Chairman Orlando R. Ravanera of the Cooperative Development Authority reinforced the significant role of cooperatives on Regional Economic Integration as he called a brainstorming conference on May 20, 2016 at the CDA Conference Room, Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City to beef up the chances of farmers and cooperatives in the Philippines, in due consideration of the challenges and prospects in building the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The activity was participated by selected successful cooperatives, other National Government Agencies (NGAs) and international organization in order to prepare the farmers and cooperatives in the Philippines to the challenges posted by the AEC.

Chairman Ravanera stressed the challenges and prospects of cooperatives in building ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to create single market and production base, competitive economic region, integrated economy to attain equitable development and global competitiveness. Considering the enormous undertakings to be in conformity with the AEC blueprint, he cited that food security and sustainability in agriculture can be attained if the products are produce, process and distribute locally by cooperatives with collaboration and support from successful, millionaire cooperatives and federations.

He also solicited the support of the cooperatives as the CDA will host the ASEAN Cooperative Business Forum (ACBF) as part of the celebration of Cooperative Month in year 2016 specifically to enhance the collaboration of cooperatives in the Philippines among ASEAN countries.

Ms. Ma. Estrella “Esther” Penunia, Secretary General of Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development served as reactor to the presentation of Chairman Ravanera. She underscored on what more the cooperatives can do to highlight the significant participation of cooperatives in AEC, among others: 1) implementation of forward and backward linkages, 2) institutional procurement (supply of raw materials and products), 3) coop to coop partnership, 4) production, processing and selling of products from cooperatives, and 5) good governance for efficient and effective management of cooperatives. Secretary General Penunia said that to accentuate on what cooperatives can do on regional economic integration, their organization supports the idea of CDA hosting the ACBF.

Dr. Benjamin R. Quinones, Jr., Chairman of the Asian Solidarity Economy Council was invited to the conference as discussant to the topic, “Analysis on ASEAN Economic Integration”. Dr. Quinones highlighted the need for cooperation to implement the following: 1) value chain, 2) backward and forward linkages, 3) financial market and role of cooperatives as alternative financial intermediary, 4) strengthening of micro enterprises including the integration of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to withstand the competition, 5) data base of cooperatives to include contribution of entrepreneur members. On marketing, he emphasized the need to have: 1) own identity and special brand name, 2) implement capacity building among cooperatives on supply chain, 3) create financial products and services, 4) create and mobilized fund, 5) role of social media and digital marketing, and 6) take advantage of partnership with ASEAN countries.

The activity was also graced by CDA Executive Director Ray R. Elevazo who gave the welcome address and shared his experience and learning from fellow participants during the activity on ASEAN Learning Route on Agricultural Cooperatives: “Strengthening the Role of Agriculture Cooperatives to Address the Challenges and Opportunities of the ASEAN Economic Community for the Benefit of the Smallholder Farmers” on March 2016. He noted the best and innovative practices on rural and agricultural development among ASEAN countries.

Chief Pedro T. Defensor, Jr. of the Cooperative Project Development and Assistance Division acted as moderator and presented the function of the CDA’s participation as member and corresponding support to its activities including the conduct of ASEAN Cooperative Business Forum (ACBF). He lined-out the proposed topic of the conference and the possible resource persons of each topic. He further solicited the inputs of the participants on how the activity will flow on the four (4) days program of the activity. Mr. Garibaldi, Chairman of San Dionisio Credit cooperative, suggested that presentation of the delegates of each participating country in the ASEAN should also dwell on sharing the coops experience in the value chain and the best practices adopted to make their venture successful. Sylvia Paraguya, CEO of NATCCO, supported the suggestion of San Dionision and further suggested that Phillipines should prepare for the activity. CDA in particular, should spearhead the gathering of information nationwide on the best practices of cooperatives in the value chain. (Maria Corazon G. Diwas)