BAGUIO CITY (December 7, 2018) — One of the leading proponents of HB 5343,“An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC),” has committed to incorporating recommendations coming from the area’s indigenous peoples into the proposed bill in order to truly reflect their hopes and aspirations.

“I would like to assure you that there is enough time for us to consider whatever (proposals) you will present to us,” Baguio City Representative Mark Go said in his remarks during the opening of the Indigenous People’s Legislative Assembly in the Cordillera Administrative Region (IPLA-CAR) for Regional Autonomy.

“I am committed to wait for your inputs prior to the approval in the Technical Working Group (TWG) of this proposed bill,” Go added.

Go was among the seven Cordilleran members of Congress who co-authored HB 5343, which was filed in Congress in March last year.

The legislator’s statement was met with applause by the more than 100 IP delegates coming from the region’s six provinces who are attending the three-day event.

Organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)-IP Peace Panel and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) with support from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the assembly aims to obtain proposals from the region’s IPs on how the pending bill can be further enhanced, specifically provisions that impact on the rights and welfare of the IPs.

According to Go, who is the chair of the TWG that was constituted in the Lower House for the purpose of introducing improvements to HB 5343, the conduct of the IPLA-CAR is both relevant and timely in light of recent developments.

“Today’s activity is important and an opportunity because this is a complete effort from you, [specially for] members of indigenous communities to participate in the crafting of the proposed measure,” he said.

“This indeed is an opportune time to [make] amendments to the proposed bill,” he added.

Go said the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution had a compelling reason for identifying Cordillera as among the two regions in the country that should be granted autonomy.

“Section 15, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution was created because of common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic resource structures and other relevant characteristics of the geographic area and its people,” he said.

Go mentioned that the consultations previously conducted by his office on the proposed law were mostly participated in by local government officials.

“It’s time that we hear from you (IPs). This time, we will be hearing directly from the grassroots. We want to be sure that when we bring this (HB 5343) back to you for approval, it will be approved,” he said.

“I believe that this (law) is a means to secure sustainable development for the region which has been put on hold for too long now,” he added.

HB 5343 should, first and foremost, protect the ancestral domain rights of the IPs, he said.  

Prior to the legislative assembly, the OPAPP-IP Peace Panel and NCIP spearheaded a series of provincial consultations in Ifugao, Benguet, Kalinga, Apayao, and Mountain Province as well as in Baguio City.

Each of the legislative consultations was attended by more than a hundred IP delegates.

The consultations were thematic and focused on key provisions in the autonomy bill that pertained to land and natural resources, governance and representation, and cultural rights.

“I was told that the delegates who are here today represent the different ethnolinguistic groups in the entire region,” Go said.

“Cordillera definitely deserves to be given autonomy because [although] we have varied cultures, this (assembly) is proof that we can attain unity [despite our] diversity,” he added. ###