Localizing SDGs in the Cordillera

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global shared blue print for peace and prosperity, and its localization was discussed recently in a regional symposium organized by the National Economic and Development Authority –Cordillera Administrative Region(NEDA- CAR) for Cordillera line agencies, local policy makers, the academe and civil society to provide stakeholders a clearer picture of the development agenda of the Philippine government and how these relate to the SDGs.
17 UN SDGs
Adopted by all United Nation member states, the SDGs consisting of 17 goals is an urgent call for action by all countries through global partnership which recognizes that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth.
The 17 UN SDGs targeted to be achieved by 2030 are: (1) No poverty, (2) Zero hunger, (3) Good health and well-being for people, (4) Quality education, (5) Gender equality, (6) Clean water and sanitation, (7) Affordable and clean energy, (8) Decent work and economic growth, (9) Resilient and sustainable industry, innovation, and infrastructure, (10) Reducing inequalities, (11) Sustainable cities and communities, (12) Responsible consumption and production, (13) Climate action, (14) Conservation of life below water, (15) Conservation of life on land, (16) Peace, justice and strong institutions, and (17) Partnerships for the goals.
NEDA Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla who presented the national and regional perspective on the implementation of the SDGs, explained that the SDGs are integrated in the Philippine Development Plan which outlines the plans and strategies to achieve development in the country.
The PDP was designed so that “no Filipino is left behind”. It is the basis for the regional, provincial, municipal, and barangay development plans which encourage localization and ownership of these goals. These plans are monitored by NEDA, Philippine Statistics Authority, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Localizing SGDs
The region’s development plan, which views autonomy as the central theme, is aligned with the national government objectives for sustainable and inclusive development, according to Sombilla.
Regional Development Council (RDC) Vice Chair and National Economic and Development Authority-Cordillera Regional Director Milagros Rimando highlighted the three SDGs for localization in the region. These are the pursuit for regional autonomy pursued for several decades now, the banner advocacy of the RDC; environmental quality and sustainable use of resources which is very important given the role of the Cordillera as a watershed haven of the North, and cultural integrity and identity especially that the Cordillera is inhabited by mostly indigenous peoples.
The push towards autonomy in the Cordillera region contributes in preserving the indigenous knowledge systems and enrichment of its culture and heritage, which is an SDG- relevant in the region, Sombilla. Said.
The contribution of culture encompasses the three pillars of SDGs namely economic, social and environmental, she said adding that indigenous peoples are one of the most vulnerable to the issues that the SDGs are trying to address such as climate change, social and economic inequalities, and overconsumption and production.
Regional autonomy, best route towards achieving SDG
“Sustainable development in the Cordillera is the underlying reason why we clamor to enhance Cordillera identity and responsive policies for the Cordillerans.” Regional autonomy will bring about progress for all, not leaving anyone behind, with the primary goal of ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, RDC Chair Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan said.
The provisions of the Cordillera Organic Act, a NEDA-CAR report shows, directly address and help fast-track the achievement of the UN SDGs in the region.
Domogan underscored the reasons on the need for an autonomous region as he discussed in the provisions of House Bill 5343, “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC).”
Firstly, it will give the region a legal personality which enhances permanent regional identity; highlights the region’s proud history; strengthens appreciation and conservation of the environment; promotes continuous development of culture and that there will be no diminution of existing benefits and powers.
Secondly, it will translate to responsive policies for the Cordillera, recognize written indigenous knowledge systems and practices and enable the Cordillera regional government through the regional governor to be a member in the president’s cabinet. The development goals and planning will be aligned with the programs of the national government but will give priority to the region, he added.
Thirdly, it will bring about progress for all because the region could manage and regulate better the sustainable utilization of its resources and provide more funds for development of the region.
These, are consistent with the attainment of the SDG.
Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Sheryl Daytec- Yangot also stands firm in pushing for regional autonomy governance which she said has already a Constitutional basis, rather than waiting for federalism which needs a Constitutional amendment.
She related the goals to the context of the Cordillera people. Predominantly, Cordillerans are members of various indigenous peoples who have a history of resisting colonial rule which preserved various cultural practices. This historical differentiation led to the Cordillera people to be previously excluded in development initiatives of the country.
However, the Philippines has gradually supported the empowerment of indigenous peoples and that Cordillera autonomy in the 1987 Constitution is recognition by Filipinos that the Cordillera people have a right to self-determination.
Daytec-Yañgot asserted that through Cordillera autonomy, Cordillerans will be empowered and could participate in inclusive development. She clarified, however that, “we should not exclude people from other ethno-linguistic groups”.
Inclusive development leaves no one behind; empowers peoples and communities; produces benefits for peoples and communities, the poor and needy; takes care of nature; fences out greed; and takes care of posterity, she stressed.
Given the constraints, achieving SDG within the context of self-determination or autonomy is a big challenge the region is faced with, Rimando said. **JDP/SCA PIA-CAR with reports from NEDA-CAR

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