Autonomy advocates intensify lobby for pending bill

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union August 2 – Hundreds of autonomy advocates from the different parts of the Cordillera vowed to individually and collectively intensify their lobbying strategies to convince lawmakers from both chambers of Congress to start tackling House Bill (HB) 5343 and Senate Bill (SB) 1678, the bills that seek to establish the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC) and for President Rodrigo R. Duterte to fulfil his commitment to certify the bills as urgent measures of the administration.

The autonomy advocates composed of veteran autonomy advocates, lawyers, representatives of the academe, and non-government organizations (NGOs) and government agencies and local governments gathered at the Aureo Resort here to tackle the next steps that will be undertaken to support the quest for autonomy being spearheaded by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera.

Aside from lobbying the individual members of the relevant committees of the House and the Senate to take up the bills in their committees for the finalization of the report recommending the approval of the bills in plenary, some of the Cordillera officials and leaders of various influential groups, vowed to make the needed representations with the Office of the President for the certification of the proposed autonomy bills as urgent administration measures for the same to be enacted into law, like the Bangsamoro Organic Law that was recently signed into law by the President.

Further, local governments will be passing their own resolutions reiterating their previous support to the passage of the pending autonomy bills while representatives of various sectors also agreed to come out with manifestos of support from their organizations to show to the leadership of both chambers of Congress and the Chief Executive that Cordillerans are now serious in achieving autonomy vis-a-vis the administration's planned shift to federal form of government.

Although the initial discussion of HB 5343 has been calendared by the House committee on local government, the autonomy advocates urged Cordillera congressmen to fastrack the completion of consultations in their districts so that the committee will be appraised of the results that show the overwhelming clamors of the people for the realization of self-governance that could serve as a vehicle to fastrack the growth and development of the undeveloped parts of the region.

Initially, consultations in Baguio, Benguet and Mountain province were completed by their lawmakers while consultations in other parts of the Cordillera re still being scheduled by their respective lawmakers.

The realization of autonomy will eventually establish the permanent identity of the Cordillerans while there will be no diminution of benefits by the local governments in terms of fund share and powers granted by the Local Government Code; nationally paid workers will remain to be nationally paid; a grant of subsidy from the national government amounting to P10 billion annually for the first 5 years of the ARC and P5 billion annually for the next five years of the ARC's existence and more importantly, the national government will continue providing the required funding support to the region every beyond the 10-year subsidy period.

By Dexter A. See

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