House members have expressed support for the passage of House Bill 5343, seeking to establish the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC), which is being pushed by political leaders of the present Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
In a hearing conducted by the House committee on constitutional amendments chaired by Rep. Roger Mercado (Lone District, Southern Leyte), Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan expressed hope for the passage of HB 5343, principally authored by Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (Lone District, Ifugao), as an Organic Act for the ARC.
Domogan said the proposed ARC will finally be acceptable to the people of the Cordilleras and will not suffer the same fate as Republic Act 6766 and RA 8438, which were rejected by the people in two plebiscites held in 1990 and 1998, respectively.
Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City), who hails from Benguet, said the House can provide support for the approval of HB 5343 to make the Cordillera Region a stronger autonomous region.
But Acop said there should be unity within the CAR before the approval of the bill to ensure its adoption in an eventual plebiscite.
Domogan believes the measure will strengthen what they have started at the CAR. He elaborated on the problems they encountered brought about by the lack of funding from the national and local governments under the present political setup.
One of the problems they faced is the delayed restoration of the Banaue Rice Terraces party due to the lack of funding, according to Domogan.
House Bill 5343 aims to establish a political entity and provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and cause of the Cordillerans and to secure their identity and posterity and allow for meaningful governance.
In his explanatory note of the bill, Baguilat said the two previous Organic Acts for an ARC were enacted but failed ratification mainly because of the people’s lack of information and discussion on the pros and cons of governance.
During the hearing, Deputy Minority Leader and ABS Party-list Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera said the basic problem in any failure of implementation of the law is leadership deficiency.
Mercado said the implementation of some local government projects have not been completed although funds were properly given to different departments.
“How come that some roads or buildings are not yet completed… there are buildings that have no roof,” said Mercado.
Mercado said the national government can coordinate the needs of a specific region, but the implementation in the localities is the problem.
Meanwhile, Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (3rd District, Negros Occidental) inquired about the tax collection of the CAR. Cordillera Regional Development Council (CRDC) Vice Chairperson Milagros Rimando said the CAR collected P5.7 billion in 2016 and P4.8 billion in 2015. The amounts are lesser than the funding allocated by the national government to the CAR, according to Rimando.
Domogan said the CAR tax collections are rather small because major companies operating in CAR remit their tax payments through their head offices in Metro Manila.
The committee conducted the hearing to discuss with officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the CAR about their current situation, structure, and functions in relation to a possible creation of federal states in the event of a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.