The rightful place of Co-ops

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok November 12,2018 - 09:23 PM


Unlike in June 2016 when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Executive Order No. 1 effectively placing 12 agencies including the Co-operative Development Authority under the Office of the President, I didn’t hear sector leaders rejoice over the latest presidential issuance, EO 67, which placed CDA in yet again, another department.

Titled, “Rationalizing the Office of the President through the consolidation of its core mandates and strengthening the democratic and structural framework of the Executive Department,” EO 67 superseded EO #1. Section 1 provides that henceforth, the administrative supervision of Technical Education Skills and Development Authority and the Cooperative Development Authority, agencies previously attached to the OP is under the Department of Trade and Industry.

The issuance was signed last October 31, 2018 a couple of weeks after PRRD hosted a gathering in Malacañang for co-op leaders, CDA officers and party list congressmen.

I can only imagine how stunned, disappointed and saddened they were over the latest issuance because they were not consulted at all. Some tried to play down its impact but the comments cannot hide or ease their wounded feelings.

I am disappointed because I thought President Duterte has gran amor for the movement enough for him to place it directly under his office on Day 1 of his presidency.

Co-ops are business enterprises imbued with a social mission. They promote financial independence and social responsibility.

This definition may have prompted the OP to place CDA under DTI but even this classic interpretation does not quite capture the human development work of co-ops because I have seen how, in many instances, they go beyond their core service which is lending.

In June this year, CDA through then OIC Chairman Benjie Oliva decided to hold the annual co-op month celebration in the Islamic City of Marawi in a bid to revive various communities that bore the brunt of the ideological and religious war sponsored by the ISIS inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf. Months of armed conflict between the military and the jihadist groups practically reduced Marawi City in rubbles displacing more than 350,000 people.

The work of some 70 co-ops in this part of Mindanao cannot be belittled. Serving tens of thousands of members, these enterprises are poised to utilize a portion of the P20 billion earlier earmarked for Marawi’s rehabilitation. If this particular undertaking had to be boxed, should Co-ops be placed under the Department of Social Welfare and Development?

Co-ops have likewise flexed their muscle in mobilizing the youth to go into social enterprises. In August this year, Cebu hosted an international summit that drew young delegates from Asia Pacific, Europe and Africa. After their exposure or abridged education in the remarkable and highly diversified Lamac Co-operative in southwest Cebu, these young people have rearranged their priorities and were seriously thinking of going into agriculture enterprises. Not even the Department of Education, with all due respect, can make this happen.

Co-ops are highly visible and have a solid track record in green initiatives, skills training and livelihood programs. They are also effective vehicles in the promotion of women’s and children’s rights.

The Asia Pacific Cooperative Youth Summit was followed by another gathering attended by Credit Union leaders from the US and Africa in early September this year. The so-called World Development Educators DE was organized by VICTO National.

After a 3-day conference and exposure to remarkable co-op enterprises, CU leaders are poised to reprise their experience in Kenya, a possibility that would enable the global sharing of best practices among DEs, thanks to the Co-op event in Cebu City.

Also last month, Credit Union stalwarts from the United Kingdom visited Cebu to touch base with local fellow Development Educators internationally recognized for excellence through the International Credit Union Leadership Development and Education Foundation ICULD&EF.

Spouses Barry and Marilynne Epstein co-chair the ICULD&EF and every year they scout for credit union or co-op activists who make a difference through their individual projects.

The UK charitable foundation hosts the annual Joe Biden Development Educator Award and the Edward Filene Credit Union Awards for Excellence. In the course of their visit to Cebu, the Epsteins made a courtesy call to Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III during which Mr. Epstein expressed his desire to forge a partnership with the province to advance mutual goals of PH Co-ops and credit unions in the UK. Gov. Davide expressed his full support for the proposal saying he wants it finalized within the remaining 7 months of his term. The proposal is going to be fleshed out by a focal person in the Capitol and local co-op leaders.

Because Co-ops practically share the development goals of the President in poverty eradication and bringing about inclusive growth, Pres. Duterte should leverage the experience and insight of remarkable co-op leaders in his administration’s push for real reforms. The creation of a Department of Co-operatives is well in order; if not, a presidential assistant for Co-operatives with the rank of secretary.

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