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Co-ops to fuel economy

/ 08:42 AM October 20, 2011

The 1st Central Visayas Co-op Solidarity Council conference reels off today at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino in barangay Lahug, a three-day activity that brings together more than 700 coop leaders from all over the central islands.

The CVCSC meet will also kick off the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, a United Nations-sponsored observance that aims to highlight the contribution of the sector to global socioeconomic development, particularly its impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The International Cooperative Alliance is the main driver of this celebration and in the Philippines the Central Visayas co-ops are firing the opening salvo.

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The business of cooperatives does not generate the kind of excitement that usually goes with corporate events that feature celebrities and loads of freebies, but if you happen to interact with the cooperative sector nowadays, you could sense an excitement that comes only with big and significant developments never before experienced by the movement in the Philippines.

I’m talking about the thrust of President Noynoy Aquino in turning to co-op concepts and experts in crafting and implementing his administration’s poverty reduction programs.

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I recall that in the Asian Institute of Management policy conference “Pathways to High and Inclusive Growth” last Sept. 23, National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Joel Rocamora mentioned the co-ops as a critical link in poverty reduction strategies because of its proven track record.

Early this week, President Aquino issued Administrative Order 21, which set specific criteria in the selection of sectoral representatives who could participate in the assemblies of NAPC. The National Sectoral Assembly (NSA) cuts across 1,300 basic sector organizations from all over the country.  Considered the most vulnerable to poverty are “artisans, fisher folk, children, farmers, indigenous peoples, nongovernment organizations, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, urban poor, victims of disasters, women, political parties, formal labor and migrant workers, workers in the informal sector, youth and students.”

I’m happy to report that one of those who made it to National Sectoral Assembly (NSA) is Mercedes “Ched” Castillo, chief executive officer of Victo National, a cooperative training and development center based in Cebu City.  In the NAPC’s perspective, the co-op has a mandate not just to further strengthen affiliates but to diffuse the benefits of the co-op system by bringing in it the poorest of the poor communities.

Political observers note that by issuing A.O. 21, the President returned to the people the power to select their representatives in the lead agency tasked to reduce if not purge poverty. It has been reported that in previous years, many civil society groups were excluded from joining the NAPC because of their critical stance to the previous administration. The disenfranchisement of the basic sectors from the process of looking for viable solutions to the problem of poverty has politicized the agency and further marginalized those who live in the fringes of society.

The synergy in this partnership fuels the excitement of co-ops nationwide. Government infrastructure coupled with resources to the tune of P39 billion in conditional cash transfers next year can be both daunting and exhilarating. However, if VICTO National was able to set up 50 co-ops in war-ravaged Afghanistan years back, why not in the Philippines?

As of June 10, 2010, there are 15,458 registered cooperatives nationwide with combined membership of 6,778,037, P163.01 billion in total assets and P186.07 billion in authorized capital. Of these, P58.25 billion is subscribed and P34.08 billion is paid, says the state regulatory body Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).

The work of the cooperatives and the logistical support of the government would look like a partnership made in heaven.  However, I heard that some co-ops are unhappy with too much regulation. There are reports that some elements in the CDA are making it difficult for co-ops to perform well, so some quarters are demanding self-regulation.

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I think P-Noy should look closely at the workings of the CDA.  His centerpiece anti-poverty program cannot be compromised by government officials who persist in their wang-wang mentality.

By the way, part of the CVCSC activity today is a press conference at 2 p.m., at Waterfront Hotel in Lahug.  Co-op movers and shakers like former senator and congressman Agapito “Butz” Aquino, chairman of the Philippine Cooperative Center; Cebu Congressman Pablo Garcia; party-list representatives as well as CDA execs led by board chairman Emmanuel Santiaguel and many others are expected to attend.

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TAGS: 1st Central Visayas Co-op Solidarity Council conference, Economy
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