Building Empires Thru Cooperatives

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Cooperatives had been in existence for centuries and considered to be as old as mankind. Thanks for the recognition by the United Nations on its contribution to sustainable development as it declared 2012 as International Year of Cooperatives. The presence of cooperatives in remote areas gearing toward financial inclusion exemplifies the determination of the marginalized sector to take part in socio-economic development undertakings. As private entities that derive capital from pooled resources, the spirit of teamwork, frugality and productiveness through diverse economic activities continually sustain these small entities. These entities cater to people unserved by banks that prefer to have their operations in built up areas of the country.

The increasing membership; aggressive savings mobilization and capital build-up of cooperatives contribute to the increase in assets of cooperatives. Liquidity attributed to strong patronage on savings and time deposits of members push officers and management staff to find ways in ensuring reciprocal services to sustain return on investments. Closely associated is the diversification of offered services by these cooperatives usually within the reach of the members. As a matter of fact, some cooperatives in the Cordillera that started their operations in rural areas expanded business operations through established branches and satellite offices in urban centers. This scenario somewhat contradicts the normal pattern and flow of business development wherein principal offices starts in urban centers then gradually moves to rural areas. Some examples of these include the Abra based ADTEMPCO that established branches in Baguio City, Pangasinan, and La Union; Sagada Multipurpose Cooperative that put up a satellite at Lyman Ogilby Centrum, Magsaysay, Baguio City; Treasure Link Cooperative Society based in Sagada Mountain Province that put up a branch office and 7-11 franchise store at Dangwa Station, Baguio City; Piwong Multipurpose Cooperative with principal office based in Piwong, Hingyon, Ifugao that established branches in Region 2 and satellite office in T. Alonzo Street, Baguio City.

In addition, cooperatives engage in social services that complement efforts of the government to promote and sustain health (thru health assistance and insurance); education through scholarships; sanitation (thru clean and green environment projects); environment (thru tree planting, reforestation and integrated farming systems). Also, livelihood assistance in the form of productive loans by cooperatives with credit operations supports cooperative members’ capital to undertake various economic activities.

The latest trend is the acquisition of the ACDI Multipurpose Cooperative of a new Fokker aircraft intended for charter flights as part of its business expansion. Aside from having the 152,830 members nationwide, the cooperative established branches and subsidiaries that cater to the needs of members and the people. More cooperatives diversify their operations by engaging in multifarious business undertakings up to the extent of accessing franchises from different corporations; acquisition of real estate properties situated in central business districts and financing projects with increasing single borrower’s limit.

We would like to commend different local government units that strongly support cooperatives through creation of plantilla positions and providing budget for the offices created. The establishment of partnerships and constant interaction among cooperatives and stakeholders triggered improvements in cooperative operations. Latest consolidated figures from financial statements of about 542 cooperatives in CAR indicate that the number of large cooperatives increased by 23% from 30 coops in 2015 to 37 coops in 2016 (excluding 2 cooperative banks that submit reports to CDA Central Office); 11% increase in medium coops from 68 to 75 coops; 7.2% increase in small coops from 125 to 134 coops; and 8.42% increase in micro from 273 to 294 cooperatives.

Moreover, we salute partner institutions that support cooperatives. To the different line agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders that implement projects with cooperatives as partners or conduits, our profound gratitude. Your contributions to the growth of cooperatives are highly appreciated and we anticipate more activities to help change the lives of people as productive and thrifty members.

In the registration of cooperatives, we observed the increasing number of transport service cooperatives and agriculture cooperatives being registered aside from the usual types of cooperatives. This can be attributed to the current move of the government to regulate franchise ownership. I cannot fully discuss on the Omnibus Rules concerning transport services and it is encouraged that interested groups approach DOTr that has jurisdiction over the said issue.

Moreover, submitted reports indicated that women constitute about 59% of the total cooperative membership in CAR. The total regular and associate cooperative members in CAR are about 403,113 individuals with 166,745 male and 236,368 female. Regular members is about 61% or 246,020 individuals and associate members is about 39% or 157,093. In the number of both regular and associate members, women dominate the membership composition.

Finally, the above figures on membership and asset growth manifest that cooperatives are on the process of building empires both at the rural and urban areas. I believe that the revolution for change that starts at the grassroots using pooled resources will continue to happen regardless of the form of government whether unitary, federal, etc. Anchored on democratic principles and the concept of subsidiarity, cooperative leaders, management and members must embrace the reality that they are responsible in charting their destiny. Stakeholders can complement plans, programs and cooperative efforts to help themselves build a better world through mutual cooperation and solidarity. A piece of advice to newly registered cooperatives that dependence on external subsidy should be secondary; capitalization from members must be a primary consideration. Most cooperatives tell their success stories that they started from hard earned resources. In this context, cooperatives currently practice some elements under the concept of federalism. One of which is internal resource generation and patronage to Filipino owned enterprises. Hopefully, I can see the realization of a cooperative mall that offers array of member products. As the adage says, “nothing is impossible in this world”.

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