Strengthening cooperatives

“In 2019, we are going to make, another big decision that will determine the destiny of our nation.

Cooperatives have always been an important policy instrument in bringing about economic prosperity and social justice in a country. Healthy and functioning cooperatives do not only support economic progress, they also ensure that the progress made is democratic and inclusive.

Cooperatives accomplish these objectives in myriad of ways. Some of these include aiding ill-equipped rural folks who are struggling to cope up with indebtedness and the troubles of usury; providing support to small and marginal farmers in the form of technical guidance, inputs, harvesting equipment, storage facilities, distribution channels and a network of market information system and many other ways.

The promotion of cooperatives is enshrined in our Constitution. Under Article XII Section 15, the law of the land mandates, among other things, the creation of an agency that will utilize cooperatives as instruments of economic development and social justice which is now the Cooperative Development Authority.

Our forefathers envisioned the institutionalization of cooperatives in the many sectors of our economy to promote the growth and expansion of our economic base and the right of less privileged Filipinos to actively participate in nation-building. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is one with them in supporting this endeavor.

In fact, during the 103rd Anniversary of the Cooperative Movement in the Philippines, President Duterte underscored the importance of cooperatives in the country’s progress.

According to the President, the government is fortunate to have the cooperative movement as its partner because “nation-building is no easy task and it is not the responsibility of government alone.”

As an initial step towards the empowerment of the cooperative movement in the country, “Tatay Digong” included the CDA on the list of realigned agencies in his first Executive Order in order to make it more responsive and efficient in developing and implementing its mandate and programs.

In 2017, the President also rolled out a P1-billion loan assistance for small businessmen which is coursed through market vendor associations, cooperatives and microfinance institutions.

This aims to help promote economic activity in the country’s most impoverished regions and, again, discourage Filipinos from borrowing money from loan sharks.

To provide financial aid to struggling coops, the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) program was also launched by the government to replace the predatory “5-6” money lending system. And just in April of this year, the President challenged the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) to provide loans to more farmers’ cooperatives.

The current administration’s concern and compassion for cooperatives and the rural poor is the opposite of how former President Noynoy Aquino and his sidekick, Mar Roxas, treated them during their tenure. The cooperative movement was not just largely neglected by the previous government, they were also dealt with a nearly lethal blow.

In 2015, the Department of Finance, under the administration of Aquino, drafted a legislative measure to remove the tax exemption privileges of cooperatives which is guaranteed by Republic Act 9520. A strong opposition ensued which included a remonstration that spilled over into the Internet and social media.

“The promotion of cooperatives is enshrined in our Constitution.

Dreading a political backlash, lawmakers who initially expressed their support to the measure backpedaled, resulting in the move being dropped. The cooperative movement survived by the skin of its teeth, thanks to the fact that it was election season.

This lack of empathy and basic knowledge about the importance of cooperatives in the economy is why I am amazed at the gall of Roxas and his cohorts to give unsolicited advice on some of the country’s issues, including our recent rice supply problem.

This advice comes from the same person who thinks we can lower mall robberies by regulating the sale of hammers in malls; the same person who believes the passengers are at fault during the bullet planting (laglag bala) scandal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the same person who once said the chilling words “You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino” amid a national tragedy that took the lives of thousands of Filipinos due to their incompetence.

Mar Roxas is the kind of person who takes advantage of national disasters, scandals and tragedies to advance his political ambitions. These are the kinds of trapos that we must avoid, the breed of charlatans that we must prevent from getting to office.

In 2019, we are going to make, yet again, another big decision that will determine the destiny of our nation. It is all in our hands. Let us make our country a better place to live in and work for all by electing the right people to office!

Blast from the past: On 29 October 1866, Antonio Luna y Novicio, the great Filipino general, was born in Binondo, Manila. He was a pharmacist, a writer, a patriot and one of best Filipino military commanders and strategists.

During the Filipino-American War, Luna organized distinguished guerilla soldiers such as the Luna sharpshooters, instituted the three-tier defense called the Luna Defense Line and became the thorniest general on the side of the American forces. He was both widely praised and hated because of the reforms he institutionalized within the Philippine Revolutionary Army.

On the news of his death, his enemies such as General Hughes, General Frederick Funston, General James Franklin Bell and then Governor General of the Philippines William Howard Taft acknowledged the brilliance of the Filipino general.

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