Two days before the opening of the 3rd regular session of the 16th Congress on Monday (July 27, 2015), the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Cooperatives (JCOCC) holds the 7th roadshow on the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulation of RA 9520 at Zamboanga City — dubbed as Asia’s Latin City.

This is the 4th forum for Mindanao and the 7th across the country. The event is attended by close to 300 participants representing various cooperatives in Region IX.

Senator Lapid, Head Senate Panel of the JCOCC told the participants that he is hoping that whoever would succeed him as the Senate Committee Chair on Cooperatives, his successor would sustain the effort that he and Congressman Cresente Paez (his counterpart in the House of Representatives) have initiated in the JCOCC. Together with Congressman Paez, their respective terms will end next year as they reached the limit allowed by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, in his Opening message, Administrator Pendatun Disimban conveyed the greetings and statement of support of Chairperson Orlando Ravanera. The delegates were requested to stand as gesture of appreciation and recognition of the contribution and the fruitful stewardship of the JCOCC by Senator Lapid and Congressman Paez whose term is about to end. He updated the Zamboanga coop leaders on recent development particularly the recently concluded 1 Mindanao Energy Cooperative Summit. He enjoined all coops in Zamboanga peninsula area to support 1 MECOOP Federation. “It is high time that the 3 million cooperative members who are electric consumers partake in power generation by participating in the bidding of Agus Pulanggi Hydro Electric Power Generation.”

Reiterating the same call, Administrator Paisal Cali rally coop leaders to that significant opportunity. His presence in the Zamboanga City IRR forum is a manifestation of support to the JCOCC. He would like also to listen from the reaction of the coop leaders in attendance. This event is not only educational but a process of “empowering the leaders in acquiring knowledge since knowledge is power,” Administrator Cali stressed. The “proper use of power will bring the socio-economic upliftment of the people,” Administrator Cali concluded.

For his part, Congressman Paez reported that this Revised IRR which took effect last July 14, 2015 is the “greatest achievement of the JCOCC among the legislative measures on cooperative development.” He hopes that the active partnership among the House of Representatives, the Senate and the CDA will continue whoever take over the helm of the Cooperative Committee Chairmanships of both chambers.

He mentioned that the previous IRR was perceived to be strict and restrictive that stifled some elbow room for micro and small cooperative in their desire to cope up with the existing regulatory regime.

While we acknowledge that “regulation is necessary to instill discipline in the cooperatives, we are equally mindful and receptive to the feedbacks of the sector,” Congressman Paez added.

Taking advantage of the provision of RA 9520 for automatic review of the IRR every 3 years, the JCOCC and the CDA in consultation with the coop sector and other government agencies left no stone unturned in revisiting the provisions of the IRR with the end view of refining those to be responsive to the call of the time. “As early as 2013, the CDA commenced the review of the IRR,” CDA Administrator Mercedes Castillo shared in the forum.

CDA Administrator Nelon Alindogan on the other hand said that RA 9520 is one of the few laws that is back up with a dynamic IRR. “There are plenty of laws that are languishing in the library which have no IRR,” Administrator Alindogan shared.

“It took the JCOCC six months in the conduct of TWG meetings and consultations before the promulgation of the same,” Congressman Paez added. The Revised IRR is a “product of the ‘inspiration’ and perspiration of those who crafted it,” Paez quipped. The painstaking review, discussions and debate among the members of the members of TWG including its subgroups depicted the tasks as laborious and tedious. The consolation for the JCOCC and TWG that made their efforts truly rewarding and inspiring is the fact that the voluntary initiatives of cooperative leaders in the revision of the IRR accentuated their passion and love for cooperatives.

Meantime that we are exerting collective efforts to advance cooperativism in our economic system, we must be wary of all forms of harassment that the cooperative movement is facing right now. Primordial is the “protection of the interest of the cooperatives,” Cong Paez emphasized. The most important concern that is hounding the sector is the issue on taxation. “It is in this light that we are thinking of holding a separate tax forum and engage the services of tax experts, lawyers and members of PICPA which will pave the way for the creation of Cooperative Tax Exemption Advisory Council,” Congressman Parez enthused. “[CDA] Chairman [Orlando] Ravanera supported the idea,” he added. “We are thinking of putting up a Tax Assistance Desk for every Regional Office of CDA,” Congressman Paez stressed. One of the suggested tasks of the Advisory Council is to design and develop a Manual on How to Avail Coop Tax Exemption Certificate.

Atty Jovy M Gaffud and Atty Eric Robles from the CDA handled the actual Revised IRR briefing. The Part I of the Revised IRR was explained by Atty. Robles which includes the Rules on Annual Report submission and the mandatory training requirements which are considered common and perennial peeve of all coops. Apparently, the Revised IRR made the rules less cumbersome for compliance by micro and small coops.

Part II of the presentation was discussed by Atty Jovy M Gaffud. Incidentally, the new rule on labor service cooperative is introduced in this Revised IRR. (GT Platero)