BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera lawmakers remain united for the establishment of the long-overdue Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) as they refiled House Bill (HB) 3267 which seeks to create the CAR that will contribute in speeding up the development of the region in the future.
HB 3267 authored by Abra Rep. Menchie Bernos, Apayao Rep. Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang and Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Y. Dalog, Jr. states that the purpose of the proposed law is to establish an effective political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and cause of the people of the Cordillera, their fundamental and constitutional right to self-determination and the faithful pursuit of the duty to protect, conserve and develop their patrimony and cultural heritage in order to secure for themselves and their posterity, the preservation of their identity and posterity, and the attainment of meaningful and effective governance.
Under the proposed law, the area of the CAR shall consist of the cities and provinces that shall favourably in the plebiscite that will be called for the ratification of the Organic Act.
The bill explained that the term Cordilleran shall apply to the citizens of the Philippines, especially those whose mothers or fathers are indigenous peoples of the Cordillera; those who are born in the CAR and those who are residing in the CAR for at least 1 year.
However, the CAR shall remain an integral and inseparable part of the national territory of the Philippines as defined by the Constitution and existing laws.
The bill claims that the CAR shall be governed and administered pursuant to the Organic Act and the laws enacted by the regional assembly and the Congress of the Philippines.
According to the bill, the national government shall provide the CAR with a proportionate and equitable share in the annual national budget and foreign-assisted projects based on the defined programs, functions and performance goals of the region in addition to other financial assistance, support and subsidies to accelerate its development.
Further, the bill stipulated that the Commission on Audit (COA) may require a pre-audit whenever it finds that the internal controls set up in the region are inadequate. It shall likewise seminars in the communities concerned explaining the benefits and proper use of the national tax allotments.
The bill pointed out that in the exercise of their right to genuine autonomy and meaningful self-governance, inhabitants of the CAR are free to pursue their political, economic, social and cultural development within the framework of national sovereignty and in accordance with the constitution.
Moreover, the regional government will be a democratic political system that allows the people to participate in political processes.
The bill emphasized that the inhabitants of the CAR shall have prior and preferential right to the natural, material and fiscal resources of the CAR pursuant to the Constitution and other pertinent laws.
The bill asserted that the rights of the people of the CAR to initiate measures for the passage, amendment or repeal of regional or local legislations, to be consulted on matters that affect their welfare; to call for a referendum on important issues affecting their lives and to recall regional or local officials as provided for in Republic Act (RA) 7160 otherwise known as the Local government code of the Philippines as amended.
The proposed law cited that the regional government adheres to the policy of peace and shall establish peace zones within the region when applicable.
In additional, the regional government shall adopt a policy on local autonomy whereby regional powers shall be devolved to local government units, particularly in areas of education, health, human resources, science and technology and people empowerment.
The bill underscored that the regional government shall pursue a policy of inter-regional development planning, coordination, and mutual cooperation in order to promote sustainable development as well as protect and conserve resources.
The bill will allow the regional government to provide incentives to investors, corporations, and other businesses, in accordance with the Constitution, the Organic Act, RA 11534 otherwise known as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, and other pertinent laws.
The bill will respect customary laws on personal, family and property relations when applicable.
The proposed law said that local governments in the CAR, including the regional government, shall be entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, in the manner provided for by law and the Organic Act.
HB 3267 is composed of 18 articles and 167 sections that clearly defines the role of the autonomous region, its officers in relation to the existence of regional line agencies and local governments as well as the private sector.
In the 18th Congress, the House committee on local government consolidated HB 5687 authored by all Cordillera congressmen and HB 7778 authored by former ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. and Benguet caretaker congressman and now Benguet Rep. Eric Yap which was known as HB 10729 that was passed on third and final reading by the House. The said consolidated bill sought to create the CAR but it was overtaken by events, especially the adjournment synergy of both chambers of Congress last June 1, 2022.
With the early filing of the said autonomy bill, Cordillera lawmakers expressed hope that the same will be immediately acted upon by the concerned House committee so that it will be passed the soonest for the Senate to be able to pass the required counterpart bill that will lead to the enactment of the law before the May 2025 midterm elections.