The constitutional provision for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera and in Muslim Mindanao is a tacit admission by the national government that these two regions have been neglected and need self-rule to spur their development.
This is the point of autonomy, Baguio city mayor Mauricio Domogan noted, explaining that self-rule would empower the national government to pour into the two regions development support that can not be had under the present set-up.
“This is the point of self-rule, not the grossly mistaken fear and rumor that autonomy would result in the imposition of taxes on chickens and other domestic animals to sustain the budget of the autonomous region,” Domogan told a forum on regional autonomy for Cordillera businessmen last Tuesday at the Ating Tahanan here.
Autonomy, Domogan stressed, would empower the national government to provide the region fund support over and above what it is presently receiving to speed up its development and make it at par with the other regions of the country.
The mayor took the cue from the earlier report of regional director Milagros Rimando of the National Economic and Development Authorty that, under the present set-up, the Cordilllera can hardly compare with the other regions in terms of development fund shares.
Rimando pointed out that the Cordillera ranks lowest at 17th with an allocation of P32.20 billion allocation of expenditure in the national budget while the ARMM was ranked 14th with a P45.06 outlay.
While the state of roads in the Cordilera improved in the last three years, this mountain region still has the lowest-paved roads at 63 percent among the 16 regions regions nationwide.
Among the 16 regions, the Cordillera also gets the least Internal Revenue Allotment(IRA) share at P800,429.000 as per figures obtained from the Department of Budget and Development.
For the past four years, the Cordillera posted the slowest growing economy in Luzon at 3.1, 7.3, 9.2 and 5.9 GRDP, Rimando underscored.
These despite the huge contribution of the Cordillera to the country’s development mainly in terms of the extraction of its mined gold other mineral wealth and harnessing of its hydroelectric power for national development.
Reason enough for then Benguet governor Raul Molintas to observe that under the “bibingka” formula of development espoused by then President Fidel Ramos, Benguet had long far exceeded its contribution to national development, through its mineral and hydroelectric power, has been enormous.
Rimando noted that a Cordillera autonomous region will speed up correction of poolicies that put the region at the disadvantage, recognize and elevate relevant indigenous laws to general policies of the region and enable the Cordillera regional governor to sit in the President’s cabinet.
She pointed out that under the present dispensation, national standards do not conform to conditions in the Cordillera, among them road standards vis-à-vis the region’s mountainous terrain, the Forestry Code which provides that no land of 18 degrees slope can be classified as alienable and disposable while most of the Cordillera lands, such as the ancient rice terraces fall within such prohibition.
The region, Rimando noted, also pointed out the unfairness of the Roxas Law (R.A. 7880) on fair and equitable allocation of the schools capital outlay using the 45:1 student-classroom ratio.
Because of the region’s mountainous terrain, a ratio of 45 pupils can hardly be obtained as basis for the construction of a classroom.
The clearing of these obstacles to development are enough reasons for the push towards autonomy, Rimando said.
Lawyer Delmar Carino, a member of the speaker’s bureau for autonomy, said self-rule would stimulate the business opportunities in the region./Ramon Dacawi