TUBA, Benguet – The grassroots consultation on regional autonomy is slowly gaining ground in Benguet with one of the biggest mining firms in the country hosting the latest dialogue on Tuesday.
Two ranking officials of Philex Mining Corp., Vice President for Operations Engr. Libby Ricafort and Community Relations Officer Jun Diso welcomed the panel of resource speakers led by lawyer Delmar Cariño and Dr. Peter Cosalan.
Tuesday’s consultation revolved on the 17 main provisions of House Bill 5595, which seeks to establish an autonomous set up in the Cordilleras.
Cosalan and Cariño explained to the audience the existing devolved powers and benefits local government units in the Cordilleras are currently enjoying, will not be removed, instead, additional powers could be enjoyed and availed if the region were autonomous.
They also allayed the fears of some quarters that the revenues generated from the operations of mining in the province like Benguet will be unjustly distributed to other provinces, which do not want their mineral deposits to be explored.
While both Cordillerans and Muslims have distinct cultures and traditions, Cosalan said there is a remote possibility that an autonomous set up in the northern highlands will pave the way for the creation of a regime like the Ampatuans in southern Mindanao.
He said HB 5595 limits the powers of the regional governor while the culture of inayan still reigns among Cordillerans.
The two other resource speakers were Mina Caimo of the Department of Budget and Management and Jerry Lab-oyan from the private sector.
The 1987 Constitution provides for autonomous region in the Cordilleras in recognition of the region’s contribution to national development and its own need to benefit from the exploitation of its once-rich mineral, water, and other natural resources.
Autonomy was supposed to legally enable the national government to provide additional development support to the Cordillera over and above what its local government units receive in International Revenue Allotments.
Just recently, five of six governors and the two city mayors in the region vowed support to the quest for regional autonomous Cordillera during the 25th CAR Foundation Day celebrations in Baguio.