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               Forum on Cordillera Autonomy

         Speaker Montilla Hall, South Wing Annex, House of Representatives          

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

 

HIGHLIGHTS

The Forum on Cordillera Autonomy was held last 17 January 2018 with the objective of deepening the understanding of the House Members and the Secretariat on the historical context and key features of the proposed establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) under House Bill 5343. The event was organized by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the Regional Development Council (RDC)–Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and with the special participation of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP).

 

In his speech, Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) highlighted the importance of securing the strong support of the Cordilleran community for the proposed ARC.[1] He announced during the forum that he was able to get the support of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to author the counterpart ARC bill in the Senate.

 

Ms. Milagros Rimando, Regional Director of the National Economic Development Authority-CAR, reported in the forum overview that there has been an intensified and targeted information, education and communication campaign to secure the support of the Cordilleran community for the proposed ARC.

 

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, Chairman of the RDC-CAR, discussed the context of the ARC proposal. Highlighting the issue of inequity in budget allocation, Domogan said that the CAR receives one of the lowest shares in the national budget and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The Mayor also noted that local government units (LGUs) in the region remain highly dependent on the IRA from the National Government (NG) to support their operations. 

 

Mayor Domogan identified key considerations in crafting the Organic Act for ARC: 1) permanent regional identity; 2) non-diminution of existing benefits and powers; 3) revenue sources for the region including NG subsidy; and 4) regional sustainability after the period of NG subsidy. Salient features of the ARC bill include the following:

·    Devolution of certain powers exercised by the National Government (NG) to the Regional Government (RG) of the ARC  (i.e., public administration, tax policy, regulation of agricultural/forest and mineral resources, personal, family and property relations, urban and regional planning, socio-economic and tourism development, education policy, preservation and development of cultural heritage, and intellectual property matters).

·       ARC representation in Presidential Cabinet meetings.

·       Automatic retention of regional and local revenues exclusively to the RG and ARC-LGUs.

·     Just share from national internal revenue collections including national wealth and energy taxes, and from the net income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

·       NG financial assistance of P10 Billion annually for the first five years.

 

Atty. Benedicto Bacani, IAG Executive Director, encouraged the ARC proponents to focus their advocacy on the enactment of the ARC bill, which is less contentious compared with the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Bacani also urged the ARC stakeholders to have a common position on key issues involving regional autonomy under a federal setup.

 

Meanwhile, Dr. Romulo E.M. Miral Jr., CPBRD Director General, discussed the topic of financial viability of the region. According to Miral, it is important to clarify first the assignment of functions between the NG, RG and LGUs in order to properly assess the ARC’s financial viability. He also emphasized the need to examine the nature of government functions and the distinct strengths of the NG, RG and LGUs in performing their assigned functions.

 

Dr. Miral stressed that one of the key criteria for creating regions especially under a federal setup is the capacity of regional governments to generate own-source revenues. In relation to this, he said that there is a need to strengthen the revenue-generating capacity of regions by empowering them to impose and collect some taxes currently assigned to the NG. Miral also called for a reform in the current collection system which pools government revenues at the national level before they are downloaded to the regions and LGUs.

Among the key questions raised during the open forum pertain to the following:

·     The powers, functions, and responsibilities of national government agencies (NGAs) to be devolved to the RG;

·     The programs and initiatives intended for the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera;

·     The reformulation of the revenue sharing system between NG and LGUs, and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); 

·     The administrative region where a component  province or city that voted ‘No’ during the plebiscite needs to be integrated; and

·     The mechanism for electing the Regional Governor and Vice Governor.

In closing, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema expressed her gratitude and support to the people of Cordillera, whom she likens to the people of Bangsamoro, for bringing their cause for self-determination in Congress. She likewise sought for the continued support of the Cordillera community for the passage of the BBL. Meanwhile, Commissioner Jose I. Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), encouraged the ARC proponents to maximize their efforts in articulating the needs of their people so that Congress will enact a regional autonomy law that reflects the true desire of the Cordillera people.


 [1]Note that in each of the last two plebiscites, only one province (out of the six constituent provinces and city) ratified the Organic Act (i.e., Republic Acts 6766 and 8438) creating the autonomous region in the Cordillera. The Supreme Court ruled that a single province cannot constitute an autonomous region.

 

PROGRAMME

 

 8:30 – 9:00 AM Registration 
 9:00 – 9:10  National Anthem and Opening Prayer
 9:10 – 9:25   Welcome and Introduction Cordillera Autonomy Updates and Forum Overview

      RD Milagros A. Rimando

      Vice Chairman, CAR-RDC

 9:25 – 10:10  Historical Context and the Salient Features of HB 5343

      Mayor Mauricio Domogan

      Chairman, CAR-RDC

 10:10 – 10:30 

The Proposed Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) and Federalism Proposals

      Atty. Benedicto Bacani

      Executive Director, IAG

 10:30 – 10:50  Financial Viability of the Cordillera Region as an Autonomous Region and as a Federal State

      Dr. Romulo E.M. Miral, Jr.

      Director General, CPBRD

 10:50 – 11:10

National Importance of the Cordillera and Bangsamoro Autonomy

      Sec. Jesus Dureza, OPAPP

 11:10 – 2:00 PM  OPEN FORUM / LUNCH

                               

Closing Remarks

      Atty. Benedicto Bacani, IAG

 

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