CAR still hopeful to get autonomy

TABUK CITY, Kalinga— The call for the autonomy of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) still continues 33 years after the Cordillera Bodong Association-Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) and the government exchanged tokens for a peace accord where the declaration of self-determination is the primary condition.

“Let us not waste what our forefathers planted, this is our right as CPLA and Cordilleran. Let us care and continue to push for autonomy,” said Abra vice Governor Ronald Balao-as in his speech during the 33rd “Sipat” anniversary celebration program on Friday here.

The event was attended by local government officials, regional line agency heads and representatives and around 200 commanders and members of the CPLA.

Balao-as is also the chairman of the Unified CPLA.

He said Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang is finalizing the draft bill for the Cordillera Organic Law (COL), which the region’s voters will ratify.

On September 13, 1996, the peace accord, locally known as the “Sipat” or exchange of tokens with the government, represented by former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino, was done with the CPLA, a New People’s Army (NPA) break-away group led by former rebel priest Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg at Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province.

“Because of ‘Sipat’, we made an impression in the Filipino nation, reminding that there is still unfinished business in the peace agreement between the government and the Cordillera. In the history of the peace process in the Philippines, the Mt. Data is the second peace accord entered by the government,” he said.

“We have been clamoring for autonomy, 33 years have passed but we have not yet received our autonomy. We were given the administrative region as a start to prepare us, but 33 years after, where is it now?” he said.

With the peace accord between Cory and Balweg in 1986, the CBA-CPLA submitted a 26-point demand, which the government adhered to.

In an interview with Philippine News Agency (PNA) in Baguio City on Thursday, Sadanga, Mountain Province Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, one of the secretariat during the 1986 peace accord, said the 26-point demand is summarized in the region’s continuing clamor for autonomy.

The call for the Cordillera’s self-determination is a recognition of its right of the indigenous people to its land and resources and to manage itself based on legal grounds./Jesse Maguiya (PNA)