“PAGLILINGKOD at pagmamahal!” This is the essence of cooperativism which is being practiced by the cooperatives nation-wide which they manifested when they stood as one to provide the much needed assistance, not allowing any refugee to die of hunger during the height of the Marawi crisis. More assistance is coming as the cooperatives have decided to help in re-building Marawi, pooling their resources together to establish sustainable cooperative village in a 4-hectare area donated by the LGU of Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

As Transformative Cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace, they have declared in clear categolorical term the following DECLARATION:

“With a firm collective intent, we, the cooperative delegates to the Cooperative Peace Forum representing some Twenty Six Thousand cooperatives in the country with some fourteen million members have joined hands with the Muslims, the Churches, the Ulamas, the Academes, the Lumads, Civil Society and civic organizations and all peace-loving Filipinos, to collectively advance what we believe is our inherent right to live in peace founded on social justice, equity and sustainable development.

“We have witnessed hunger in a land described as the “food basket” of the nation and have experienced glaring poverty in an island oozing with rich natural resources. We decry that while Mindanao is rich in fisheries, agriculture, forests and mines, it is where 14 of the 20 poorest provinces are found and its poor are the poorest throughout the Philippines.

“So rich yet so poor. Such is the paradox that is Mindanao and we realize that unless these contradictions are resolved, poverty will always breed violence; it will always remain as the best recruiter of terrorists. Unless the causes of dissent and conflict are addressed, military actions will just be palliatives and cannot provide the long term solution.

“We are aware that the root cause of poverty is the social exclusion and powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources. That as a remedial measure, the marginalized sectors must now harness their collective potentials, build their own coalition and make cooperatives as the vehicle of their empowerment and development.

“It is in this light that we come together to work for peace especially in Mindanao by advancing, among others, the following AGENDA:

“First, the marginalized sectors (Muslims, Lumads, small farmers, fisherfolk) be given the preferential use rights in developing their respective resources and that their cooperatives be accorded with the utmost priority in the use and management of such resources, giving them the license, franchise and whatever privilege and right to handle key economic activities, i.e., planting industrial crops, sustainable mining, fishing, etc. based on the universal principle that the use of the God-given resources should accrue to the benefit of the bulk of the people and not just for a few.

“Secondly, we believe that the country’s number one resource is its people. Enhancing therefore their capabilities, developing their potentials and harnessing their skills must take precedence over other priorities knowing that countries that have not developed their human capital are now penalized by slow growth. Cooperative Human Resource Development Centers must be established in every region of Mindanao.
“Thirdly, we believe that the utilities such as those providing basic needs (electricity and water) should really be cooperativized especially so-called electric cooperatives so as to rectify social wrongs committed against member-consumers whose rights of ownership have been violated all these years.

“Fourthly, we are one with our Muslim brothers and sisters in promoting Halal Program, to make thousand hectares of idle lands productive to be planted with crops and raising of livestocks for local consumption and for local and international market.

“Having experienced the pains and bitterness of continuing conflict, we in the cooperative movement cannot just remain as bystanders knowing that the essence of cooperativism may yet be the long awaited answer for peace and stability in Mindanao.

Where there is social injustice, there will always be conflict; where there is hunger, peace will just remain as illusion. We now stand as one in rectifying social inequities through cooperativism founded on the collective spirit of the people.

“We enjoin one and all to be with us in this historical crusade knowing that by raising our social consciousness, each one of us will shape the future, founded on love, unity, prosperity and peace.

“Yes we can do it by shedding-off our apathy and be determined in collectively dismantling structures of violence spawned by dire poverty. Amidst the darkness of fear and despair, we can build together the legacy of hope.

“We firmly believe that peace cannot just be had without the people themselves giving notice to one and all that we must address the causes of war and pursue the imperatives for peace. This can only be done by putting the primary stakeholders in control over their lives and over the resources which are fast slipping through their fingers.

“It is our unequivocal stand that we can have peace NOT through the firepower of guns but by the strength of the human spirit, in love and oneness with one another, irrespective of race, class, gender, beliefs or ideologies. To that, we strongly commit ourselves to craft our own destiny by being transformative cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and PEACE!”