EIGHT years ago, there were just seven (7) million members of the cooperatives nationwide. Today that number has doubled to fourteen (14) million from 27,000 cooperatives. As cooperatives are scaling the heights drawing those in the margins into the mainstream of development processes, the number can even reach 25 million in the next five years. No less than the United Nations has rallied the poor and the vulnerable to collectively stop poverty, hunger, social injustices and gross inequities through cooperativism. His Holiness Pope Francis has mentioned in His latest Encyclical Laudatu Si that in a world with so much food, why there are people who are hungry and the countervailing measure is cooperativism.
No one can stop the growth of cooperatives as cooperativism is an idea whose time has come not only in our country but in the whole world. Why is this so? First of all, it behooves upon all of us to examine the present development paradigm which is based on the growth-at-all-cost development strategy aptly called Neo-Liberal Capitalism. That kind of global economic system that is only successful in sacrificing humanity and Mother Earth to the altar of greed and profit is like a giant off-balance. So as not to fall, it has to run and in running, it steps on communities, forests, rivers, seas, agricultural lands, the ozone layer, the iceberg and even on people themselves, leaving havoc on its path.
That AIDS-like development strategy that kills the Earth’s vital organs, advances unbridled materialism and consumerism based on an individual pursuit of self-aggrandizement and wealth where money is used not to enhance the quality of life but to make more money. It this country, you call that block capitalism where cartels and the oligarchs run the economy, owned by only 400 families. In the world, only 80 billionaires are in control, whose total wealth equal the combined wealth of some 3.6 billion people or half of the world’s population. This is based on the Study of Oxfam.
Our country has become a dumping ground of finished products and source of cheap raw materials following extractive economy. Indeed, where have all our forests and minerals gone? Gone to highly industrialized countries as the country still maintains an exclusive and a neo-colonial status, having been a colony of imperial powers for hundreds of years.
Based on these realities, there must be a change now being championed by the present dispensation. An increasing number of people want change but how? When the Filipinos overwhelming voted to office a charismatic Mayor from Mindanao to become President, they wanted political change. This time economic change is in the offing but one that must debunk the present development paradigm. Yes, the only countervailing force is one that harnesses the collective power of the people called cooperativism.
But why cooperativism?
Well, by nature, nurture and by law, cooperatives are the ones to advance prosperity for all, their very essence is that of being members-owned, value-based and sustainable. It is so amazing that in this age where development is equated to economic growth, cooperatives are giving high adherence to human development, where developing human potentials is the priority. In fact, out of the cooperatives’ surplus, about 10 percent is allocated for CETF (Cooperative Education and Training Fund), about 3 percent is allocated for CDF (Community Development Fund) and another 3 percent Concerns for the Community. These funds are used to feed malnourished children, rehabilitate the impaired eco-systems and in providing medical services to the Indigenous People, to the poor and the vulnerable.
This is so because cooperatives’ mindset is one that focuses on a person as an embodied spirit, more spirit than body. Spiritual qualities of service, of democracy, of love, of intellectual prowess and spiritual values are the ones to be developed collectively and not for individual aggrandizement.
By being sustainable, cooperatives are providing a major change in a world that is beset with so much unsustainability, be in ecology or in economy. It has been said that in the absence of a major change the global system will collapse in less than one hundred years as the earth warms, the iceberg melts, the oceans rise and the endemic species are becoming extinct in a world where the economy is controlled by a few. No less than the United Nations in issuing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Stop Hunger, Stop Poverty, Advance Social Justice and Equity, Protect the Environment, Promote Peace, Etc.) has zeroed-in on Cooperatives as transformative for people, planet, prosperity and peace.
Indeed, “Paglilingkod at Pagmamahal,” that is the essence of cooperativism that is now being advanced by the 27,000 cooperatives with some 14 million members in the spirit of “Biyaya ng Pagbabago!”
Mabuhay ang KOOPERATIBA!