president Corazon C. Aquino signed the historic Mount Data ‘sipat’ or peace agreement and exchanged tokens that paved the way for the eventual secession of the armed conflict between the armed group and government forces around the region.
Subsequently, the late President Aquino issued EO No. 220 on July 15, 1987 creating the CAR composed of the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province and the City of Baguio from Region I and Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao from Region II primarily geared towards administering the affairs of government in the region, accelerate the socio-economic development of the region and more importantly, prepare the region for autonomy.
The unified CPLA chairman underscored the very reason for the armed struggle in the region which was spearheaded by the elite group of Cordilleran warriors who parted ways with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New Peoples Army in April 1987 due to ideological differences was geared towards protecting the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples (IPs) from the abuses of government and to preserve and protect the domain for the benefit of the present and future generations of Cordillerans.
According to him, Cordilleran fighters sent a clear message to the government that development projects like the logging concessions of the Cellophil Resources Corporation (CRC) in Abra, Apayao and Kalinga and the Chico dam project in Mountain province and Kalinga cannot be rammed down the throats of the IPs who have the right to protect their ancestral domain pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
Balao-as expressed optimism that the matter will be deliberated during the fourth quarter meeting of the RDC and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting in this capital town next month so that the proposed holiday will take effect next year to give importance to the celebration of the signing of the historic peace agreement.