BAGUIO CITY – Abra Gov. Eustaquio P. Bersamin underscored the granting of autonomy to a certain part of the country is always with a purpose, and in the case of the Cordillera, it is to accelerate the socio-economic development in the region.
During Wednesday’s regional conference on the Bangsamora and Cordillera autonomy, Bersamin, who is also the chairman of the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR), pointed out that the goal is not only for Cordillerans to successfully pass the law creating the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) but also to make sure that it is an autonomy that will serve its purpose.
“We want to learn from international experiences and our country’s own. The study of autonomous entities, both outside and within the country, should enable us to identify the factors that contributed to their success or failure,” Bersamin stressed.
The Abra governor cited in this manner, Cordillerans should be able to define the autonomy that is more conducive to success but people should remember that autonomy is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
According to him, international experiences on the success of autonomy in delivering peace and growth has been mixed because while the autonomous regions in Finland and Italy are generally considered to be highly successful cases, particularly in resolving internal conflicts, there are the likes of Indonesia and even the Philippines where the adoption of autonomy were not successful.
Bersamin, explained, however, that the flaw is not in autonomy itself but the conditions in which it was applied, thus, autonomy should be tailored to the cultural, historical, political, legal and institutional characteristics of both the region and the State.
For example, the RDC-CAR chairman cited the autonomy that Cordillerans must pursue should include mechanisms to protect minorities within minorities and that Cordillera autonomy will only serve the Itneg or Igorot brothers is quite a common sentiment and which he personally thinks must not be ignored.
“We also want to emphasize that due attention must also be given to the capacity of the institutions in the region. The low absorptive capacity of local governments has become quite the perennial problem even under the currently fairly limited decentralized functions of local governments including in the Cordilleras,” Bersamin added.
He asserted that the same should compel Cordillerans to incorporate in the autonomy law measures that will ensure that institutions should be adequately equipped not only in terms of financial resources but also organization capacity to undertake the broadened mandates that will be accorded to them.
The local chief executive asserted the underlying of all the agenda is that autonomy is not a static system but there are varying forms of autonomy, since Cordillerans can draw the autonomy that they want according to what historical experiences and our very own distinct character as a region dictates.
Bersamin admitted the tall order is for Cordillerans to be able to draw the type of autonomy that will work both for the good of the people and the country.
By Dexter A. See