Sunday, October 16, 2016


Co-op Month tension and celebration


08:20 PM October 10th, 2016


October is cooperative month, a celebration kicked off by a parade of local cooperatives last October 1. The show of force was complemented by social services, from tree planting, coastal cleanup to health and wellness programs conducted across many co-ops not just in Cebu but all over the country. The goal is to raise the visibility of thousands of self-help organizations and highlight the contribution of 13 million members to social and economic development.

The role of cooperatives in the task of nation building especially for those in the margins society is often overlooked by official governing bodies both national and international.

The capitalist system rules, but a hundred years to the founding of co-ops, we have seen the epic failure of private enterprises to address extreme poverty and hunger, environmental degradation, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, insure universal primary education, and end the alienation of the youth in the current economic system. On the other hand, the co-op business model has proven to be resilient, sustainable, democratic, inclusive and fast-growing despite economic meltdowns.

Cooperatives operate on 7 basic principles but “cooperation among cooperatives” was put to the test during the Visayas-wide Consultative Convergence held at an uptown hotel last October 7.
The CDA-led event featured a number of guests who were to talk on topics which seemed predictable, so that attendees were surprised if not shocked to hear fireworks exploding over the controversial Credit Information System Act or CISA Law.

According to my source, the presentation of former Deputy House Speaker and current chairman of the Board of Cebu CFI Community Credit Cooperative Pablo “Noy Pabling” Garcia elicited a response from the pro-CISA faction led by Socorro “Butch” Salera, CEO of the Philippine Cooperative Central Fund (PCF).

As we know, Noy Pabling has been critical of the credit information sharing scheme in the hands of a private corporation controlled by the government called the Credit Information Corporation (CIC).
Garcia calls CISA illegal and unconstitutional and his vehement objections have been adopted by many co-ops, among them the Cebu News Co-op and the Northern Luzon Co-op Federation or NorLu. This, even as CIC continues to do the rounds of major capitals, bringing the forces of big-time co-ops to rally behind the government-controlled corporation. As far as I know, Butch has been raring to present her own views on CISA, as a strategy that will purportedly effect financial inclusion.

And so I think that when CDA brought to the table of the Visayas-wide Convergence the CISA Law, a collision between the forces for and against the law was bound to happen. I heard Noy Pabling hurled hurtful words but in the spirit of cooperative month, I opt not to repeat them here.
Suffice it to say that it will be in the best interest of the sector that Noy Pabling makes good his promise to file a civil case for declaratory relief on RA 9510. That way, the Supreme Court will hear both sides and rule on the matter with finality. Needless tension among cooperatives will also be averted if the case is lodged with the court.

Even the CDA is not spared from the pressure. I heard the agency is being called out by the Philippine Cooperative Center to issue a memorandum circular that will compel co-ops to submit requirements mandated by RA 9510. The agency has yet to act on the request, saying it needs to hear the sentiments of the co-ops in the roadshows organized by CIC.

CDA is clearly in a bind. It cannot ignore opposition forces led by constitutionalist Pablo Garcia on the one hand, but on the other hand, CDA cannot also shirk from its responsibility of implementing CISA, being one of stakeholders that pushed for enactment of the law.

* * *
October is a banner year for two self-help enterprises in Cebu that continue to reap honors in competitions that follow rigid screening and evaluation.
I’m referring to Cebu CFI Community Cooperative and Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative which bagged the highest honors in the recently concluded Gawad Pitak Awards sponsored by Landbank of the Philippines.

The Gawad Pitak recognizes outstanding co-ops acting as conduits of Landbank’s financial and technical resources to farmers and fisherfolk. Countryside development through co-ops has made the work of Landbank visible. Kudos to Cebu CFI for bagging the Platinum award in the non-agri co-op category and Lamac MPC for the agri-based co-op category.

Congratulations are also in order for Lamac MPC for garnering the top prize in the Youth Co-op Summit organized by the regional apex body, International Cooperative Alliance Asia-Pacific. Held in Bali, Indonesia last September 19-23, the summit had young co-op members from 17 countries and 5 continents vying for the best co-op business solution in the Pitch Competition. The PH representatives to the Summit were Justine Limocon and Kevin Paslon, members of Lamac MPC and another rep from the Taiyo Yuden Employees Cooperative (TAYEMCO).
Justine bested the competition with her co-op business idea on organic farming. A Singapore co-op came out 2nd while Tayemco snagged the 3rd prize.

The icing on the cake for Lamac MPC is the nod of Care International UK to assist the local co-op in its agri and small-scale entrepreneurial and livelihood projects by marginal members.
I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Ajaz Ahmed Khan, senior financial advisor of Care International UK during his visit to Lamac last September 1, as he was wrapping up his week-long visit to the co-op in Pinamungahan, Cebu.

Dr. Khan evaluated the partnership that Care UK forged with Lamac from 2014 to 2015 and based on what I heard, Lamac is in for a longer engagement with the world’s biggest NGO. Currently, some 500 beneficiaries, mostly marginal farmers and small scale entrepreneurs benefit from the CARE funding.

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