Issue of April 8, 2018

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Senate bill allows autonomy for 2 or more CAR provinces
by Harley F. Palangchao

The bill filed by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri that seeks to set up an autonomous Cordillera region allows two or more provinces and/or cities that would ratify it can be formed into an autonomous region.

Senate Bill 1678 proposed under Article II Sec. 3 that the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) shall consist of the cit-+y and provinces that shall vote favorably in the plebiscite called for the ratification of the proposed third Organic Act.

The proposed third Organic Act will be ratified in the cities of Baguio and Tabuk and the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province.

Zubiri proposed that the interim capital of the regional government will be in Baguio, where most of the regional line agencies are located.

Cordilleran voters rejected the two previous plebiscites that aim to ratify two Organic Acts in 1990 and 1998. In the first plebiscite, only Ifugao voted for self-rule while Apayao was the only province that favored autonomy in the second attempt.

Earlier, Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, one of those pushing for more grassroots level information education campaign on autonomy, said the bill seeking a third attempt for autonomous Cordillera must have a provision that only the provinces and/or cities that will ratify the third Organic Act will form an autonomous region.

The provinces and/or cities that will reject the Organic Act shall remain under the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Under Zubiri’s bill, the ARC will receive from the national government an annual subsidy of P10 billion for the first five years and P5 billion for the next five years.

Such provision, however, is perceived by concerned quarters to be outdated and the proposed annual subsidy has not been modified since the second Organic Act.  This as the Cordillera, in the past years, has been a recipient of an annual allocation of more or less P10B for infrastructure projects alone.

“If that proposed P10B annual subsidy will not be increased, what will happen to the operation of other regional line agencies? The Cordillera will not get more subsidy even if it is allowed to have control over its own resources especially during the transition period,” said a source who agreed to cite his views on the Zubiri bill on condition of anonymity.

The senator expressed support to the long clamor for autonomy, saying that it is through the establishment of an autonomous region of Cordillera that Cordillerans will have the opportunity to decide on what policies and programs will best fit the region at the same time have the freedom to pursue their political, economic, social and cultural development within the framework of the national sovereignty in accordance with their practices and cultural heritage and identity.

“Through regional autonomy, underdevelopment and poverty in the Cordillera can be more effectively addressed,” Zubiri said.

Under SB 1678, the ARC will have a regional governor, regional vice governor, and members of the Regional Assembly.

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