Alliance finds Cordillera bill ‘totally unacceptable’

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: The Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) has urged Cordillera lawmakers to refile House Bill (HB) 4649 citing, saying the bill “does not embody the substance of genuine recognition of the collective rights of the Cordillera indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and right to self-determination.”

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“HB 4649 allows the disintegration of the territoriality of the Cordillera,” the CEA said in a resolution passed at the Cordillera Elders Workshop on Regional Autonomy at the Gladiola Hall, Benguet State University, on August 29-30

At least 162 elders, indigenous peoples’ mandatory representatives, local government officials and representatives of people’s organizations from the six provinces of the Cordillera and Baguio City adopted the resolution.

The elders rejected a provision of HB 4649 allowing two provinces to form an autonomous region, describing it as “totally unacceptable.”

CEA is an affiliate of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, the first people’s organization that lobbied for inclusion of regional autonomy in the 1987 Constitution.

The elders cited the importance of consultations with different stakeholders, organizations and groups on the root causes of the problems of the Cordillera peoples and to come up with appropriate and comprehensive plan.

They called on all six lawmakers representing the Cordillera in Congress to come up with a new bill that recognizes and upholds the rights to ancestral land and right to self-determination of the Cordillera indigenous peoples thru a democratic process with participation of the elders.

Most Cordillera congressmen, however, have been lukewarm in refiling HB 4649, citing various issues.

Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog said “the [Duterte] administration’s tack on federalism overshadows the regional autonomy move.”

Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan said there is yet no zest for pursuit of self-rule for the region, adding that the Cordillera should push for “federalism first before autonomy.”

The peoples of the Cordillera, according to Cosalan, “still have not reached that level of political maturity [for them to be part of]an autonomous region.”

“What we should work out instead is a federal system per existing region, not per super region as proposed,” the Benguet lawmaker said.

Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said there should be an intensified campaign for autonomy.

Kalinga Rep. Jesse Mangaoang said he believes that “[autonomy]needs to be known by all Cordillerans before they can vote to agree or not [to self-rule].”

Summing up the mood of all six of them who represent the region in Congress, Dalog, the most senior Cordillera congressman, said, “We have not gotten there yet.”

Two of the Cordillera lawmakers said they have other priorities.

For Abra Rep. Joseph Santo Nino Bernos, it is agricultural development in the countryside.

It is decongestion of Baguio City for Baguio Rep. Mark Go that he said could be realized by building a road passing through Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay.

The Cordillera Elders Workshop on Regional Autonomy was a collaboration among CEA, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, National Economic and Development Authority-Cordillera Administrative Region and Cordillera Administrative Region Association of State Universities and Colleges.

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