BAGUIO CITY—The Philippine Institute of Development Studies supports the renewed quest for autonomy by the Cordillera Administrative Region because it has the legal framework to stand on vis-à-vis the planned shift from presidential to federal form of government being advocated by the present administration.
Dr. Rosario Manasan, PIDS public finance expert, said the quest for regional autonomy as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution “is aligned with the present administration’s bid to change the form of government to federal.”
“Autonomous regions can exist within established federal states like in countries that have that form of government, so Cordillerans can proceed with their quest for autonomy,” she said.
Autonomy and federalism are both anchored on decentralization and the devolution of resources from the national to the local governments, the PIDS official stressed, and for local governments “to have greater control of resources primarily geared toward the development of the host communities.”
The absence of the form and design of the proposed federal government is the primary hindrance why the shift to federal is not being aggressively pursued by advocates, Manasan noted, as the most frequently asked question from the public is how the county will be divided into federal states.
She said the shift to federal will also take time—as much as 10 years—because the federal and state constitutions must be crafted first.
Among the issues that must be addressed by federalism advocates, Manasan said, include the payment of the existing national debt, the distribution of the employees of agencies who will be displaced from the central government and their reassignment to the federal states, and the provisions on the equalizing provisions for less developed regions.
However, the PIDS official claimed the inclusion of the equalization provision in the state constitution of less-developed federal states “should be given a timeframe to avoid taxing these states in the future.”
She commended Cordillerans for having sustained the clamor for autonomy over the past three decades, underscoring the importance of establishing a permanent identity for the region’s indigenous peoples and ensuring the preservation and protection of their rich culture and heritage.
Pertinent provisions of the 1987 Constitution mandates the establishment of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera.