Digong’s amor for co-ops
Cooperatives in Cebu have found an ally in Gov. Hilario “Junjun” Davide III and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale who both saw to it that self-help enterprises were given importance in the opening week of the 448th celebration of the province’s founding anniversary.
The affirmation for the third sector came through the inaugural of the cooperative business center located inside the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT) last August 3. The provincial government rents the 18-square-meter hub for the benefit of the 40-member Cebu Province Association of Accredited Coops (CPAAC). People who pass by the CSBT can look at co-op products and services and avail of one-on-one basic education seminar if they want to join the movement.
I heard that on inaugural day, about a dozen people listed up with Cebu People’s Cooperative, which manages the center for CPAAC. Since more than 5,000 people pass through the CSBT on the average daily, the Davide administration has made co-ops closer to the people in one fell swoop. Vice Governor Magpale is right to highlight the support of the province for co-ops in her message during the inauguration ceremonies.
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Unlike previous administrations that tried to diminish, if not altogether destroy, cooperatives by lifting its tax exempt privileges guaranteed under RA 9520, the Duterte administration has proved itself a strong ally of self-help enterprises.
This is apparent in the decision of Congress to lay off cooperatives in the Tax Reform Program which originally targeted the sector in the state’s bid to generate more revenues. The main proponent of the Tax Reform Program is none other than the Department of Finance which has jurisdiction over the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). Co-ops have been in the radar of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in past administrations, but fortunately for the sector, it has weathered the attacks through sheer determination and luck.
Since the administration party has the upper hand in Congress, I can only say the tax reform measure which insulates co-ops from taxes reflects the sentiments of the Chief Executive, that is to say, his amor for 25,610 co-ops and close to 8 million members whom he wants to lead towards economic and social inclusivity. Having said that, I believe the Senate version will not stray from Malacañang’s direction.
On top of this, a measure has been filed in Congress to create a new department for the Cooperative Development Authority. Principally authored by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrella Suansing and co-authored by Reps. Maria Valentina Plaza (Agusan del Sur, 1st district), Evelyn Mellana (Agusan del Sur 2nd district), Manuel Zubiri, (Bukidnon 3rd district) Sabiniano Canama (Coop Natcco Partylist), Prospero Pichay (Surigao del Sur 1st district) and Party-list Cong. Rico Geron, House Bill 05385 seeks to create the Department of Cooperatives, and appropriate funds for the same. The measure remains pending in the Committee on Government Reorganization since May this year.
Changing CDA from an agency attached to the DOF into a separate department under the Executive will necessarily bring about changes in the structure of the regulatory body. The Office of the President is behind this measure if we look at current activities spearheaded by the agency in different regions.
For example, CDA conducted fundamental seminars and technical training for its organic staff to refresh them about the co-op DNA at the same time orient frontline employees on information technology. In a talk with this corner two weeks ago, CDA Deputy Executive Director Giovanni Platero disclosed that the Department of Budget and Management disbursed some P5 million for training and over P40 million for information technology upgrade in the agency.
Barely finishing the series of technical trainings and seminars, the agency through its regional officers and the Board of Administrators rolled out consultations to engage stakeholders in the crafting of the Philippine Cooperatives Medium Term Development Plan. Administrators Mercedes Castillo and Paisal Cali were in town last week to engage stakeholders from Regions 6, 7 and 8 for this purpose. I have a feeling this is all in preparation for making CDA into a department.
The agency has never experienced the support it is now getting from a sitting president. No wonder I picked up upbeat vibes from the seminars and regional consultations held here these past two weeks. I hope agency regulators will not take this for granted but take a cue from the oft-repeated maxim, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
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