Cordillera elders bat for genuine autonomy

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet —The Cordillera indigenous peoples expressed approval for genuine regional autonomy and support the on-going peace talk between the government and the National Democratic Front, the leftist leaning coalition of progressive social organizations including indigenous rights groups.

The consensus was reached during the Cordillera Elders Workshop on Regional Autonomy held at the Gladiola Hall, Benguet State University here.

At least 162 Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives, local government officials and representatives of people’s organizations from the six provinces of the Cordillera and Baguio City attended the affair. State University, in this town.

The elders’ declaration highlighted the importance of grassroots information, education and campaign on autonomy, its basic content and features including consultations with different stakeholders and groups on the root causes of the problems of the Cordillera peoples and to come up with appropriate and comprehensive plan.

The group also strongly called on all the Cordillera politicians and main proponents of House Bill 4649 not to refile the bill at the House of Representatives. The bill does not embody the substance of genuine recognition of the collective rights of the Cordillera indigenous peoples over their ancestral lands and right to self-determination, they said.

In fact, the bill allows the disintegration of the territoriality of the Cordillera, they said, saying that a provision of the bill to allow two provinces to form an autonomous region is totally unacceptable.

In addition, the elders’ declaration expressed support for the crafting of a new bill that will truly recognize and uphold the rights to ancestral land and right to self-determination of the Cordillera indigenous peoples thru a democratic process with the participation of elders.

The Cordillera Elders Workshop was a joint collaboration of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, National Economic Development Authority-Cordillera Administrative Region, Cordillera Elders Alliance, and Cordillera Administrative Region Association of State Universities and Colleges. Thom Picana/