To all cooperative officers, members, stakeholders, partner organizations, ladies and gentlemen, a warm good morning to all of you. It is my distinct honor to address you in this momentous event-the 1st Metro Manila Cooperative Congress with the theme “Responding to Cooperative Blueprint…. 2020”.

As you all know, the so-called Cooperative blueprint 2020 was approved by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) General Assembly with the vision that by the year 2020, cooperative as a form of business (1) shall be the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability, (2) to be the model form of business preferred by the people and (3) to be the fastest growing form of enterprise. By the way, International Cooperative Alliance or ICA for brevity- is a non-governmental cooperative union representing cooperatives and the cooperative movement worldwide. As of 2014, ICA represents 272 cooperative federations and organizations in 94 countries. ICA provides a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise, and coordinated action for and about cooperatives.

Surely, this assemblage of cooperators and stakeholders ably and enthusiastically spearheaded by the RCDC-NCR, the MEMACDO and the CDA-MEO, is one proactive approach vis-à-vis the noble vision of the Cooperative Blueprint 2020.

The empowerment of cooperatives is a fundamental principle particularly enshrined in Article XII Section 15 of our fundamental law which provides, and I quote “The congress shall create an agency to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments for social justice and economic development”. The agency referred to in that constitutional provision I just mentioned is the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) which I humbly represent in today’s event. The acknowledgement of cooperatives’ vital role in social and economic development is also accentuated in a pertinent provision of Republic Act Numbered 6939 which is known as the CDA charter, where it is provided in part that “the state shall recognize Cooperatives as associations organized for economic and social betterment of their members, operating business enterprise based on mutual aid, and founded upon internationally accepted cooperative principles and practices.”

The importance of cooperative in advancing the interest of our nation cannot be underrated nor brushed aside, especially so, with the impending realization of the so-called ASEAN Economic Cooperation (AEC) 2015.

In brief, AEC 2015 is aimed at transforming ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and free flow of capital. The ASEAN Economic Cooperation (AEC) envisages the following characteristics: (1) single market and production base, (2) highly competitive economic region, (3) region of equitable economic development, and (4) region fully integrated into the global economy.

With the advent of the ASEAN economic integration next year, you can only imagine the significant contributions which the various cooperatives are expected to provide, in keeping up with what will surely be a stiffer competition in the economic market.

Please take note that under the concept of AEC 2015, the following are considered priority sectors for integration: (a) agro-based goods, (b) Automotive products, (c) Electronic goods, (d) health care products, (e) Textiles and clothing, (f) wood-based products, (g) Air transport, (h) E-ASEAN, (i)Fisheries, (j) Rubber-based products, (k) tourism, (l) logistics.

Economic Integration-with all the technical characteristics that may be attributed to it-simply means economic liberalization. It means the elimination of existing economic restrictions on the part of individual ASEAN member-nation to give way to the declared rationale for the establishment of the ASEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY (AEC), which is the transformation of ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and free flow of capital.

When the ASEAN region becomes a “free market” with virtually free movement of goods, services, investment, etc. between and among the ASEAN member-nations, we should logically expect resultant economic repercussions. That is why it becomes imperative on our part to be able to promote and sustain our own economy via a sound national socio-economic plans and strategies. Practically all of us are stakeholders when it comes to the sustainment of our economy.

Therefore, in the face of a highly-competitive economic region as envisioned by AEC 2015, there is a need to focus on our preparedness for the ramifications of the anticipated rigid economic competitions that may ensue.

Taken in this context, it is worthy to note of the Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016) which defines the overall socio-economic development plan of our government for the period 2011 to 2016. The main objective of this is the pursuit of inclusive growth – which means the growth rapid enough to matter, given the country’s large population, geographical differences and social complexity. It is a sustained growth that creates jobs, draws the majority into economic and social mainstream, and reduces poverty.

As contained in the working paper I have presented during the CDA joint staff and BOA meeting held on August 20, 2014 in connection with the crafting of CDA integrated and comprehensive plans and strategies, cooperatives are pivotal in achieving inclusive growth due to the following reasons: (1) cooperatives draw the poor into the mainstream socio-economic development of the country. Due to the self-help initiatives of cooperatives, the poor are given the opportunities to pool talent, resources, and business which create investment, build assets and equity of members, and empower the poor to be an active participants in nation-building, (2) cooperatives generate employment. The poor whose talents and skills can’t be absorbed by industries are given employment by creating self-help enterprises, (3) cooperatives through their self-help initiatives and principle of continuous education and training help build the country’s human capital, a critical requirement for increasing national resources productivity.

In faithful adherence to our role as the primordial agency mandated to formulate, adopt and implement integrated and comprehensive plans and programs on cooperative development consistent with the national policy on cooperatives and the overall socio-economic development plans of the government, the CDA is now well in its way in coming up with a detailed program providing, among others, for (1) strategies for developing cooperatives, (2) strategies for regulating cooperatives, and (3) strategies for developing support services for development and regulation of cooperatives.

In the development of the CDA Integrated and Comprehensive program for cooperatives, we have set for the following goals: (1) to reduce the number of micro cooperatives into half of its present number by 2020 by transforming them into at least small categories, (2) to establish at least one show case of cooperative enterprise development per province in the next six years, (3) to institute system of monitoring and evaluating of operation of medium and large cooperatives, and (4) to lay the groundwork for the creation of a cooperative college.

We are optimistic that these goals can be achieved with the full support and cooperation of all stakeholders including all the cooperatives for which advancement and benefits these goals are dedicated.

Another important component of this Congress’ Agenda is all about women and gender equality. Actually, first in this Congress objectives you have listed is, and I quote in part “to elevate participation of women and gender equality within membership and governance to a new level.”

Putting into fore the awareness of the issues and concerns on gender sensitivity in today’s activity is very laudable move. For sure, the young and not-so-young women present in today’s affair are much elated on this subject matter.

Article II Section 14 of our constitution declares that “the State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.” Article XIII Section 14 of our fundamental law further assures the “protection to working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions taking in to account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.”

In accord with these constitutional declarations is the issuance of Executive Order 273 otherwise known as the Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development, (PPGD) and in paragraph 1.1 thereof, all government agencies and instrumentalities are directed to take appropriate steps to ensure the full implementation of the policies/strategies and programs/projects outlined in the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development. On the other hand, Paragraph 2.2 of Executive Order 273 provides for “Non-Government Organizations and private entities to assist and support in the implementation, monitoring, assessment and updating of the Plan (PPGD).”

Pursuant therefore, to the pertinent constitutions declarations and the related provisions of the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (PPGD), the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) issued Memorandum Circular 2013-22 on the GUIDELINES ON MAINSTREAMING GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT (GAD) IN COOPERATIVES.

The purpose of this Circular is to disseminate to the cooperative sectors the Gender and Development (GAD) mandate of the government to ensure the promotion of gender equality and institutionalization of GAD in policies, programs and other activities of the cooperatives. On the other hand, this shall mandate the monitoring of progress in the implementation of GAD programs and activities of cooperatives towards achieving gender equality. Other detailed provisions such as aspects of GAD mainstreaming, GAD mainstreaming mechanisms and instruments and the allocation of responsibilities and functions to officers, persons and bodies/committees are also provided for in the contents of this Circular.

We humbly take pride of this Memorandum Circular 2013-22 as our modest share in the achievement of the declared principle and policy of the State to empower and recognize the indispensable role of women in nation-building.

In parting, let me assure you of the CDA’s ever burning zeal and enthusiasm, as we continue to join hands in formulating more plans and policies, that would lead to an absolutely empowered cooperatives as prime contributors for the realization of ideal economic development and the achievement of social justice.