BAGUIO CITY – The inclusion of the provision in the 1987 Constitution granting the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera was a product of armed struggles, bloodshed, and supreme sacrifices among those who were involved in the clamor for self-governance and not given by the government on a silver platter, Engr. Andres Ngao-I, chairman of the Cordillera Bodong Administration–Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA), said here recently.
Ngao-I, who is also the chairman of the Regional Committee on Indigenous Peoples Education (RC-IPED), said autonomy advocates in the region like their group value the importance of the constitutional provision, thus, the need to work hard for the realization of the long overdue dream of converting the present administrative status to an autonomous region that will allow the region to have its enhanced permanent identity as a region to work out responsive policies for everyone’s progress.
He pointed the CBA-CPLA factions were heartened over the recent pronouncements of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, during his recent visit in Tabuk City, Kalinga, that the historic Mount Data peace agreement signed between the CPLA under former rebel priest Conrado Balweg and the late President Corazon C. Aquino on September 13, 1986, must not be closed but instead nourished, thus, the conduct of a big event in Kalinga by April to celebrate the nourished peace agreement with the Palace official.
“We must give justice to the sufferings and sacrifices of those who were involved in the armed struggle just for the national government to recognize the clamor of the Cordillerans for self-determination and for the region to be autonomous,” Ngao-I stressed.
The CBA-CPLA official underscored the constitutional provision on autonomy was a product of the armed struggle that could be traced to the Spanish colonial period where vigilant Cordillerans fought off intruders into their homeland. Later, these struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) against the discrimination and abuses of the government continues, especially in the exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources by irresponsible multinational corporations, and the case of the Chico dam struggle spared communities from being submerged and IPs being driven away from their ancestral domain.
According to him, there is a need to educate the younger generations of Cordillerans that the constitutional provision on autonomy was not just included in the 1987 Constitution without sufficient basis because it was the first of the CPLA’s 26-point demand that was discussed between the CPLA and the government panel led by President Aquino during the Mount Data peace negotiations on September 13, 1986 that resulted in the realization of peace in the region and the eventual establishment of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) by virtue of Executive Order (EO) No. 220 issued by President Aquino on July 15, 1987.
He asserted the present status of the region as an administrative region is temporary which could be dissolved by an act of Congress, thus, Cordillerans must realize the fact that achieving autonomous status will create greater opportunities for development.