BAGUIO CITY (July 27) — The Regional Development Council initiated grassroots information drive to determine the contents of a third organic act for a Cordillera Autonomous region was welcomed by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
They, however, doubt that a true people-based and inspired autonomy will be achieved by government whose earlier proposed organic acts has been twice rejected and presently under an administration that has the worst record of indigenous rights violations.
Windell Bolinget, the secretary general of CPA, suggested that the thirty million peso fund to get the “pulse” of the masses on what should be contained in a third organic act for a Cordillera autonomous region should instead be channeled to social services that is so much needed by the far flung villages of the Cordillera.
“While we welcome this move to get the people’s side on what is to be contained in an organic act, the people’s communities are under intense militarization unleashed to pave the way for the exploitation of the region’s resources,” added Bolinget. CPA is the oldest regional federation of community organizations in the Cordillera established in June 1984.
Bolinget added that 1.2 million hectares of the region’s area of 1.8 million hectares is covered by mostly foreign corporation applications for mining exploration and operations.
Indigenous leaders in the Cordillera who led the opposition against these mining activities had been extra-judicially killed by alleged state agents this include Makoy Bangit and Alice Claver, said Bolinget.
“So, how can they achieve substantial input from the people caught in such a kind of situation?” He asked.
The Department of Budget and Management in the Cordillera announced that the fifteen million peso will be released. for this year. The other half will be allegedly released next year.
According to Nordis sources, the RDC requested for a thirty five million peso budget last year to the Office of the President but only P 30 million was approved.
The budget will fund the RDC initiated consultation at the grass roots level on what they want to be included in a future organic act.
Quest for real autonomy
Bolinget clarified however that the rejection of the organic acts initiated by the state is not tantamount to the rejection of autonomy, which the essence, he claimed, is for the indigenous peoples to freely determine their political status and pursue at their own pace their own economic and socio-cultural development.
Nordis learned that the first Organic Act for the Cordillera autonomy was rejected in a plebiscite on January 30, 1990 by all the Cordillera provinces except Apayao while the second Organic Act was rejected on March 7, 1998 except for the province of Ifugao.
“The come-on of mining and other exploitation of the region’s resources by GMA is in fact a violation of our right to self-determination” by this, he pointed out, only heightens their aspirations for autonomy and strengthens community organizing and mobilization.
Meanwhile, Bolinget claimed that they will express their heightened opposition to state atrocities on August 9, a day declared by the United Nations General Assembly as International Day for Indigenous Peoples.
August 9 was declared International Day for Indigenous Peoples in commemoration of that same day in 1983 when the UN created Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) had their first meeting. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS