By: Jeffrey D. Raya

INTRODUCTION. The COVID-19 pandemic brought fright and chaos to the whole world. All We were all caught off guard. We were told to stay at home, to limit our movements to accessing essential commodities, to wear face masks, and to observe social/physical distancing. All of a sudden, the used to be busy streets had gone empty, crowded parks became unoccupied, everyone’s favorite snack house hanged the closed sign and just like that, everything turned into a state of melancholy. It is like the post-apocalyptic scene we only see in movies now become a reality.

THE CALL. Due to the sudden closure of business establishments and offices, the economy suffered. The food security had gone unsecured. The government initiated a relief program to aid in the dwindling resources of the families, basically food. Food rations were delivered at doorsteps and financial assistance were given to families identified under the poverty threshold. These aids were of great help in filling empty stomachs, but it was not enough. The government resources are not sufficient to provide for all of the more than 100 million Filipinos. The government called for HELP. The cooperative sector heard the call and answered.

THE ANSWER. In the PROVINCE OF SURIGAO DEL SUR, the Cooperative Movement devised programs and help-missions for cooperatives and the communities. Cooperatives utilized the statutory fund particularly the community development fund as added resource. Through a memorandum issued by the Cooperative Development Authority, the cooperatives were given the green light to utilize the community development fund, education and training fund and the optional fund exclusively for programs and services to members and the community in relation to the pandemic. This supportive environment widened the hastened the distribution of assistance, in cash and/or in kind to coop members and communities

THE ACTORS. The PALASAO AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVE of the Municipality of Cantilan worked hand in hand with the Barangay Local Government Unit of Palasao. Together, they distributed kilos of rice to 397 households. The cooperative also extended financial support to the front-liners of their barangay. It is admirable to note that the cooperative had just been registered in August of 2018 and already have contributed significantly to a great cause early on its cooperative existence.

The COOPERATIVE OF AGRARIAN REFORM EMPLOYEES OF SURIGAO (CARES) provided a total cash assistance of P 57,000.00 to its 114 coop members. This aims to augment the members capacity to acquire basic commodities.

The SURIGAO DEL SUR COMMUNITY INITIATIVE MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE (SCI MPC)  of Tandag City provided cash assistance to its 1,272 members, a total of P 634,500.00. The cooperative also donated gallons of paint to Burgos Elementary School in Cortes, Surigao del Sur for its “Brigada” before the opening of classes. The SCI MPC is the only homegrown, large cooperative in the province of Surigao del Sur as of the present.

The LGU – CARMEN EMPLOYEES CREDIT COOPERATIVE of the Municipality of Carmen provided cash assistance to its 59 members worth P 1,000.00 each. This cooperative is one of the consistently growing cooperatives in the province.

The CARCANMADCARLAN FREE FARMERS AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVE OF CANTILAN distributed kilos of rice and other food items to 47 members and 11 non-members amounting to P 10,631.00. The cooperative was a recipient of the mini rice mill and financial livelihood assistance through the 2018 MPN-CODE program.

The DPWH EMPLOYEES MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE of Tandag City distributed 5 kilos of rice to each of its 400 members amounting to P 87,000.00 in total. The cooperative is another fast growing cooperative in the province.

The PATONG PATONG FARMERS AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVE provided 2 sacks of rice to barangay front-liners for their daily duty consumption worth P 3,900.00 in total. Composed of farmers, the cooperative assumed its cooperative existence in 2018 and shows no sign of slowing down.

The JACINTO P. ELPA HIGH SCHOOL EMPLOYEES MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE of Tandag City aided its 9 employees with grocery supplies amounting to P 5,850.00. The cooperative also extended grocery supplies to the Badjao Indigenous People Community worth P 20,000.00 in total. The extension of support for the indigenous people community is a special project for the educators-members of this cooperative.

SURIGAO DEL SUR UNIVERSITY MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE of Tandag City extended aid to front liners of 5 checkpoints in the area, and  provided grocery supplies to school guards, cooperative staff and “kakanin producers”- partners of the coop, worth P 15,000.00 in total.

The TANDAG CITY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE of Tandag City (TANCGOEMPCO) distributed cash assistance to its 236 members worth P 2,000.00 each.

The LANUZA OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES MULTIPURPOSE COOPERATIVE (LOEMCO) provided one-half sack of rice to each of its members, amounting to P 136,500.00 in total.

The SURSECO II EMPLOYEES COOPERATIVE extended assorted grocery supplies to 181 members worth P 231,500.00 in total.

The KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS SAN NICOLAS COUNCIL 4409 CREDIT COOPERATIVE (KCSNCCC) provided cash assistance to its 35 members worth P 8,050 in total.

Other cooperatives which have extended their social services were:

No. Full Name of The Cooperative Complete Address Assistance Extended Amount  spent
1 Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center Multi-purpose Cooperative Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur Emergency Loan n/a
2 Karajawan Transport Cooperative (KARTRANSCO) Purok 5, Magosilom, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur Face masks P500.00
3 Tago Agro-industrial Development Cooperative Purisima, Tago, Surigao del Sur uninterrupted operation of rice mill n/a
4 Magasang Farmers and Fisher Folks Agriculture Cooperative Purok 6, Magasang, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur uninterrupted operation of rice mill n/a
5 Cantilan Community Multipurpose Cooperative Ortiz St., Magosilom, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur One month loan moratorium n/a
6 Alvin O Ty Group of Companies Employees Credit Cooperative AOT Building, Moonglow, Bag-ong Lungsod, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur *Emergency loan assistance (Half of 13th month pay @ 1% interest) n/a
*1 month loan moratorium

THE CHALLENGE. The Covid pandemic has lingered for a while now and the unavailability of a vaccine or cure suggests that it will persist for some time. We hope that this will ends soon. But, for the meantime, we think- positive.

This, too, shall pass. We continue to live with care and caution, look out for each other, and move forward. We, the cooperative sector unites to be of service to all, as we shout out:  “ALONE WE ARE WEAK BUT WITH OTHERS WE ARE STRONG!”*****