The 6th ASEAN Cooperative Business Forum, hosted by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in coordination with local cooperatives in the country and other partners, was held on November 29-30 at Novotel, Cubao, Quezon City.  The forum brought together 150 local and foreign delegates from multi- sectoral groups composed of government agencies, cooperatives, farmers associations, fisherfolks, non-government organizations and civil society organizations who declared support to the inclusive growth of cooperatives in the ASEAN Region through capacity building, coop-to-coop trade marketing agreements, information sharing and learning exchanges through ASEAN and Asia Pacific cooperative organization networks such as ACEDAC and NEDAC.

The participants signed a declaration of support to affirm is commitment to: 1) Champion the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger especially among small farmers, indigenous communities and fisher folks who ironically produce the food needs of the ASEAN people and of the world; 2) Promote and advance social solidarity economy through cooperativism where people and the environment are the priorities more than profit towards attaining inclusive development; 3) Strongly advocate sustainable agricultural technologies and promote local industries towards sustainable livelihoods and conservation of natural resources.   The ASEAN leaders in the region shall likewise strengthen its bonds to: 1) Be the voice and institution of the poor and the excluded in resisting growth-centered development aggressions, and, instead, promote people-centered development with emphasis on benefiting the small holders; 2) Consolidate our efforts and promote the inter-country collaboration, such as learning exchanges, coop-to-coop trade, capacity building, information sharing, etc. in fostering sustainable development of agri-cooperatives; and, 3) Advocate for legal framework and/or enabling policies and appropriate programs; 4) Funding support for development of agri-cooperatives among the Member States; 5) Promote continuing social dialogue and ensure institutionalized and meaningful participation of farmers’ organization (FOs) and civil society organization (CSOs) in various ASEAN processes concerning agri-cooperatives such as AMAF, ACEDAC, and, ASWGAC, among others; 6) Facilitate and promote linkage with other platforms (e.g. NEDAC, ICA, etc.) and private sector; 7) Promote youth, gender equality and women empowerment to have increased participation in the agri-cooperative sector.

Undersecretary Halmen Valdez, Office of the President, KeyNote Speaker of the said forum, emphasized that the CDA is recognized as a transformative agency in addressing poverty in the rural areas through cooperativism.  She said that we may have money and resources but the question is on how it can be accessed by the poor.  She stressed the mandate of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary to empower the people through employment with cooperatives serving as mechanism to trickle down the resources and development to the poor sector.

Inputs to the forum included presentation of country papers, sharing from international partner organizations such as the International Cooperative Alliance-Asia Pacific (ICA-ROAP) represented by Ms.  Savitri Singh, Collectief Strategies Alimentaries, Brussels, Belgium represented by Mr. Marek Poznanski, and NEDAC represented by Nepal delegates.  Lectures on the ASEAN Economic Community Centered on Social Solidarity Economy was tackled by Dr. Ben Quinones President, ASEC-PH while Director Roel R. Ravanera, SEARSOLIN discussed the Perspective on Economic Integration and Inclusive Development in the ASEAN.  To stress the importance of coop-to-coop marketing through the web portal, Ms. Cristie Rowena Plantilla, FPSDC Chief Executive Officer discussed, “Marketing Opportunities for the Cooperative Sector through E-coop trade”.  The role and initiatives of farmers for strengthening agricultural cooperatives for small-scale farmers in ASEAN Region was presented by Ms. Ma. Elena Rebagay, AFA.

The highlight of the forum also included the conduct of trade fair exhibit featuring quality products from ASEAN and Asian countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The output of the 6th ASEAN Cooperative Business Forum shall be presented and submitted to ACEDAC and ASEAN Secretariat for appropriate action to ensure its implementation and monitoring of agreements in the form of action plans and policy initiatives.

Please follow the link for the powerpoint presentations during the activity. (Maria Corazon G. Diwas, CPDAD)