BAUKO, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE-- Five major rebel factions and groups in Cordillera converged here on Monday to unify their ranks towards healing and reconciliation, as they strongly pushed for Cordillera autonomy as a step towards federalism.
Leaders and representatives of various Cordillera rebel factions and other groups namely the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) and Cordillera Bodong Association (CPLA-CBA), Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Broad Coalition (CBC), Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission (CRCC), and North Luzon Coalition for Good Governance (NLCGG), have jointly called on all Cordillerans to unite and rally behind efforts to establish the constitutionally mandated Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.
The different rebel groups, together with the civil society, local government units and national government agencies gathered together for the first time at the Forum on CAR Regional Autonomy dubbed as "Pioneer Cordillera Champions Coming Together" held at Mount Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province on Monday, 24 April.
The forum was organized by the Cordillera Regional Development Council and NEDA-CAR in partnership with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process as a venue for continuing dialogue with the Cordillera groups and converge their interests and efforts for the attainment of a Cordillera autonomy.
Speaking before the Cordillera groups at the forum, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza called on all Cordillerans to unite first, saying there are diverse groups in Cordillera but there should only be one united effort by all towards the autonomy of the region.
"In the roadmap for peace and development in the Cordillera, you may have different routes but there should only be one destination. Let's now try and converge these different routes into one destination," Secretary Dureza said.
He also stressed it is high time for the Cordillera to entrench a regional autonomy that will truly recognize and uphold the rights to ancestral land and right to self-determination of the region but Cordillerans should work first towards achieving a cohesive Cordillera society.
To recall, the revolutionary movement in Cordillera had split into factions brought by the differences and historical injustices in the past.
"There's a process of reconciliation and you must find a way to take advantage of this opportunity of building back relationships. Understand first and learn to accept your differences," said Secretary Dureza.
He also reiterated the importance of addressing the historical injustices as key to achieving sustainable peace and development.
"There must definitely be historical injustices suffered by the Cordillerans and the main common ground is taking away natural resources at the expense of your people in the area. You have to address transitional justice and reconciliation," he added.
In response to OPAPP's call for peace and unification, leaders of the CPLA and other groups also expressed support for achieving one voice for Cordillera.
"We fully support this effort and I call upon all members of CPLA to unite as one. How can we expect civil society and other groups to support us if we ourselves are not united so let's all support this and move together as one," said Conrado Dieza of the CPLA.
Cordillera groups, together with the local chief executives and representatives of the six provinces of the Cordillera and the City of Baguio have forged support for the passage of House Bill 5343, "An act establishing the autonomous region of the Cordillera" which was filed recently in Congress.
Baguio City Mayor and RDC CAR chair Mauricio Domogan said that the new proposed bill reiterates the Cordillera people's united stand for genuine regional autonomy.
"We had been totally neglected by the national government for a long period of time and so it is time to support and pass the bill," said Mayor Domogan.
The forum also highlighted the importance of engaging people on the ground through peace table conversations. OPAPP strongly urged the RDC-CAR and Cordillera groups to continue people's dialogue and stakeholder engagement to further strengthen the move for Cordillera autonomy.
Source: Philippines Information Agency