BAGUIO CITY – Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza disclosed President Rodrigo Duterte supports the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy by the Cordillerans in recognition of their significant contributions to the realization of peace and development in the countryside.
In his prepared speech delivered by Director Susan Marcaida of the Government Secretariat and Secession of Hostilities of the office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process during the culminating program of the 29th founding anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) held at the Baguio Convention Center Friday, Dureza emphasized that the Cordillera has a place in the country’s history having struggled for decades in order to move out from the abuses not only of the country’s colonizers but also those who tried to abuse their domain.
“Cordillerans deserve to be granted what has been enshrined in the Constitution but there is a need for autonomy advocates to rally the support of the people in order to achieve the long overdue self-governance as it is the people who will sustain whatever will be achieved by the region in the future,” Dureza stated.
However, the Palace official revealed that one of the major priorities of the Duterte administration is for the shift of the current presidential form to federal form of government which is quite similar to the clamor for regional autonomy wherein there will be greater control of resources and power by the concerned local governments among others.
Duereza is looking forward to meeting concerned stakeholders of the region in order to align the clamor for regional autonomy to that of the administration’s bid to shift to federal form of government in the future.
Local officials from the region re-echoed their sentiments for President Duterte to certify as urgent the bill to be filed creating the autonomous region in the Cordillera considering that the snowballing support of various stakeholders to the renewed pursuit for autonomy shows that the region is now ready to embrace self-governance unlike in the previous administration where the issue was never given a preferential attention.
Rep. Mark Go asserted autonomy will bring Cordillerans closer together admits the diversified culture and traditions and it will not divide the people, thus, he voiced out his support to the quest for regional autonomy in order to preserve the rich culture and heritage of the indigenous peoples.
He pointed out the Cordillera had gone through a rich history of struggles that had made the difference compared to other regions in the country, thus, the need to be able to preserve such rich heritage for the benefit of the present and future generations.
Abra Gov. Maria Jocelyn Bernos said that the realization of autonomy is not yet too late in the day considering the passion of leaders to achieve self-governance in the future, thus, it is best for everyone to unite and send a strong message to government that the Cordillerans are ready for autonomy.
According to her, future legislations for autonomy will be supported by the officials and people of Abra because they already understand the importance of self0determination and self-governance.
Apayao Gov. Elias C. Bulut, Jr. stated Apayao has always been ready for autonomy like what happened in the March 7, 1998 plebiscite where it was only their province that voted in favour of the Second Organic Act crafted for the purpose.
He revealed Apayaos are always committed in the renewed pursuit for autonomy because they know the importance of being able to have greater control of resources and power aside from being able to craft programs that are suitable to the condition of the Cordillera.
Benguet Gove. Crecencio Pacalso said that there is a need to further strengthen the bond of Cordillerans so that they will not only come together during the CAR founding anniversary but year-round.
He explained that in important occasions such as the Adivay Festival of Benguet, Lang-ay Festival of Mountain Province, Gutad Festival of Ifugao, Ullalim Festival of Kalinga, Say-am Festival of Apayao, Kawayan Festival of Abra and Panagbenga Festival of Baguio, Cordillerans must come together to show their unity and support for their fellow Cordillerans in order for the people to succeed in their long overdue aspiration.
Ifugao Gov. Pedro Mayam-o asserted that the people of Ifugao are ready to again cast their yes votes for autonomy and if the plebiscite is held next month, then Ifugao will be one of the provinces that will compromise the autonomous region.
He said that Ifugao is only awaiting the decision of other Cordillerans from other provinces whether they like their province to join Ifugao in the autonomous region.
Kalinga Gov. Jocel C. Baac said it is high time for Cordillerans to sustain the bond and use the bond to convince the people in favouring the autonomy bill that will be crafted for future Cordillerans to be the ones to reap the fruits of self-governance.
He signified the intention of Kalinga to host the future CAR founding anniversary celebrations so that the people of Kalinga will show the value of self-determination considering that it is in their place that the struggle for autonomy started.
Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. said that the people of the province are ready to join Ifugao to compromise the autonomous government if other provinces are not yet interested because they have experienced the difficulty of transacting business in the current bureaucracy where allocations for the province are being held because of a very low population and small land area.
Lacwasan explained the state of the Cordillera in terms of population and land area is unique compared to other regions that is why shifting to autonomous set up will surely remove the bias of the national government against less populated areas as the autonomous government will have greater control of its resources and development thrusts.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said the desire of the Duterte administration to shift to federal form of government should be taken as an opportunity to include the region’s aspiration for autonomy.
He claimed the road to federal form of government is rough considering the need to amend the Constitution among others but the provision for autonomy is already in place, thus, the need for Cordillerans to take advantage of the situation before it will be too late in the day.
Domogan revealed that there is a need for Cordillerans to hold an autonomy summit with Secretary Dureza to craft a road map for autonomy in the Cordillera.
By Dexter A. See