LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera unanimously approved the proposed bill that will establish an Autonomous Region in the Cordillera to be filed by the region’s congressmen in the House of Representatives.
The proposed bill, mostly culled from House Bill (HB) 4649 filed by Cordillera congressmen in the previous Congress, contains 19 articles and 184 sections that embody the sentiments of the people of the Cordillera represented in previous consultations organized by the RDC-CAR over the past several months.
The RDC-CAR en banc approved the draft autonomy bill in the presence of Benguet Gov. Crecencio Pacalso, Ifugao Gov. Pedro Mayam-o and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan.
However, Domogan reminded the technical working group (TWG) that prepared the draft bill to review Article 2, Section 6 pertaining to the Cordillera identity because it is reportedly dangerous and it might be taken advantage by non-Cordillerans to claim reverse discrimination.
He warned that what is being defined in the questioned provision are the indigenous peoples and not who are the Cordillerans.
Under the new proposed autonomy bill, a Cordilleran is a person whose father or mother is a member of an indigenous cultural community or is an indigenous person of the region; their children who shall have completed two years of residence in the region at the time of the adoption of the Organic Act and if of age, are registered voters of the region and if capable, are taxpayers; those who in their minor years, are adopted by Cordillerans under customary laws or civil law and those who are spouses and descendants of Cordillerans.
Domogan and Mayam-o explained the aforesaid provision defines indigenous peoples and not actually a Cordilleran, thus, the need to revise the provision to prevent it from being used against the approval of the autonomy bill when submitted to the people for ratification.
Domogan proposed to the members of the TWG to specify under Article IV or Article IX the powers of the national government that should be devolved to the regional government, particularly the issuance of water rights, exploration and mining permits, hydro development contracts among others to make sure that there will be no untoward intrusion into the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples.
The RDC-CAR conditionally approved the draft autonomy bill subject to corrections before it will be transmitted to the Cordillera congressmen for filing in the House of Representatives before the end of this year or by early next year depending on the availability of the authors of the proposed autonomy bill. By Dexter A. See