Issue of July 9, 2017
     
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Meeting with Duterte to boost autonomy bid
by Harley F. Palangchao

NOT LOSING HOPE -- Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan, chair of the Regional Development Council-Cordillera, says the quest for autonomous region is still alive under the Duterte government. RDC-CAR officials, during the State of the Region Address at The Mansion, announced they are setting a possible meeting with the President to discuss the merits of autonomy.
-- Harley Palangchao

 

A personal audience between President Rodrigo Duterte and officials of the Cordillera Regional Development Council will most likely bolster the bid for autonomous region in the highlands.

“What we (RDC officials) are most hopeful of is to have an audience with the President so we can directly relay to him our strong desire to become autonomous,” said Baguio City Mayor and RDC Chair Mauricio Domogan.

The long-time quest for autonomy is one of the major priorities set by RDC-CAR for Plan 2017-2022 when key government officials and the private sector met at The Mansion on Friday for the State of the Region Address.

Despite setbacks, Domogan rallied RDC-CAR members to remain hopeful and have patience in continuously emphasizing to national and local audiences what autonomy means for the Cordillera and its people.

“Autonomy means an enhanced Cordillera identity and self-determination and having responsive policies for the region and its people,” Domogan said.

“We must bring to them the message and our belief that autonomy will help us pursue a development path that is sustainable and responsible to our needs, our diverse cultures, and our uniqueness as a region towards peace and development for all Cordillerans,” he added.

Aside from the 1987 Constitution, the promise for autonomy by the national government is embodied in Executive Order 220, which created the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Then President Corazon Aquino issued EO 220 as a prize for the signing of peace accord forged between the Aquino administration and the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) then led by slain renegade priest Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg in Mount Data Hotel in Mountain Province in 1987. However, Cordillerans overwhelmingly rejected the organic acts for autonomous set up in the Cordillera in separate plebiscites in 1990 and 1998.

Domogan has explained earlier that the concerns raised by quarters on autonomous setup have been sufficiently answered in the series of public consultations and fora, adding that there is a growing awareness on the key provisions of a House bill pushing for autonomy.

He said that while Cordillera leaders support President Duterte’s planned shift to federal form of government, the advocacy on autonomy should come first before federalism.

“Knowing fully well the progressive and decisive stance of this administration, it may yet be our biggest chance that special concerns affecting Cordillerans are finally heard and addressed (by the Duterte government),” the RDC-CAR chair said.

RDC-CAR had no chance to meet with former president Benigno Aquino III to personally discuss the quest for autonomy in the Cordillera.


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